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Living Trusts and Wills

When it comes to preparing for mortality, many of us are uncomfortable or in denial, but as responsible individuals we realize that preparing for the inevitable is a gift to those we leave behind. We don’t want our loved ones to pay any unnecessary taxes, be involved in complicated probate, or have to make decisions about our incapacity that we should have made in advance. We also want to be sure that our families are provided for in precisely the way we want.

Keating Law, PLC is known and respected throughout the greater Detroit area. We have a well-deserved reputation for superior estate planning, providing each of our clients with individualized attention as well as effective legal assistance and attention to detail. We prepare wills and trusts that are not only effective, but observant of underlying asset titling and complex family dynamics.

Differences between Revocable Living Trusts and Wills

While both revocable living trusts and wills are primarily designed to allow you to name beneficiaries for your estate, living trusts are more complicated to create and do not serve to name an executor or guardians for children. Nonetheless, living trusts have the advantage of avoiding probate. In a will you name the beneficiaries of your property; if you create a trust, you not only designate beneficiaries but transfer the property into the trust. Unlike wills, living trusts must be signed and stamped by a notary public

Both revocable living trusts and wills can be revised during your lifetime as a result of changes in your circumstances or mindset. This is the difference between revocable and irrevocable living trusts -- irrevocable living trusts cannot be altered once they have been finalized. Whatever type of trust or will you choose to create, you will require a competent attorney to assist you if you want to ensure that everything is properly worded and cannot be misinterpreted.

Reasons for Creating a Trust

There are a number of reasons for creating a trust:

One or more of the beneficiaries is a child

Except for tokens of small monetary value, children under the age of 18 cannot legally own property. Therefore, when you bequeath assets to a minor, those assets must be managed by an adult at least until that child reaches 18 or another age that you predetermine. In Michigan, you can also use your will to establish a testamentary trust for a young child or name a custodian under the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act. you should be aware that if you do not name a custodian for the assets in your trust, the state will appoint one after your death.

You want to avoid probate

If you leave property in a living trust it does not have to pass through probate -- the court system established to wind up an individual’s monetary affairs. While probate can take time and be expensive, it is a relatively simple process when there is a small amount of money or property at stake.

If you leave your property in a living trust, however, it does not have to go through probate and can be distributed to beneficiaries shortly after your death without court interference or fees. Many people with substantial holdings chose to create living trusts to avoid probate, but for those cases in which only small amounts of wealth or debt are involved, creating a trust may not be necessary since probate will be a simple matter.

You want to maintain your privacy

Once you have passed away, your will becomes a public document. Some people are averse to having their affairs made public and this becomes reason enough for them to create a living trust for matters they want to keep confidential. 

You want legal protection

While court challenges to wills and living trusts are quite rare, if a lawsuit is filed, a living trust is considered less likely to be vulnerable to question than a will.

Reasons for Making a Will

Although you may want to create a trust for any or all of the above reasons, you will probably also want to have a will to serve the following purposes:

You want to name an executor

In your will you can name an executor who will be in charge of managing your estate after you die -- paying your bills, working with your attorney, and distributing any property that goes through probate. You can’t name an executor in a living trust so even if you leave most of your property in a living trust, it usually makes sense for you to make a will. Usually, it makes sense for your executor and trustee to be the same individual.

You want to leave instructions regarding taxes and debts

In your will, you can be more specific about issues like forgiving a debt or paying off a loan from a particular account. Such instructions cannot be written into a trust.

You want to name a guardian  or property manager for your children

In a will, you can name a guardian for your minor children or a property manager to take charge of their assets until they reach maturity. This is something that cannot be done in a living trust.

Even if your qualified attorney helps you to make a will and create a living trust, there is a limit to steps you can take that either will hold up legally after your death and other steps that are simply unwise. You cannot, for example, leave money or property to your pets, and would be foolish to leave a list of computer passwords in your will or trust. As your lawyer will explain to you, some arrangements are better made informally with people you trust or drawn up as separate legal documents.

Generally speaking, most people need a will, but only some require a living trust. If you and your attorney decide that you do need a living trust, because you have substantial wealth or for some other reason, you will undoubtedly still need a will. If you don’t make a will or a living trust, the courts make determinations about how your assets will be distributed after your death and, in some cases, select guardians for your minor children.

Why You Should Choose Keating Law, PLC for Your Estate Planning in Macomb County

At Keating Law, PLC we are extremely knowledgeable about estate planning law in Michigan. When you come to us with concerns about your future and the future of your loved ones, we are prepared to advise you about which documents are appropriate for a person of your age, marital status, income level, parental responsibilities, and asset accumulation. We will help you to navigate the process of estate planning in the smoothest way possible, always aware of the sensitive issues involved. Please contact Keating Law PLC by using the convenient form on our website or by calling 586.501.8399.

Keating Law serves clients throughout the greater Detroit area, including Macomb County, Wayne County, Grosse Pointe, St. Clair Shores, and Sterling Heights.



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