Living Trusts

A revocable living trust is typically used by estate planners as a method of avoiding probate.  If assets are owned by a trust, court involvement is not required to transfer assets upon death.  Probate only arises when the legal owner of property dies, leaving no joint owner or beneficiary.
A living trust is an estate planning document which:
  • Avoids probate of the estate, so no court is involved.
  • Reduces fees associated with administering a probate estate.
  • Keeps your plan of distribution private.
  • Provides for management of assets by a family member or an institution (if you prefer) if you are unable to manage assets due to health problems and avoids proving incompetency in court.
  • Helps in organizing lists of assets for personal financial planning and helps beneficiaries in locating assets.
  • Allows for optimum tax planning using federal and state income, gift, and estate tax law, yet requires no extra tax returns or filings.
  • Does not affect your ability to manage and control your own property and does not require management fees to be paid to anyone unless you wish to appoint an outside manager.
Despite what you may have heard, there is no hard and fast rule to determine when you should use a living trust as part of your estate plan.  One of the main reasons a person executes a living trust is to avoid the expense and delays associated with administering your estate through the probate court.  These fees can easily reach thousands of dollars in court costs and attorney fees.  A living trust is a document that is signed during your lifetime where you maintain complete control over your assets for as long as you are alive and competent. 
At your death, your successor trustee distributes your assets according to the plan you set forth in your living trust.  All of this happens without the need for probate court proceedings.
Some people feel that if they have a Last Will and Testament, their loved ones do not need to involve lawyers and the probate court.  This is wrong.  If you have assets in your own name, a Will won't avoid the probate court.  On the contrary, you can think of a properly executed Will as your "admission ticket" to court.  A personal representative must be appointed and your estate will have to be administered in the probate court for the county in which you lived at the time of your death.  A properly drafted and executed revocable living trust can avoid this.
For a complete analysis of your particular situation, please contact our office for a free and confidential consultation with one of our attorneys.  For those individuals that have a difficult time getting to our office, we also offer our unique "Lawyer on Call" service where one of our attorneys comes to your house to discuss your plan and sign your documents.  Our fees are clearly spelled out for and you will not be charged until you authorize us to draft your estate plan. 
The time you spend today can save your loved ones thousands of dollars and hours of heartache in the future!!
Please feel free to contact our office should you have additional questions about living trusts and the benefits they could provide to you.
For a more detailed discussion on the Federal Estate Tax and its implication for a married couple, please see the thesis paper authored by Joe Barone below:
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