Wills and Trusts
Every Individual should have a current Will to facilitate estate tax planning. It is a legal instrument through which an individual disposes of property, determines who will manage the administration of the estate, and appoints a guardian for any minor children. Without a Will, a decedent's estate passes per state intestate succession laws, which rarely accord to the client's wishes. Per state law without a Will an estate can be divided between a deceased spouse and the deceased parents, when it usually is expected that the deceased spouse would gain the estate solely. When children are involved and there is no Will then a contest may ensue between competing relatives who wish to be guardians.
A Will may also designate a Trust for a child which permits a distributions for a minor without court intervention and defers final distribution until the child reaches a specified "age of maturity" such as 30. Without such a Trust, states usually provide that minor's share of an estate shall be help by the courts until the minor reaches the age of maturity, which is typically 18 and at that point the minor shall be entitled to full distribution.
Wills should be reviewed periodically to consider changes in tax and other laws and in family circumstances such as births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and changes in potential heirs financial needs and capabilities.
Wills are the cornerstone of most estate tax plans. Although Wills often are coupled with living trusts in some states, estate planning options may be limited unless the decedent has made a will. Wills are essential, simple documents that everyone should have. Trusts can be drafted in addition to wills and serve more complex estate-planning needs. Property and other assets can be placed in the trust to shield them from taxes and probate, the lengthy and expensive court process by which wills are executed. Instead, a trustee is appointed to manage the trust. That will simplify things once you or your spouse die.