There are many things that can go wrong in a person’s life and it is always wise to try to plan ahead. In many cases, this means taking steps to ensure that there is a plan in place for when a person dies or is no longer able to legally act on their own. The creation of a will or trust is often recommended, but many people do not know what either is or what they do.
A will is a formal document regarding a person’s final wishes in the event of their death. It can include instructions on how to handle things such as their property and belongings. Most wills include information regarding who will be responsible for the different financial and legal matters of a person’s estate, such as any debts they have or the control over property and accounts. A will can also determine who will have guardianship over the deceased’s minor children or pets, if there are any, and instructions for their care. It is a legally binding document and can be supplemented by or act as a supplement to other related documents. A will should not be used to establish funeral instructions, place conditions on gifts, arrange long-term care for others, or manipulate anything that already has a legal beneficiary assigned (e.g. life insurance).
A trust, on the other hand, is an arrangement regarding control over a person’s property and/or finances. The person who holds power over a trust is referred to as a trustee, and they hold it for the person who owns or is to inherit the trust’s contents, who is called the beneficiary. It is possible for a beneficiary to be the trustee of their own trust, as well as for there to be more than one trustee for a trust. Trusts can be created while a person is alive—a “living trust”—or after their death. The usage of a trust can help avoid the need for a person’s property to go through probate, which is the process of proving a will, and allow any legal action to be done quickly.
While wills and trusts are valuable elements in estate planning, they are not the same thing. It is possible to have one without the other, but it is often recommended to have both in place in order to cover all possible outcomes in the event of a person’s death. Things that are not included in one can be included in the other, and a will can often back-up a trust. The usage of a will instead of a trust or vise-versa, or both, may be more appropriate based on the circumstances. For example, a person who owns a lot of property and other assets may want to consider a trust rather than just a will.
Who Needs A Lawyer Specializing In Wills and Trusts?
There are very few restrictions regarding who can establish a will or trust, with those who are not legally of age (minors) or are otherwise legally cannot make their own decisions being unable to do so. Everyone should consider making some kind of legal preparations for their estate upon their death, as this can make things easier for surviving relatives and prevent any legal complications that may arise. As morbid as the thought is, a person can die at any point in their life under any kind of circumstances. Taking the time to prepare for the worst case scenario, even for those who are in perfect health, is a smart decision. This can be especially so if a person has minor children, lots of assets, or knows of potential complications regarding their estate upon their death.
While it is possible for a person do some of their estate planning on their own, the usage of a lawyer specializing in wills and trust is highly recommended. Death is a complicated thing in the legal system and many people do not know where to start, let alone how to navigate through it. Handling things alone can lead to issues, including extra costs, questionable legitimacy of documents, and infighting amongst heirs and relatives. A lawyer or law firm specializing in aspects of estate planning like wills and trusts is usually a good choice, as they can help guide people through the legalities present after death. Some may even specialize in certain circumstances regarding a person’s death, such as cases of illness or accident. Elder law attorneys, for example, work with clients who are elderly in the preparation for their death and other issues that arise due to their advanced age (e.g. power of attorney).
What Types of Estate Planning Services Are Available?
As there is a lot involved in end-of-life and estate planning, there are quite a few legal services that are available. Many law firms and attorneys who specialize in wills and trusts will also be able to offer additional services, and may provide them in tandem with the will or trust a person creates with them.
General estate planning encompasses nearly every legal issue that can arise upon a person’s death. This can include a will and/or trust(s), the appointing of an executor, guardianship arrangements, funeral and burial planning, assigning power of attorney, notarizing of documents, and probate preparation. As mentioned, different estate planning elements are going to be needed based on the person’s circumstances and wishes. A person can choose to do as much or as little as they want or are able to. Most estate planning actions can be revised or updated throughout a person’s life, so what is decided upon when a person is in their 50s can be modified in their 60s or 70s if needed.
Lawyers who specialize in wills and trusts, or other end of life legalities, will also be able to help the heirs and relatives of someone who did not make any preparations in the event of their death. The use of probate services is often necessary, as the process itself can be a long and messy one. These services can also handle any issues that arise due to elements of the person’s estate that were not prepared for or that no longer match the current circumstances (e.g. a beneficiary died).
At Silverman Law Office, our lawyers are fully qualified and would love to help you with any estate planning needs you may have! Give us a call today to discuss how we may be able to help you.