The decisions you make when creating an estate plan are often highly personal in nature. The details regarding the division of your estate assets, for example, are not something you likely share with anyone outside your immediate family. You may not even want your immediate family members to know how you plan to distribute your estate assets when you are gone. If you use a Last Will and Testament as your primary estate planning vehicle, however, you won’t be able to keep the terms of that Will private after your death. Instead, the Hauppauge trust attorneys at Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia suggest using a trust to keep your affairs private.
The Downside of Depending on a Last Will and Testament
For the average person, A Last Will and Testament is the first document they execute when creating an estate plan. A Will is a legal document that communicates your final wishes pertaining to possessions and dependents. You can distribute your entire estate using a Will and may make both specific and general gifts in your Will. For example, you might make specific gifts of your vehicles along with $200,000 in cash to a beneficiary. You could also gift a percentage of your estate to a beneficiary, such as including a gift of half of your entire estate to your daughter. Your Will is also where you will appoint someone to be the Executor of your estate. Your Executor plays a vital role in the probate of your estate after your death. Finally, a Will provides you with the only official opportunity you will have to nominate a Guardian for your minor children in the event one is ever needed after you are gone.
Probating Your Will – Your Will Goes Public
When you die, your estate assets must eventually be transferred to the new beneficiaries. First, however, your estate must go through the legal process known as probate. The individual you appointed as the Executor of your estate will be responsible for overseeing the probate of your estate. Your Executor will initiate the probate process by submitting an original copy of your Will along with a certified death certificate to the appropriate court. The terms of that Will are then used to determine how your estate assets are distributed. The problem, for anyone who wishes those terms to remain private, is that once your Will is submitted to the court for probate, it becomes public record, meaning anyone can view the details of your Will. If you are one of those people who doesn’t want the world to know how you distributed your estate, you may wish to consider using a trust as your primary estate planning vehicle for the distribution of your assets.
How Does a Trust Keep My Gifts Private?
Shortly after your death, all of your assets must be identified and categorized by your Executor as probate or non-probate assets, The reason assets must be categorized is that not all assets are required to go through the probate process. Some assets are considered non-probate assets and bypass the probate process altogether. Assets held by a trust at the time of your death, for example, do not go through probate and may be distributed to the intended beneficiaries very shortly after the death of the Settlor. Along with knowing that assets will be available to your loved ones much sooner through the use of a trust, the other major benefit is that the trust agreement you create is not required to be submitted to the court because trust assets are non-probate assets. Consequently, the terms of that agreement, including the details regarding the distribution of your assets, remain private. Relying on a trust to distribute your estate assets offers additional benefits as well, including planning for the possibility of incapacity and protecting the inheritance of a minor child who cannot inherit directly from your estate. If privacy is important to you, consult with your estate planning attorney about using a trust as your primary estate planning tool.
Contact Hauppauge Trust Attorneys
Please feel free to download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding trusts, contact the Hauppauge trust attorneys at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.