If you are fortunate enough to have thought far enough into the future to protect your estate in Michigan and have specific individuals in mind to inherit such estate, you’re probably now wondering whether you need a “Will” or a “Trust”. Is there a difference, and if so, which one will serve your purpose?
Despite the fact that you’ve heard more about Wills over Trusts, Wills may not always be the best option, and ultimately you will need to consult a reliable lawyer in Downriver to determine which one is more beneficial.
What is a Will?
A Will, Testament or a “Last Will and Testament” is a legal document drafted by an individual specifying the method to be applied in the management or distribution of his/her estate after death.
This legal instrument allows the individual “testator” whose property (whether real or personal) i.e. “estate” is in question to determine WHO and HOW his/her property will be disposed of after they have deceased without having the court choose who these individuals should be.
What is the Importance of a Will?
A Will serves various important purposes to testators and their family members or other beneficiaries:
- A Will allows the testator to choose which of his heirs, or other individual or family members, will benefit from the estate…WHEREAS failure to draft a Will allows the Michigan Probate Court to determine through “intestate succession laws” which heir shall benefit and in what capacity, even if the testator dislikes such heirs or had no familial relationship with them.
- A Will safeguards the testator’s right to choose who will serve as a legal guardian to his/her minor children in the event of death…WHEREAS a lack of a Will can place such children into foster care if no family member elects to legally adopt the children.
- A Will also allows for the election of an “executor” of the testator’s property who will mutually serve the interest of all beneficiaries of the Will fairly…WHEREAS a lack of a will serves for a court-appointed stranger to serve an administrator of the testator’s property.
- Michigan law allows for a Will to elect a trusted person to manage the money and other property left for your minor children to safeguard their futures.
What is a Trust?
A Trust is a legal document creating an arrangement where a person, “trustee”, to hold legal title to property for another, “beneficiary”, and to disseminate such property based on the chosen conditions.
A “Living Trust” also called an “Intervivos Trust” is simply a Trust created while you, the “grantor” are still alive and takes effects during the grantor’s lifetimes as opposed to upon death.
What Importance does a Trust Serve?
Different kinds of Trusts serve different purposes. For example, a Living Trust serves to avoid probate court in specific situations, reduce estate taxes depending on the value of your estate, and to even help set up long-term property management.
There are numerous kinds of Trusts that the lawyers at Downriver Lawyer can advise you on to determine which best suits your needs:
- Revocable Trust- A Trust that can be amended during the grantor’s lifetime
- Irrevocable Trust- A Trust that cannot be amended
- Living Trust- A Trust created while the grantor is still alive and prevents property from being subject to probate
- Testamentary Trust- A Trust created as part of a Will which goes into effect when the grantor dies
The most common type of Trust and most beneficial to many resident of Downriver is the Living Trust. This Trust allows for your estate to avoid adjudication in a Michigan court in order to pay off your debts and to distribute your property to those who will inherit it. Probate court is a lengthy process that can be completely avoided in the MI court system through the creation of a Living Trust. Through a Living Trust you will be able to quickly and efficiently distribute your estate to your chosen heirs and sometimes away from the reach of creditors.
While Michigan uses the Uniform Probate Code (UPC) which simplifies the probate process for small estates usually valued under $15,000, any estate above $15,000 will benefit from the creation of a Living Trust.
A Living Trust allows the property you want to transfer to be transferred to your beneficiaries within a matter of a few weeks as opposed to the lengthy process of probate court that can take months for resolution, allowing for you to avoid costly court and legal fees.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of a Living Trust is that the document itself is not a public record and therefore not searchable by creditors to try to seek judgment. Your creditors will be unable to determine who has acquired your property, as opposed to a Will, which is a public record. The only exception to this rule is the distribution of real property in a Trust; real estate is always a public record and this information is easily accessible to your creditors.
Will v. Trust
So which do you need? This is a conversation best left between you, your expert attorney at Downriver Lawyer, and your financial advisor. Keep in mind that sometimes a Will is preferred over a Trust; a Trust over a Will, and sometimes both legal instruments will be required.
For example, to protect any property that did not make it into your Trust, you will also need a Will to ensure that it is properly distributed. A Will also helps in allowing you to leave property to someone or an entity of your choosing who hasn’t been named in your Trust. So don’t be so quick to choose one legal instrument over another without becoming knowledgeable on the two options.
Not everyone benefits from a Living Trust and decision between which instrument will likely serve your purpose is a complicated one. Such decision should not be taken lightly, despite the fact that the Internet is rampant with automated Wills & Trusts forms that appear to simplify the procedure.
The Attorneys at Downriver Lawyer in Michigan have the understanding required to determine which instrument will better suit your needs. There are also strict rules in the drafting of a Will that require expert opinion or else will be contested in probate court given the manner in which it was drafted; especially if there was the use of duress in the drafting of the document. Our lawyers have been nominated to be the best at what they do, with the efficiency that is required in the drafting of these documents. Knowledge is key, without it your estate that you have worked so hard to build in Michigan will be subject to arbitrary laws if you bypass the drafting of a Will or a Trust.
Don’t throw caution to the wind. Contact our attorneys at Downriver Lawyer to receive the information your need to determine the best-suited legal instrument that will protect and distribute your assets to your liking and in your best interest. Call us today at 734-619-1237 or make an appointment online at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are easily accessible in Downriver, Michigan and we provide an array of legal services. Visit our website at www.downriverlawyer.com and make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.