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Do I Need A Trust Or Is A Will Sufficient?


When you want to be sure that your family members or loved ones receive particular assets of yours when you are gone, it might not be obvious why you would consider a trust in addition to a will. In other words, you probably know that a valid and enforceable will can allow you to leave all kinds of assets to your chosen beneficiaries.  A will can ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. So, why would you want to consider a trust? And, if you do have a will, is that sufficient? Or, should you still speak with a Westchester County estate planning attorney about trusts that might be relevant for you and your needs?

In short, there are many reasons to consider a trust in addition to a will, and our firm can provide you with more information.

Your Heirs May Be Able to Avoid Probate

Probably the most common reasons for establishing a trust (in addition to a will) is to allow heirs to avoid probate. The probate process is the legal process under New York law through which a person’s assets are distributed after their death through the court system. During probate, the validity of a will may be contested or challenged by an existing or potential beneficiary.  That challenge process can take quite a bit of time (and can be costly).  Not just the time of additional months in court, but also the time that your estate attorneys will have to spend defending your will.  It is true that there are some types of assets that do not go through the probate process.  These assets include retirement benefits where a beneficiary has been designated.  However, assets left to parties through a will must go through probate.  On the other hand, assets contained in many types of trusts do not need to go through the probate process.  They can be distributed directly to beneficiaries from the trust.

Trusts Can Provide Tax Planning Benefits to You During Your Lifetime

If you are planning to leave a substantial amount assets to your loved ones, you may be able to get certain tax benefits for yourself during your lifetime.  You can do this by placing those assets into a trust instead of holding them in a separate type of account and having them pass through a will. Assets that are held in certain types of trusts may taxed differently than other assets, and that separate taxation may be beneficial to you, as well as to your heirs after you are gone.

Supplemental Needs Trust May Be Essential for a Disabled Adult Child

If you have a disabled adult child for whom you currently provide financial support, you will want to ensure that the child will have the financial resources she or he needs after your death.  A lot of people don’t realize that it can actually be more harmful to that child to leave them assets under your will. Many disabled adults are able to obtain federal benefits, and those benefits can also be based on their incomes and assets. Therefore, if you leave a large sum of money to a disabled adult child under your will, that child may not remain eligible for, or be able to obtain, federal benefits.  Instead, your disabled child will be required to spend down the assets they have just inherited from you.  To say it differently, if you create a Supplemental Needs Trust, you can provide for your disabled adult child without affecting your child’s eligibility for benefits.

Contact Our Estate Planning Attorneys in Pleasantville

If you have questions about creating wills or trusts, our Westchester County estate planning attorneys can assist you. Contact Meyer & Spencer, PC today.



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