estate planning

Seniors understand better than anyone else just how important it is to think about the next generation, ensuring that children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren are positioned for success. One way to secure a brighter future for your loved ones is to engage in some smart estate planning, putting legal documents in place to ensure that your assets and resources are properly distributed to your heirs and loved ones.

The question is, which legal documents are really needed to protect the passage of your assets to the next generation? A common misconception is that simply having a living will is sufficient. Actually, most estate planning attorneys would advise seniors to go beyond the living will, supplementing it with a robust living trust. Let’s take a closer look at how living wills and living trusts work, gaining a clearer understanding of seniors’ estate planning needs.

Living Wills vs. Living Trusts: What’s the Difference?

To begin with, let’s compare the two documents.

A living will is a document that clarifies your medical preferences, should anything happen to leave you legally incapacitated. For example, if an injury or illness sent you into a coma and you were unable to speak up about your healthcare wishes, a living will would provide some direction about how you wish medical practitioners to care for you.

Living wills cover healthcare decisions, which are certainly important to consider as part of your broader estate planning. Crucially, however, living wills do not address the protection or transfer of your assets.

That brings us to the living trust, a comprehensive estate planning tool that addresses your healthcare decisions and asset distribution. In other words, a living trust covers a much wider range of estate planning needs and concerns than a living will does.

Indeed, unlike a living will, a living trust allows you to transfer assets into the trust during your lifetime. And a living trust provides legal mechanisms to help your heirs and beneficiaries sidestep the cumbersome and expensive probate process. A living will alone cannot do any of that.

What is Probate?

The concept of probate is worth a closer look. Basically, this refers to the court-supervised process of distributing assets following an individual’s passing. It usually takes a long time, it comes with extensive legal fees, and it can even be a source of conflict and tension between family members. Naturally, seniors want to avoid imposing this burdensome legal process on their loved ones if they can possibly help it.

Again, living wills don’t allow you to bypass the probate process, but living trusts do. When your assets are held in a trust, they can be more efficiently distributed to your intended heirs, without any need for the court system to intervene.

Protecting Your Assets… and Your Privacy

There are other reasons to consider a living trust, as well. For example, living trusts provide an extra layer of asset protection. By transferring your assets into a trust, you can shield them from creditors and other legal claims. 

Living trusts provide you with privacy protections, too. When your assets enter into the probate process, the full contents of your estate are revealed to the public. A living trust is a confidential document that allows you to keep all of your assets known just to you and your loved ones.

These are just a few of the various ways in which a living trust, not merely a living will, can help you safeguard your interests and the interests of your loved ones, addressing healthcare issues but also safeguarding your privacy and protecting the full value of your estate. The question is, how should seniors proceed with the development of a living trust?

Working with a Living Trusts Attorney

Because living trusts are fairly complex legal documents, it’s crucial to work with an estate planning attorney who can advise, direct, and ensure that the documents are all completed and filed appropriately. Simply put, a living trusts attorney can give you the peace of mind that your estate plan is legally sound, and that it will work just as you want it to.

Having a living will can be a great start to any estate plan, but seniors should know that wills alone are not enough for ensuring the best for the next generation. To achieve that goal, we recommend working with an estate planning lawyer to put a living trust in place. Seek out an expert living trust attorney in your community today.

Max Alavi APC, OC Trusts Lawyer, contributed this blog post as an educational resource. The material is meant for informational purposes only and not to provide legal advice because laws and regulations may differ across states, and each case may be unique. If you have any questions about the content of this post, it is recommended that you seek advice from a local Estate and Probate attorney.