Basic estate planning usually begins with a Last Will & Testament.
But depending on your needs and those of your loved ones, a Will alone might not be enough to secure your family’s future. In such a case, it may be necessary to establish one or more trusts to accomplish your goals.
Smith Legacy Law provides customized legal guidance to individuals and businesses everywhere we serve. Every day, our skilled and knowledgeable attorneys leverage their vast estate planning experience to help clients reduce uncertainty, preserve personal and business assets for future generations, and reduce or eliminate the tax burden imposed upon their heirs.
An Integrated Approach to Wills and Trusts
Smith Legacy Law can assist you in creating an appropriate and legally binding Last Will & Testament that clearly details your wishes for your estate, meets all of the requirements of state and federal law, and reduces or eliminates taxes payable upon death. The nature and complexity of your Will is dependant on several factors, including the size of your estate, your specific intentions, and the needs of your heirs:
- A “Simple Will” provides for the outright distribution of assets. This type of Will is most appropriate for a modest estate and uncomplicated assets.
- A “Comprehensive Will” creates one or more irrevocable trusts upon your death. These types of Wills are helpful if you seek to minimize taxes and preserve assets for your heirs, if you desire to provide for the care, support, and education of minor children, or if you desire to provide asset and creditor protection for your beneficiaries’ inheritance.
- A “Pour Over Will” is an alternative type of Will that allows for the transfer of estate assets to a pre-established trust (typically revocable) upon death. The terms of the trust are then used to hold and/or distribute assets. A Pour Over Will can also be used to transfer estate assets to a living trust after death.
The higher your net worth and the more complex your asset mix is, the more likely a simple Will is inadequate to meet your needs. In such cases, an integrated approach to estate planning that utilizes one or more appropriate trusts may be required. A trust may be structured to take effect before or after death or in case of incapacitation. You can use a trust to transfer property to your heirs, reduce income, estate, and transfer taxes, preserve assets for minors until they are adults, or benefit a charity. You can even establish a trust to provide for the care of a beloved pet!
Trusts Common in Estate Planning
The “living” trust (or “inter vivos” trust) is one of the most common trusts used in estate planning. As the name implies, a living trust is established while you’re alive, with your named beneficiaries receiving the property contained in the trust upon your death. Because you can establish a living trust without a will, this type of trust allows for distribution of your estate without the need for probate.
An irrevocable living trust, which can’t be revoked or altered once it’s established and requires that you permanently give up all rights to access or control the trust property, is typically a good option for those wishing to:
- Minimize estate taxes
- Preserve eligibility for government programs, such as Medicaid
- Protect your assets from creditors
A revocable living trust can be revoked or modified anytime you wish. And because you can also be named the trustee, you can continue to maintain control of all property and assets included in the trust. You also have the ability to designate a “successor trustee” to take charge of the trust assets should you become incapacitated and distribute them per the trust’s legal dictates upon your death. While the assets transferred to a revocable trust during your lifetime won’t need to go through probate upon your death, they will still be subject to estate taxes. A revocable trust also doesn’t shield your assets from your creditors.
Testamentary trusts are irrevocable trusts that go into effect only after the trust creator’s death and probate of the Will is complete. Once they are effective, testamentary trusts function the same way that trusts established in a living trust do. However, because they are created in a Will and are not effective until after the testator’s death, they may not achieve the same benefits as living trusts.
Depending on your goals and plans for your assets, you might also want to consider other types of trusts, such as credit shelter trusts, disclaimer trusts, charitable remainder trusts, and generation-skipping trusts, to name just a few.
Contact an Experienced Wills, Trusts and Estate Lawyer Today
As your lawyers for life, Smith Legacy Law can help you better understand your various estate planning options and determine which are best suited for your specific needs and goals.
Please connect with Smith Legacy Law today to learn more about our trust and estate planning services.
Contact An Experience Wills, Trusts and Estates Planning Lawyer Today
No matter the stage of your life, a long-term plan is essential to securing your family’s future and ensuring assets are distributed as you intended.
As your lawyers for life, Smith Legacy Law has the knowledge and experience to help you identify and draft estate planning tools that best align with your goals.