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One of the benefits of using trusts instead of a will

Most Oklahoma residents are aware that relying on a will as one's primary estate planning tool will require that the estate pass through probate before assets are distributed to the designated heirs. By using trusts instead of wills, families can avoid the time, cost and stress of the probate process, and they can achieve a more direct and efficient distribution of assets. Trusts also have the benefit of giving families a greater measure of control over how their assets are passed down, which is appealing to many.

For example, when an individual has amassed a significant amount of wealth, he or she often wants to ensure that the chosen heirs are the ones to inherit that wealth. One way to go about it is to draft a will that leaves everything to a surviving spouse, with the understanding that he or she will pass down those assets to children from that union and any previous ones. This, however, gives the surviving spouse carte blanche to do as he or she pleases, which can sometimes result in older children being overlooked as time goes by.

The primary reason why such an outcome would occur is in the event that the surviving spouse goes on to remarry and starts a new family. In such cases, the children from that union may become the spouse's primary focus, and wealth inherited from the previous marriage may be put to use solely for providing for those children. Adult children from an earlier marriage could be overlooked entirely. Another potential outcome is that the surviving spouse ends up divorcing the new partner, and loses a great deal of the inheritance to the divorce.

By structuring one or more trusts, Oklahoma residents can ensure that the wealth that is set aside for inheritance is used for that purpose. It is possible to create a trust that provides a surviving spouse with the intended level of support, with the provision that any remaining assets be distributed to one's children at a predetermined time. In this way, individuals are able to provide for their loved ones, while protecting against the unknown outcomes that the future may hold.

Source: CBS News, "5 reasons you need a trust, not a will", Ray Martin, Sept. 17, 2015

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