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Estate Planning Options: A Will Or A Living Trust?


When a person is planning their estate in Putnam or Westchester County, they have the option of doing so in the way that fits their family situation best. Most people will execute a Last Will and Testament, which will often be perfectly sufficient for their needs. However, some estates may be better served by what is known as an inter vivos or “living” trust. Both options will offer positives and negatives, depending on the planner’s ultimate aims. Discussing your aims with one of our Pleasantville, NY estate planning attorneys can make all the difference.

New York Wills Must Go Through Probate

A valid New York will must be in writing (with rare exceptions for some active-duty military servicemembers), and witnessed by two people within the same 30-day calendar period. Essentially, a will is a directive to one’s heirs, setting out a person’s intentions for the distribution of their assets and clearing of their debts. That said, the intentions of the testator are not valid under law until the will has gone through the probate process.

Probate is the official administration of one’s estate – that is, evaluating the deceased person’s assets, setting aside enough to pay outstanding debts, and attempting to satisfy their wishes if there is anything left over in the estate. Not every will has to go through probate, but the overwhelming majority do, and it can take some time for the process to conclude.

Living Trusts Often Distribute Assets More Quickly

A living trust, by comparison, is a trust created by the estate planner, also called the settlor, while they are still alive (often, the person planning their estate will serve as the first trustee). The trust is created before the settlor’s passing, but does not officially exist until title to assets is placed into the trust to fund it. A settlor does not have to place all of their assets into the living trust, but if they do, it is likely that their entire estate may escape probate, cutting down on the time that beneficiaries have to wait to receive any bequests. The settlor lives off the trust income, but the assets themselves are untouched.

You Can Have Both

It is important to keep in mind that in some situations, it may be a good idea to have both a will and a living trust. If you acquire real or personal property after establishing your trust, or if you have property titled solely in your own name, very often it must pass through probate. If this happens in your case, you may elect to have what is called a pour-over will. A pour-over will is a standard will, worded to dispose of any assets in your possession that are not in the name of your living trust, but it ensures that none of your assets will be disposed of via intestacy laws.

Contact A Mahopac Estate Planning Attorney

If you have questions or concerns about your estate planning, a Westchester County estate planning attorney from Meyer & Spencer, P.C. may be able to assist. Call our office today to speak to an attorney.




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