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A Living Trust is an agreement between you (the Settlor) and an individual or entity (the Trustee) made during your lifetime. The trust agreement determines how assets placed in the Trust will be managed and distributed. Trusts can be Revocable or Irrevocable.
Irrevocable Trusts, of course, cannot be changed or canceled and have special tax treatment. Revocable trusts are subject to amendment or termination according the terms of the trust agreement.
The term “Living Trust” usually refers to a revocable trust. The Trust can provide various benefits to meet lifetime purposes. These include:
- The trust provides for management of your assets during your lifetime and usually names someone to assume responsibility for them if you become disabled; this can often eliminate the need to go to court to arrange for appointment of a guardian or conservator.
- You determine how your assets will be managed by giving written instructions in the Trust.
- You can avoid probate upon your death and save expenses and fees because the trust contains instructions for distribution of the assets in the trust after your death without court proceedings.
What you need to know
There are different types of trust for different purposes and not everyone needs a trust. Trusts don’t just benefit the wealthy. Trusts can be an excellent means to avoid costly probate litigation and can provide exact instructions as it pertains to your assets and beneficiaries.
- Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts can be created to provide substantial estate tax savings.
- Supplemental Needs Trusts are used to manage assets for a person who many qualify or receive public benefits. This type of Trust can provide funds for items and care not covered by such benefits without affecting the individual’s eligibility for the various public benefit programs (such as Medicaid or disability benefits). These Trusts can be tremendously beneficial for a child with disabilities or an adult with catastrophic diagnoses such as Alzheimer’s disease, HLS, or dementia.
- Irrevocable Income Only Trusts can be created under certain circumstances to help plan for reducing the costs of long term care associated with catastrophic illness.
Is a Living Trust Right for Me?
Living Trusts are not for everyone, but many people can benefit from the security they provide for management and many people can save money by eliminating the need for probate.
Deciding whether to create a living trust requires analysis of the extent of your assets, the types of assets you own and your personal preferences concerning their management. Attorneys, accountants, financial planners and other advisors will often be able to assist in conducting the review of what is best for you.
A trust is only one element of complete estate planning. Trusts, like wills or other legal documents, should be prepared by attorneys. Any document, including a trust, needs to be reviewed regularly to reflect changes in the law or in your family or financial circumstances.
Naming a trustee requires careful thought. Most people will be trustees of their own living trusts and a successor will be named for the continuation after their death or disability. Family members, friends or financial institutions are often available to serve.
For a free consultation on the most appropriate estate plan for you and your family, please contact Michelle White at The Roberts Law Firm, P.C..
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