Southeastern Massachusetts Lawyers Offering Informed Will Guidance and Advice
A will is a legally binding document that spells out exactly how you would like things to be handled after you pass on. A will can legally protect your spouse, your children, and your assets, and it defines how your estate will be distributed. It also allows you to define who will take care of your minor children and minimize estate taxes.
Wills have formal executory requirements, such as the need for witnesses and notarization. You will also be naming an executor, who will be responsible for transferring your assets to the beneficiaries named in your will. A will requires a process called probate, and that is something many people don’t realize. Probate is a lengthy process taking up to 18 months to complete on average in Massachusetts.
Simply put, having a will is a better choice than not having one if you are concerned about what will happen to your family and your property when you are no longer living. Many people don’t like to think about death and make such plans, which often causes headaches and expenses to surviving loved ones in case the unthinkable happens.
Without a will, these important decisions will be left up to a court, and your wishes may not be carried out as you wanted them to. Due to the costs and trouble of going through probate, many are choosing to use their wills as a safety net to catch assets that must go through probate for whatever reason, but it is no longer considered a relevant estate planning tool on its own. On the other hand, a will might still be appropriate for those unwilling or unable to fund and manage a trust for their assets.
What Are The Differences Between a Will and a Trust?
One main difference is that a will only goes into effect after you die, while a trust goes into effect immediately at the time you create it. With a will, your property gets appointed to an executor after your passing, and he or she will distribute it according to your wishes. In a trust, your assets can begin to be distributed before death, at death, or afterwards. A will covers property that is in your name alone and does not cover joint property or any property held in a trust, while a trust only covers property that has been transferred to it.
Another difference is that wills must go through probate and become a public document. In contrast, trusts are a private document that do not typically require going through probate. Because there is no need for a court to oversee the process involved in distributing trust assets, there is a reduction in expenses and waiting time to complete the distribution of assets from a trust.
When it comes to naming guardians for your minor children, the only document that allows you to do that is a will. It also allows you to specify funeral arrangements. Trusts only focus on wealth and assets and cannot include wishes pertaining to who will be responsible for your minor children. Interestingly enough, a trust can be used to plan for disability and to provide savings on taxes.
Setting up and maintaining a trust will incur expenses during the trustmaker’s lifetime and the need for managing the assets in it and funding it. A will often results in expenses for its beneficiaries after the death of the will owner, when it is time to take it through probate.
How Do I Know Which Option Is Right For Me?
The safest way to make an informed decision about using a will or a trust for your estate planning is to consult an attorney with knowledge in this area. There are many factors that come into play, including size of estate, number of beneficiaries and their individual profiles and their capability of managing wealth, and willingness to manage a trust or not. There have been many recent updates to tax laws and oftentimes families can become overwhelmed trying to navigate it all on their own. At the Law Offices of Boyd & Boyd, we have been helping families make the right decisions for their Estate Planning needs in Massachusetts since 1976, and we are here to help your family as well.
Call (508) 775-7800 and schedule a free initial estate planning consultation with an attorney in our team to get started.