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Choosing a will or a trust in estate planning

California residents might be interested in a recent article about whether a will or a revocable trust is the better choice in estate planning. The article says that before deciding what process to use, an individual should consider the people and entities that will receive those assets.

Unless an individual designates who gets an asset the judge at a probate court will decide. Some assets, such as retirement accounts, insurance policies and jointly held property, already have named beneficiaries and may avoid probate.

Individuals who have minor children need to consider who they want to name as a trustee to handle assets for those children. Some say it is best to use friends and relatives that will honor the wishes of the deceased.

After an individual decides on the people and charities who will be the beneficiaries to receive their assets, it is time to decide whether to handle the process with a will or a revocable trust. A revocable trust has the benefit of avoiding the probate process, which can take months and be expensive. Settling a will involves going through probate court before a judge. It also requires naming an executor for the estate to help distribute the assets and paying a fee.

On the other hand, a trust can be fast and private. It involves a simple process of creating a trust and then titling all assets in the name of the trust. Furthermore, if the trustor names him or herself as a trustee, they can continue to buy and sell those assets during their lifetime. A co-trustee may then be responsible for distributing the assets after the benefactor's death.

It is a good idea to seek help from a lawyer since both wills and trusts may be difficult to draft without professional aide. A lawyer may be familiar with the laws regarding the documents in the state and could draft the documents according to the benefactor's wishes.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Death Deal: Will or Revocable Living Trust?", Terry Savage , September 22, 2014

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