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Estate Planning – Do I Need a Trust?

By Attorney Jennifer D. Kahl

June 16, 2017

 

Clients ask me this question all the time. Do I need a trust? Some people mistakenly believe that a trust is somehow “better” than a will, or that everybody with significant assets needs to have a trust. Often, people want to avoid probate expenses, minimize estate taxes, or ensure a hassle-free process after they die. However, in many cases, we can achieve all of these goals without the expense of a trust. A trust is merely a tool in the toolbox of every good estate planning lawyer. Like any tool, it is the best tool for some jobs, and not the best tool for others. A good estate planning attorney knows this and will pick the best tool for your particular situation.

So how do you know if a trust is the right tool for you? Answering this question requires a detailed analysis of your financial assets, your financial goals, your family situation, and the legacy that you would like to leave for your heirs. A trust-based plan may be a good fit for clients who:

  • Prefer for their final wishes and the contents of their estates to remain private
  • Do not want their fiduciary (trustee/executor) to be subject to court oversight
  • Have enough assets to worry about being subject to estate taxes (current limit is $12.06 million as on 2022, and married couples can double that)
  • Own real estate in multiple states
  • Have a spouse or heir with a disability
  • Have minor children
  • Want to place limitations or contingencies on their heirs’ inheritance
  • Want to allocate an inheritance for a specific purpose (such as education or medical expenses)
  • Do not want their heirs to have direct access or control of their inheritance
  • Have heirs with substance abuse issues or other serious legal or financial problems
  • Have complicated family dynamics (blended families, hostile family relationships, “rebellious” children, fear of family attempting to exert improper influence, etc.)

If these situations apply to you, a trust may be a good option for your estate plan. However, if you were shaking your head as you read through the list, there’s a good chance that you will be just fine with a basic Last Will and Testament. Our attorneys at The Heritage Law Group will help you choose the plan that is best for you.

Heritage Law

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With over thirty years of combined experience, we proudly serve the Virginia Peninsula, the Middle Peninsula, and Williamsburg. Our goal is to protect the personal and financial relationships that support your family. This includes preparation for times when you may be incapacitated and making arrangements for your family in the event of your death.