Michelle Fabio, Esq. reports:
"No matter the value of your estate, it is essential that you plan for what will happen to your assets after your death...When done correctly, a living trust can also assure a fast distribution of your assets, avoid unnecessary taxes and keep your wishes private as well. As your living trust will be one of the most important documents drafted in your lifetime, you should be prepared before getting down to the business of writing one...Be sure to include...a list of your assets that includes everything you own. Assets are everything from tangible items like your house, car and jewelry to intangible ones like stocks, bonds and life insurance policies. Having this list in front of you will give you a clearer picture of your estate and help you decide how you would like it distributed once you are gone...Just as it is important to list all of your assets and their values before writing the living trust, be sure that you have all of the paperwork—titles, deeds, stock certificates, life insurance policies, etc.—in order and ready to hand over to the attorney that will be preparing your living trust. Having all of this ready will enable your attorney to get a running start as your assets will need to be transferred to the trust in order to 'fund' it...You will have to name beneficiaries, those who will receive assets upon your death, so plan on who should get what before you sit down to write the living trust. Beneficiaries can include family, friends or organizations (including charities). You may also want to consider who you don't want to get anything at all and discuss this with the attorney as well. Keep in mind that if you have named beneficiaries on insurance policies or retirement or savings accounts, these may conflict with your plans regarding the living trust. Be sure to let the attorney know of these potential trouble spots so as to avoid legal fights among beneficiaries after your death...With a living trust, you will name yourself as the trustee so you continue to have control over your assets during the course of your lifetime. Your successor trustee, though, will pay your debts and distribute your assets according to your instructions upon your death, so be sure to choose someone you trust. Moreover, in the case of your incapacitation, your successor trustee would also be the one to handle your affairs...Although you cannot designate a guardian for your minor children [if any] through a living trust, you should still consider who you would want to take care of them in case of your death. You can include this information in a 'pour-over will,' which also provides for the distribution of any assets acquired after the creation of the living trust but before your death or any assets inadvertently excluded."
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