presented by: Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning
Many people prefer to avoid the probate court process stating that they want to avoid the time constraints the court system imposes before distributing to beneficiaries, the cost, and the fact that the contents of a Will are available to the general public for review. Some try to outsmart the system by making gifts to children and others before death. However, this can have adverse tax consequences. Additionally, gifting is a poor option if there is a need to control how the beneficiary uses the money and assets after your death. For example, do you want your assets to be controlled by a trusted person for a beneficiary if you die or do you want your assets controlled by your ex-spouse for the benefit of your minor child? Do you want to leave assets to your child; but, not to the child’s ex-spouse in the event of a divorce? Do you have an adult child that has substance abuse issues or poor money management problems? Are you worried that your spouse might re-marry and not leave your assets to your children?
An appropriate option to avoid probate and to address all of these complicated issues is the use of a revocable living trust. The trust is a contract that you create that has the terms that would normally be contained in a Will. At death, the person you name as a successor trustee steps into the role of trustee and begins to carry out the document according to its instructions without court interference. Your wishes can be implemented quickly and privately. Further, the cost is generally much cheaper than the cost of probating. A trust, allowing you to avoid probate and create conditions for how and when money and assets are to be used or given to beneficiaries can be complicated; but, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you to create a plan that will carry out your wishes and make it easy on your family at your death.
–Melanie Bradford Holliman
Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC
Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.
2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124
This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.