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Matt Williams Law Firm :: Living Trusts

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LIVING TRUSTS

A living trust is a legally executed document that allows your estate to avoid probate after your death, thereby saving your loved ones unnecessary delay and expense. Probate is the court-supervised process of settling a decedent's estate, which can result in a delay of over one year in distributing estate assets to beneficiaries; it can also consume from estate assets significant probate court costs and fees for appraisers and lawyers, as much as 5% of the estate! Moreover, if your estate exceeds the federal threshold, then significant estate taxes can further erode what you leave behind. A living trust can avoid probate delays and expenses, and can significantly reduce federal estate taxes. Furthermore, a living trust is completely private, unlike a last will and testament, which becomes a public record once it is introduced into the probate process.

During your life, you are the trustee and beneficiary of your living trust, and retain the right to amend or revoke the trust at any time. While the trust is in existence, you retain the same control over the assets and property that you place in your trust as you had before. For example, when you fund your trust with the real estate that you own or are buying, you may still rent out, modify, or even sell such property during your lifetime. If you become incapacitated later in life to such a degree that you cannot fend for yourself or handle your affairs (e.g., you have a stroke and fall into a coma), then the living trust has provisions on who may use your trust assets to take care of you and pay your bills. Upon your death, the person you’ve named as successor trustee in your living trust document (declaration of trust), then immediately distributes the assets of your estate to the beneficiaries you’ve named in your trust. No probate court gets involved. Once the declaration of trust is executed by being signed in the presence of a notary public, it is kept with your other important papers, need not be recorded with the government, and does not require that you keep separate tax records for the trust.


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