For the layperson, figuring out all of the ins and outs of creating an estate plan can be challenging. That is why most people work with an estate planning attorney. The probate process has its own set of rules and requirements, and an estate planning attorney will help educate you while creating a plan so that you and your family will understand what will take place after you pass.
The Treasure Coast Palm’s article, “Common misconceptions about wills and trusts,” says that some folks think that having a Last Will and Testament prepared means their estate will avoid probate. That’s simply not true. The primary purpose of the probate court is to make sure that a decedent’s assets are passed to the proper heirs and beneficiaries. The will is a statement to the court of the decedent’s wishes as to how he or she wants assets to be distributed after death.
However, everyone needs a will. Additional estate planning, like a revocable living trust, may be needed to avoid the probate process.
Another common mistake is that people don’t need an estate plan because they aren’t worth much money. Some folks believe that if their estate is less than $5,450,000 (the Federal Estate Tax Exemption amount for 2016), there’s no need for a revocable trust. This is not true. The exemption figure is the amount that can pass to beneficiaries without any federal estate tax. Some states have estate taxes, and there are many other issues that may arise when a person passes away. Any amount of money—regardless of how much or how little—will need to be probated without proper planning.
Some people have the concern that putting property into a revocable trust will limit what they can do with the property during their lifetime. But a revocable trust that’s properly drafted by an experienced trust attorney can be completely amendable and revocable during the lifetime of the person who creates it. Anything placed in the trust is under your complete control as trustee of the trust. Therefore, you have no limits as to what you can do with a property that’s put into a revocable trust.
The goal of estate planning is to use wills, trusts and other estate planning tools to achieve your goals for your family, whatever they may be. An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to create a plan that works for your family, and will help you to avoid the misinformation that is readily available.
Reference: Treasure Coast Palm (December 2, 2016) “Common misconceptions about wills and trusts”