Estate planning is all about creating a strategy for how your affairs are handled when you’re no longer able or around to take care of things yourself. While it’s not impossible to prepare certain estate planning documents on your own, it’s generally ill-advised to do so. Ensuring that you and your loved ones benefit from the best possible outcomes requires assistance from a legal professional with experience in estate plan document preparation.
This is no truer than when it comes to establishing a living trust. Unlike a will, which becomes relevant upon your death, a trust is effective as soon as you sign it. Trying to “do it yourself” with a trust document can have significant unintended consequences and you may miss out on opportunities to optimize what you get out of forming a trust, like tax planning strategies – but, more on that in a bit.
What Is a Living Trust, Anyway?
Lots of people may talk about forming “a trust” as if there is one solitary kind of trust out there. In reality, there are many different types of trusts that fulfill a variety of purposes – a living trust is just one of them. With the exception of a testamentary trust, all trusts avoid probate, which is generally the primary reason why people establish one.
A living trust is an estate planning document that you create during your lifetime. You fund property (cash, bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, family heirlooms, and more) from your estate into your living trust so that it comes under the management of your appointed trustee. Your trustee will manage the property in the trust on behalf of the beneficiary or beneficiaries you have designated to receive property upon your death.
People who create revocable living trusts can benefit from the property held in the trust during their lifetime, and often do. When they pass away, the trustee is tasked with distributing whatever is left to their beneficiaries after creditors and taxes are paid.
Living trusts can be either revocable or irrevocable; these qualifiers refer to the trustor’s ability to change the terms of the trust without consent of its beneficiaries. An irrevocable trust doesn’t permit this, but it can have important asset protection and tax planning benefits that a revocable trust would not have.
So, Why Do I Need a Lawyer to Create a Living Trust?
Having legal counsel advise you through the trust formation process can help you assure that all of your concerns are properly addressed. As stated before, you don’t need an attorney to help you write and fund your trust, but the importance of what you’re trying to accomplish with your trust should motivate you to leave nothing to chance.
These are just a few ways that working with a living trust attorney can benefit you:
- Your estate planning options are explained. An attorney with knowledge and experience in estate planning can help you understand all of the options available to you. They can also advise you on which options are best suited for helping people achieve goals like yours.
- You won’t miss out on tax planning strategies. If minimizing your estate’s exposure to taxation is one of your primary concerns, an attorney can advise you on methods you may not have fully considered or even knew were possible.
- You can find a reliable trustee. If you are forming anything other than a self-titled trust, you will need to find a trustee to manage your assets. An attorney can help you find a reliable individual to fulfill this important role.
- Walk you through the trust creation process. Having a lawyer means you have a guide throughout the process of establishing your trust. There’s a lot of time-consuming, hands-on work that an attorney can do for you when it comes to setting up a trust, funding it, and more.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
If you’re thinking about estate planning and especially forming a living trust, reach out to Dorcey Law Firm for help. We can assist clients with matters like these and more, helping each accomplish their unique goals for the future.
Ask to schedule a free initial consultation with us today when you call (239) 309-2870 or contact us online.