It depends! (Typical lawyer answer). The fact is that no two estate plans are exactly the same. Your goals, family structure, and particular situation will dictate what kind of estate plan you need. Let’s look at a few important factors to consider when deciding between a will-based estate plan and a revocable living trust-based estate plan:
- A will communicates to a probate court; a trust communicates to a trustee. Since many clients wish to avoid having their estate go through probate, trusts can be preferable. Probate is the court process of administering a person’s estate (payment of debts, distribution of funds, etc.) and can be time-consuming and expensive. However, trusts are not the only way to avoid probate. Beneficiary designations and marital property agreements can also be useful tools to avoid probate in the right circumstances.
- People who own property outside of Wisconsin may wish to use a trust-based estate plan. Otherwise, probate may be required not only in Wisconsin, but also in the state where the other property is located.
- Blended families often lean toward trust-based plans. We often encourage blended families to use trusts, in order to ensure that when one spouse dies, the surviving spouse cannot change his/her mind about the estate plan and disinherit the children of the deceased spouse. While this might not be a big concern while both spouses are living, this type of plan can provide peace of mind to the whole family, and preserve family harmony after a death occurs.
Bottom line: Be sure to plan! A lack of planning can lead to costly administrative proceedings and family heartache. Estate plans can range from very simple to very complex, so it is important to put a plan together that works for you.
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