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Help Your Loved Ones and Be Clear with Your Estate Planning Documents

Definition of trustIt can be tough to decipher all of the requirements and rules in estate planning documents, along with the probate process. If you can’t figure it out, you may unintentionally leave your family in a bind after you die.

The Treasure Coast Palm’s recent article, “Common misconceptions about wills and trusts,” says that some folks think that having a Last Will and Testament prepared means their estate will avoid probate. That’s simply not true. The primary purpose of the probate court is to make sure that a decedent’s assets are passed to the proper heirs and beneficiaries. The will is a statement to the court of the decedent’s wishes as to how he or she wants assets to be distributed after death.

However, everyone needs a will. Additional estate planning, like a revocable living trust, may be needed to avoid the probate process.

Another common mistake is that people don’t need an estate plan because they aren’t worth much money. Some folks believe that if their estate is less than $5,450,000 (the Federal Estate Tax Exemption amount for 2016), there’s no need for a revocable trust. This is not true. The exemption figure is the amount that can pass to beneficiaries without any federal estate tax. Some states have estate taxes, and there are many other issues that may arise when a person passes away. Any amount of money—regardless of how much or how little—will need to be probated without proper planning.

Some people have the concern that putting property into a revocable trust will limit what they can do with the property during their lifetime. But a revocable trust that’s properly drafted by an experienced trust attorney can be completely amendable and revocable during the lifetime of the person who creates it. Anything placed in the trust is under your complete control as trustee of the trust. Therefore, you have no limits as to what you can do with a property that’s put into a revocable trust.

Proper planning can make things much easier for your family. Wills and trusts are tools that can be extremely helpful in accomplishing your estate planning goals. Speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer so that you don’t fall victim to the misconceptions and incorrect information that’s out there.

Reference: Treasure Coast Palm (December 2, 2016) “Common misconceptions about wills and trusts”

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