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Trusts may add benefit to an estate plan

Oklahoma residents interested in setting up an estate plan may wonder if they should establish both a will and a trust. While both are ways to transfer assets to heirs after someone dies, a trust offers certain benefits. Will go through the public process of probate, where the will is validated. During probate such liabilities as taxes and debts the deceased may have owed to creditors are paid. The probate process may take months before assets are distributed to the heirs. Some states have an accelerated type of probate for estates with total assets under a certain dollar amount.

Trusts, unlike wills, do not go through probate, and the assets are efficiently transferred without a long wait. Revocable trusts allow a trust owner to place assets in the trust, and assets may be removed or handled in the same way as if they were not in the trust. Transferring the ownership of assets into the trust, however, is required, and this involves transferring the title of the asset to the trust's name. When the transfer does not happen, a will may be used as a backup, bequeathing the assets appropriately. In addition, retirement accounts are usually not incorporated into a trust since beneficiaries are already listed.

The trust also allows the owner to put conditions on the timing of distributions in place. This may be useful when young heirs are involved. Disabled individuals or heirs with special needs may also benefit from a trust since the trust may provide for their care over an extended period.

An estate planning attorney can give advice regarding the type of trust an individual needs including the management of medical care when incapacitated and asset transfer. The attorney may also provide insight into minimizing estate tax burdens.

Source: TIME, "Why This Estate Planning Tool Beats Just Having a Will", Kerri Anne Renzulli , October 06, 2014

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