Wills and Trusts

A will allows you to document how you want your assets distributed after your death. It includes instructions regarding “who gets what when”, appoints guardians for your minor children and appoints an executor to oversee the effectuation of your wishes.

One of the most important features of a will, for parents of minor children, is the appointment of a guardian. This is the person that will take care of your minor children in the event of your death.

Through a will, you can specify at what age you want your children to inherit their share of your assets. This prevents a child from receiving a large sum of money or property before they are mature enough to handle it responsibly.

A “testamentary trust” is a type of trust that is created in your will and comes into effect after your death. Unlike a “living trust”, which is created during your lifetime, a testamentary trust only becomes effective after your death.

A “revocable living trust” is a trust where an individual (the so-called grantor or settlor) retitles their assets into the trust during their lifetime. In most cases, the grantor retains complete control over trust assets during their lifetime and serves as the initial trustee. Assets held in a living trust avoid probate. This means that the assets can be distributed to beneficiaries more quickly compared to assets that pass through probate. If the grantor becomes unable to manage their affairs, the successor trustee named in the trust document can step in to manage the trust’s assets on their behalf. Revocable living trusts are “tax neutral” and thus do provide any tax benefits for income, gift or estate tax purposes.

An “irrevocable living trust” is a type of trust wherein the terms of the trust cannot be changed by the grantor once it has been established (except under very limited circumstances). Irrevocable trusts are very common in estate planning for affluent families because gifting assets into an irrevocable trust can reduce estate taxes. Also, assets held in an irrevocable trust may be protected from creditors of the grantor. It’s important to consider the implications of creating an irrevocable trust since it cannot be changed or modified without significant difficulty. Attorney Robert Adler can help you determine what is appropriate for your personal needs and objectives.

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