The world of estate planning can be complex. If you have just started your research or are in the process of setting up your estate plan, you’ve likely encountered discussions of wills and trusts. While most people have a very basic understanding of a last will and testament, trusts are often foreign concepts. Two of the most common types of trusts used in estate planning are testamentary trusts and inter vivos trusts.
A testamentary trust refers to a trust that is established after your death from instructions set forth in your will. Because a will only has legal effect upon your death, such a trust has no existence until that time. In other words, at your death your will provides that the trusts be created for your loved ones whether that be a spouse, a child, a grandchild or someone else. This type of trust does not avoid having to go through a probate proceeding in court.
An inter vivos trust, also known as a revocable living trust, is created by you while you are living. It also may provide for ongoing trusts for your loved ones upon your death. One benefit of a revocable trust, versus simply using a will, is that the revocable trust plan may allow your estate to avoid a court-administered probate process upon your death. However, to take advantage this benefit you must "fund" your revocable trust with your assets while you are still living. To do so you would need to retitle most assets such as real estate, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, CDs, and other assets into the name of the trust. Another advantage to inter vivos trusts is that they can often help in situations of incapacity. If your inter vivos trust provides care to you during our lifetime if you become incapacitated, you might be able to avoid having to do a costly and comprehensive probate conservatorship.
Since one size doesn’t fit all in estate planning, you should contact a qualified estate planning attorney at Schneiders & Associates, L.L.P. who can assess your goals and family situation, and work with you to devise a personalized strategy that helps to protect your loved ones, wealth and legacy.