Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Most people don't want to think about their death, let alone plan their affairs for what happens after they're gone. I know this post is going to make some heads spin because there will be a lot of information here, but just based on my own personal experience with these situations it is very important information that most people don't know.  Family, friends, loved ones can go through a great amount of stress and red tape trying to figure out what your last wishes would have been. Unfortunately I have been in the middle of family members fighting over my grandmothers estate. It wasn't necessary or a respectful thing to go through at that time..  Luckily the internet is full of information and this what I have found and condensed to hopefully make it easier for you.(also sorry about the weird line spacing issues, that's what happens when you copy and paste from the web sometimes)

ALSO remember your favorite charity, church, community programs in your final wishes.  There is a small rose garden at my Grandmother's church in her name that I made possible even though it wasn't part of her final wishes, I knew it would make her very happy.  I know if I ever die The San Diego LGBT Center will be part of my final wishes.
 There are plenty of DIY resources online for these types of services but if you feel like its  beyond what you are able to do, check with friends, your community center or local papers for  legal services and attorneys that specialize in these areas. Some cities have free legal aid  resources as well.   Just PLEASE do something.   Im going to go get my 5 page will and  memorial instruction manual notarized this week.

Do I Need a Will or a Living Trust?

Most people need a will, but not everyone needs a living trust.  Whether or not you need a living trust depends on your age, how wealthy you are, and whether you’re married. 

Even if you decide that you need a living trust, you should also make a will to name an executor, name guardians for minor children, and take care of any property that doesn't end up in your trust.  

What If I Don’t Have a Will or Living Trust?
If you don’t make a will or a living trust, your property will be distributed according to the laws of your state.  
The Differences between a Living Trust, a Last Will and a Living Will                         These legal documents are commonly confused because of their similar-sounding names. While all three are vital estate planning tools, each one serves a distinct purpose. Here are some of their key differences.
A Last Will is used to distribute property to beneficiaries, specify last wishes, and name guardians for minor children. It is an important part of any estate plan. Without one, the courts will make these critical decisions for you. 

A Living Trust is used to transfer property to beneficiaries. But unlike a last will, a living trust is not usually subject to probate court, which can take years and cost thousands in attorneys' and court fees. A Living Will lets you outline important healthcare decisions in advance, such as whether or not to remain on artificial life support. 

Name beneficiaries for property. The main function of both wills and trusts is to name beneficiaries for your property. In a will, you simply describe the property and list who should get it.  Using a trust, you must do that and also “transfer” the property into the trust. (See “Transfer of property into the trust,” below.)
Leave property to young children. Except for items of little value, children under 18 cannot legally own property.  When you leave property to a minor, that property must be managed by an adult – at least until the child turns 18.
When leaving property to a minor using a living trust, the trustee manages the property until the child reaches an age determined by you.
When leaving property to a minor using a will, you should name an adult to manage the property. Or,  use your will to set up a testamentary trust for young children or name a custodian under the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act.  For more about these,  If you do not name an adult to manage property left to a minor through your will, the court will name someone to do it after your death.
Revise your document.  With both revocable living trusts and wills allow you to revise your document when your circumstances or wishes change.  The decisions you make in these documents are not set in stone until you die. 
(On the other hand, irrevocable living trusts cannot be changed after they are finalized.  These are usually used by the wealthy to shelter money from taxes and are much more complicated than the revocable type. See a lawyer if you want to make an irrevocable living trust.)
Avoid probate. Property left through a living trust does not pass through probate. Property left through a will does go through probate.
Probate is the court system designed to wrap up a person’s affairs after their debts.  Probate takes a long time, can be very expensive, and for most estates, isn’t necessary.  .
Because all property passing through a living trust does not have to go through probate, it can be distributed to beneficiaries after the death of the grantor, without any fees or interference (or guidance) from the court  For this reason, many people chose to create a living trust. 
But not everyone needs to avoid probate.  If you don’t own much property, or if you have many debts, creating a trust may not be necessary.  See, “Do I Need a Will or a Living Trust,” below.
Privacy after death. After death, a will becomes a public document.  A living trust does not, so many people choose to use a living trust to keep their affairs private.  
Notary public. Unlike wills, living trusts must be signed and stamped by a notary public.  See “Witnesses,” below to learn the steps required to finalize a will.
Transfer of property into the trust. To leave property through a living trust, you must transfer the property into the trust. For many items, this is as easy as making a list of the property and attaching to the trust document. However, items with title documents, such as real estate, must be retitled so that the owner of the property is the trust.  This is not usually complicated or particularly difficult, but it is an extra step that you must take.  No transfer of property is required when using a will.
Protection from court challenges. Court challenges to wills and living trusts are rare. But if there is a lawsuit, it's generally considered more difficult to successfully attack a living trust than a will.  
Avoiding a conservatorship. In a living trust, you can name your spouse, partner, child, or other trusted person to have authority over trust property if you become incapacitated and unable to manage your own affairs.  You cannot do this with a will, however you can also make a durable power of attorney to appoint someone to manage your finances. 
Guardians for children. In a will, you can name guardians to care for minor children. You cannot do this in a living trust. 
Property managers for children’s property. In a will, you can name someone to manage any property left to or earned by your children. You cannot do this in a living trust. 
Naming an executor. You can use your will to name an executor who will be in charge of wrapping up your estate after you die.  That person will be responsible for communicating with the court, paying your bills, and, eventually, distributing any property that goes through probate. You can’t name an executor in a living trust.  In your living trust, you name a successor trustee who will manage just the property left through the trust. Because most estates will need an executor to some extent, it makes sense to make a will and name an executor, even when you leave most of your property through a trust. In most cases, it also makes sense to name the same person for both jobs.

What Living Trusts and Wills Cannot Do
Reduce estate taxes.  Neither wills nor can living trusts help you reduce estate tax, but most estates will not owe estate tax. 
Leave money to pets. Pets cannot own property, so you cannot leave money to your pets. You can use your will to leave your pets to a trusted caretaker, or you can create a pet trust. But if you try to leave your pet property, that property will end up in your residuary estate. 
Leave final wishes. Although it is permissible to leave funeral instructions and other final wishes in your will (never in a living trust), it’s better to leave them in a separate document. 
Leave passwords for online accounts.  After you die, your executor will appreciate being able to access your online accounts, computers and other devices.  However, do not leave this information in your will or living trust.  Instead, create a separate document and keep it in a secure place with your other estate planning documents.  

The above information was condensed and combined from both  

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