You may be one who says: "I don't need a trust. I don't have a large estate. I don't need fancy planning. It's too expensive anyway. And complicated. So I just don't need a trust!" And so you ask: "Why would I want to have a trust?"
I'm going to describe in a few simple words why you will benefit from a trust. First, let me explain what a trust is. A trust is a written document that allows you to legally transfer your real property and your personal property to your family, heirs, and loved ones, upon your death. And all without requiring that onerous and expensive court process called probate.
You might think of your trust the same as forming your own company. You (and your spouse, if married) are the only employees and managers of the company. All of your assets are now owned by your company, not by you individually. You are still in full control. Your company instructions say that in the event of your death or incapacity, you have named an alternate person to "run the company." That is your successor trustee.
Since all your possessions are now titled in the company's name, or in the name of your trust, there is nothing in your name which would require probate. Probate is the legal proceeding to change the owner of your assets upon your death.
Here are the Top 10 Reasons You Need a Trust:
1. Your trust avoids probate. Instead of paying thousands of dollars in probate costs, fees, and attorney charges, the bulk of your estate will be distributed to your heirs upon your death. It saves money.
2. You keep control. Your trust document contains your instructions for managing your assets, and the use of your funds in the event of your death or incapacity. Even when you are unable to handle your own affairs, you make sure they are handled the way you want. And while you are able, you still have full control to buy, use, spend, or even give away your property as you determine. You can sell property, change your beneficiaries, or your trustee, or even revoke the trust if you should decide to do so.
3. It takes less time. Instead of taking months or even years, with a trust your estate can be settled in just a few weeks of your death. There are no court delays or judicial interferences. In the event of your incapacity, your Successor Trustee immediately takes control of your estate for your benefit. No court conservatorship will be required.
4. Your privacy is maintained. A living trust is private. If you become incapacitated, it will remain a private family affair. Upon your death, no announcements need be placed in the paper to invite creditors to file claims, to contest your will, or to notify disgruntled relatives. Your beneficiaries need not be made public.
5. It is less expensive. Don't forget the costs of probate are a part of the cost of settling your estate with a will. Although a trust is initially more expensive than a will, because of the elimination of probate, the total costs of settling your estate are far less. Use a competent estate planning attorney and not only will there be a cost savings, but the ease of creating your trust will surprise you.
6. No special government forms are needed. With a revocable living trust you do not need a separate tax identification number. You do not file a separate tax return. The trust is tax neutral. You still report all your income on your personal tax return. Your social security number is your trust tax ID number. And you do not need to file any report, agreement, or notice with any government agency.
7. Low maintenance. Once your trust is set up, there will be few changes. You will amend your trust only when you wish to change your beneficiaries or successor trustee, or other details. Occasionally the government will pass a law which affects your trust, however this is rare. An amendment to your trust is generally a simple process.
8. Special gifts are easy with a living trust. If you want to make certain gifts to chosen individuals or organizations you may do so. With a trust this is easy. The trust makes reference to a special list of such gifts. On this list you identify who you chose as recipients of certain items of tangible personal items, such a jewelry, furniture, or other heirlooms. This list is kept with and referred to in your trust document. You may change it from time to time without needing to amend your trust.
9. Eliminate or reduce estate tax. With special planning built into your trust agreement, you may reduce or in some cases even eliminate any estate taxes which would be charged upon your death.
10. Effective Pre-Nuptial Planning. Any property that you place in your trust before you marry is and remains the property of that trust. It stays separate from property accumulated during your marriage. Just be careful not to commingle assets with those acquired by both spouses during a marriage.
Steven W. Allen, JD, is an expert Estate Planning Attorney with over 30 years experience, a member of the National Speakers Association. He has given over 750 presentations in several states on these subjects, and has authored four books. Visit http://www.willsvstrusts.com/ for more tips and tools to keep and protect your assets. Find his latest book "You Can't Take It With You...So How Will You Leave It Behind" at http://www.EstatePlanningDr.com/buybook.