Protecting Your Legacy With An Estate Plan
A well-designed estate plan does more than express your wishes about how you would like your property to be distributed after your death. By initiating the planning process, you can exercise a degree of control over future events and protect your legacy.
Proper estate planning provides a means of preserving your assets so your assets pass to the people you want to inherit them according to your wishes. With more than 50 years of combined experience, the estate planning attorneys of Richardson & Richardson, LLLP, can craft legal documents to meet your goals. We have law offices in Tullahoma, Tennessee, and Stuart, Florida.
Tools of estate planning include:
- Wills and trusts
- Instructions about your health care wishes
- Documentation including powers of attorney
Planning Your Estate With A Will
If you plan your estate with a last will and testament, it will go through probate when you die. Your estate will also go through probate if you die without having created a will, which is known as dying “intestate.” In this case, your estate will have to go through probate to determine who your intestate heirs are and how your estate is to be distributed among them.
A will guarantees probate because the only way to transfer title of your property to your heirs by a will is to open a probate estate. Either way, the probate process saddles you to a tedious process and condemns the estate executor/executrix to a painful burden: This burden to be borne many times while the executor/executrix is still grieving.
Unless you want to take advantage of the possibility of cutting off your creditors (beating your debts) who have not filed claims against your estate within the creditor’s claims period after the estate is opened and the probate process begins, there is no advantage of probate over a trust.
Learn more: Estate planning FAQs.
Planning Your Estate With A Trust
Although different strategies exist for planning an estate, the use of a trust is superior to establishing a will or other methods such as holding assets in joint tenancy. The reason is because you can avoid probate simply by transferring title to your property while you are living.
You might ask how this can be done without selling your property or giving it away or otherwise losing control of your property. This “inter vivos” (while living) transfer of title to property can be accomplished with the revocable living trust.
What is a revocable living trust? The best way to visualize a trust is to see yourself deeding or transferring all of your property (changing title) to someone whom you totally trust to hold for your sole benefit, or for the benefit of you and your spouse. Visualize further that you, or you and your spouse, still own the trust and that you, or you and your spouse, can and most often do, serve as trustees and remain in total control of the trust and the property transferred to it.
You might ask what has changed then? Why go through this process? An important thing has changed. You have changed title to your property without giving up its benefits, and you have done it all while you are still living without any court supervision.
Changing title of your property to a trust might seem like a lot of trouble. This fear is unfounded. The trust takes on your identity to such an extent that you use your own Social Security number as your trust identification number, even for income tax reporting. The income of the trust is your income, and you file your income tax return the same way you have filed it in the past. There is no regulatory agency supervising you or your co-trustees. While living, you can do anything that you want to do with the property in the trust without asking anyone’s permission. Anything that you put in the trust can be taken out anytime you want to — although there is very little, if any, need to do so. A revocable living trust is revocable anytime, which means that if you decide you want to revoke the trust and have your beneficiaries go through probate to receive their inheritance.
Learn more: Advantages of having a will.
Powers Of Attorney And Health Care Directives
Forty percent of us will be incapacitated for six months or longer prior to death. Powers of attorney and health care directives (living wills) are ways to plan for incapacity by naming a trusted person to act for us. A living revocable trust also allows you to plan for this possibility.
For More Information About Estate Planning Strategies