Your will is a document that controls the passing of most of your property upon your death. A will is also the document that nominates guardians for your minor children. Wills are flexible documents that can be used to create “testamentary trusts” for beneficiaries that take effect after you pass away.
When a will is your primary estate planning document, your estate is administered via a process known as probate, wherein the probate court oversees the administration and distribution of your property.
A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that allows a third party, or trustee to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. Trusts can be arranged in many ways and can specify exactly how and when the assets pass to the beneficiaries.
Since trusts usually avoid probate, your beneficiaries may gain access to these assets more quickly than they might to assets that are transferred using a will. Additionally, if it is an irrevocable trust, it may not be considered part of the taxable estate, so fewer taxes may be due upon your death.
Assets in a trust may also be able to pass outside of probate, saving time, court fees, and potentially reducing estate taxes as well.
A revocable, or “living” trust is a commonly used alternative to a will. A revocable trust is an entity that you create while you are alive to hold your property subject to your instructions.
Upon your death, the trust (rather than the state) controls the administration of the trust assets, avoiding publicity, and often speeding up the administration process.
For some individuals, trusts offer additional advantages over wills, including increased tax planning ability, and potentially smoother transitioning during incapacity.
Implement incapacity plans for management of the client’s finances and personal needs in the unfortunate event that he or she becomes physically or mentally unable.
By planning now for potential incapacity, you can avoid court supervised guardianship and conservator proceedings, which could result in an undesired individual in charge of your affairs.
Our incapacity planning tools include: financial powers of attorney, health care directives and lady bird deeds.
Our attorneys represent clients who are serving as personal representatives and trustees, counseling them through the estate and/or trust administration process from start to finish. We provide the following services to our fiduciary clients, ensuring a smooth estate and/or trust administration, as the case may be:
For clients who are serving as personal representatives, we prepare and file all required probate pleadings and forms with the relevant authorities, including, but not limited to required inventories, accountings, and reports. We assist with procuring all necessary releases and ultimately the distribution of assets to beneficiaries according to a decedent’s will.
For clients who are serving as trustee, we assist them with compliance with their fiduciary duties, applicable state and federal law, and preparation of any necessary accountings, notifications, or other reports to beneficiaries.
Our experienced tax professionals offer preparation of required fiduciary income tax returns (Forms 1041) and federal or state estate tax returns (Form 706 and the state counterparts).