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Trusts vs. wills: typically not a one-or-the-other proposition

We’ll get straight to the point regarding subject matter that we introduced in our immediately preceding blog post (please see our September 6 entry).

That point is this: In the estate planning realm, wills and trusts play distinctive roles that, while different, are complementary rather than opposed.

We underscored that reality in the above-cited blog post, noting that many people think just the opposite and anticipate that their planning outcome will yield either a will or one or more trusts, not both.

Forbes financial writer Bob Carlson points out that many plans ultimately feature both vehicles/tools. One is often perceived “as the foundation of the estate plan,’ with the other supporting it in an integrated and important way.

“Every estate should have a will and is likely to have at least one trust,” he says.

Carlson duly notes that planners need to timely do their homework concerning the advantages and potential drawbacks of both wills and trusts, respectively. The role that each plays must obviously be fully understood prior to an individual or family implementing a particular strategy.

A proven estate planning attorney (especially one with an integrated and complementary professional background as both experienced legal counsel and as a certified public accountant) can fundamentally help with that.

In fact, there will likely be much for planners to think about and digest. Wills (unlike trusts) go through probate, for example, which is a public, time-consuming and sometimes pricey process. Carlson notes, though, that some people view the public scrutiny positively, “because it provides checks and balances.”

As for trusts, assets need to be transferred and retitled, and a trustee appointed. That can ultimately be a pain-free process, but sometimes it entails appreciable complexity.

Every state, including California, has detailed statutory rules and requirements governing wills and trusts. Questions concerning relevant laws and planning strategies can be directed to an experienced estate planning and administration attorney.

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