Can wills address estate plan issues not covered by a trust?

On behalf of Scaringi Law posted in Estate Planning on Saturday, August 22, 2015.

Are wills and trusts an either/or proposition? As a law firm that has helped many different types of clients to draw up their estates, we know that answer to be a resounding no.

Trusts may help to avoid probate, but a will can be a document for many practical matters. In addition to directing the disposition of specific assets, a will can contain funeral instructions, including how to cover the costs associated with a funeral. For individuals without life insurance, addressing burial expenses can be an important detail. A will can also contain instructions for issues that may not necessarily have a monetary value attached to them, such as how to handle social media accounts. Drawing up a will can be the catalyst for thinking about whether an individual wants his or her social media accounts to be closed, or to allow beneficiaries to continue posting in them.

Of course, a will does not have to address every asset that an individual may own. For example, life insurance or retirement accounts that name a specific beneficiary can typically avoid probate. Bank accounts with a payable on death designation may also avoid probate, allowing the named beneficiary to obtain the funds with minimal hassle, such as the showing of a death certificate and proof of identification.

Similarly, assets that are jointly owned will also avoid probate. Jointly titling real estate among a couple is a common practice. That arrangement, called a joint tenancy with right of survivorship, allows the surviving spouse to become the sole owner of the house upon the other spouse's passing. For clients that want additional beneficiary designations, a revocable living trust might offer tax savings and a way to pass assets to future generations, such as grandchildren.

Source: Wealth Management, "Key Considerations When Preparing Your Will," Aug. 18, 2015

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