Keeping Control of Your Estate Assets With a Living Trust
A Living Trust can be the centerpiece of an estate plan that:
- minimizes or eliminates estate taxes
- avoids probate proceedings
- directs assets to a surviving spouse and/or children, grandchildren and other beneficiaries.
You can designate yourself as the initial Trustee of the Living Trust, thereby keeping control over all your assets during your lifetime. If you become disabled, there will be no need for Probate Court Guardianship proceedings, because your Successor Trustee can manage your assets. Upon your death, property that you placed in your Living Trust will not be subject to Probate estate settlement proceedings.
This continuity of ownership and management of your asset is possible because the legal ownership of the property is held by the Trustee of the Trust. The person you designate as your successor Trustee will become able to sell and manage stocks, bonds and the other assets that are in the Trust if you become disabled, or at the time of your death. This is very important in many situations, especially when you consider the rapid changes in the securities and real estate markets. If you own real estate or a closely held business, you understand how important it is to be able to manage and control your assets. With a Living Trust, your family can maintain access and have immediate authority to manage you estate, avoiding delays and gaps in management of your assets the could otherwise be very costly. The benefits of probate avoidance are multiplied if you own property in other states, which would require additional probate proceedings to clear title.
Real Estate, bank accounts, publicly traded stocks, bonds and ownership of a closely held business are examples of property that can be transferred into a Living Trust. If the Trust is drafted and funded correctly, there will be no need for involvement of the Probate Court, because the legal ownership of the property is governed by the authority of your Trust document.
The process of transferring property into a Trust is called Funding the Trust:
Property Owner >>>transfers ownership to>>> Trustee of the Trust
The Living Trust is also known as a Revocable, Inter Vivos Trust because it is effective during your lifetime ("inter vivos") as opposed to becoming effective after death. The word Revocable means that the Trust can be revoked or changed during your lifetime. In other words, you can change your mind about what property you put into the Trust, and who gets the benefit of the Trust assets during your lifetime, and upon your death.
We can prepare your Living Trust so that it does become an Irrevocable Trust upon your death. That way:
- the instructions your make become permanent and cannot be changed by other people after you become unable to manage your assets;
- your intentions will be carried out. For example, if you intend to provide tuition payments for your childrens' undergraduate education, with financial responsibility for graduate school remaining with your children, your Trust can include those specific provisions;
- your assets will be distributed at the proper times, and in the amounts that you instruct. For example, you can allow your successor Trustee to make a distribution sufficient for down payment on a house to your children, insuring that that each child will be able to live in a house that each can afford, as determined by the amount a mortgage lender is willing to provide for the balance needed to fund the real estate purchase;
- income tax benefits we plan for your beneficiaries (such as the deferral on income taxes on your IRA distributions from the Trust) are protected;
- estate tax plans that we prepare for your estate are carried out.
We can prepare a Living Trust that will avoid Probate and protect your family from unnecessary expense. As part of our services, we coordinate all the other parts of your estate plan, and help you title the assets that you intend to fund the Trust. We make sure that this centerpiece of your estate plan will achieve the goals and objectives that you have set for your estate plan.