When you write a will, you’re drafting a legal wish list of property that you’d like to give away and to whom. You can also name guardians and trustees for your minor children and caretakers for your pets. A will, however, does not provide complete asset protection, nor does it help your family avoid future legal fees, gift taxes or inheritance tax. Probate is the process of proving in court that a will is the valid Last Will and Testament of a deceased person and carrying out the last acts of the deceased person. This may include paying creditors, beneficiaries, taxes and selling real estate.
A Living Trust, which can be in the form of a revocable trust (creator can change/cancel) or irrevocable trust (creator can’t modify), is a way to transfer assets while alive to avoid probate, defend against creditors’ attacks and protect your family from poor decision making. To complete a property transfer to the trust, you must execute some type of Quit Claim Deed or Trust Deed. If you’re not ready to change the title of your assets but would like to grant someone access, a Durable Power of Attorney is an option. At the very least, everyone should have a Medical Power of Attorney (a/k/a Living Will), which allows you to give explicit instructions about medical treatment to be administered when you are terminally ill, permanently unconscious or incapable of making decisions for yourself.