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Revocable living trusts and wills

Although both types of documents are designed to aid people in distributing their assets according to their wishes, there are significant differences in how wills and trusts work. In some situations, a living trust is more advantageous, and in others, a will is the better option. There are a number of situations where the use of both kinds of documents is advisable.

One of the biggest advantages of setting up a living trust is the option to choose who administers the trust. A living trust is a private document. Trusts allow the amount and dispensation of assets to remain private, which protects both the asset holder and the heirs of the estate. Trusts can also be implemented prior to an asset-holder's demise if they become incapacitated and unable to care for themselves. A living trust clearly appoints a trustee to manage and be accountable for the estate in that situation.

Despite the advantages of living trusts, will are still advantageous and desirable in many situations. Wills are probated through the court system and, as such, hold a bit more legal weight if there are disgruntled heirs who believe that they did not receive something to which they were entitled. Additionally, if minor children are involved, it is essential to have a will specifically stating the parent's preferences regarding guardianship. Without clear instructions, the courts are forced to follow the letter of the law, which may not follow the decedent's wishes. The same is true if the decedent provides care for a person with special needs.

It is often difficult to think about death and the ramifications of losing a loved-one on family members; however, it is far preferable to those left behind to have a clear understanding of the deceased's wishes. Getting some unbiased and objective support from an attorney who is qualified to advise in the difficult matter of estate planning may alleviate much of the stress.

Source: TIME, "Why This Estate Planning Tool Beats Just Having a Will", Kerri Anne Renzulli, October 06, 2014

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