Can trusts be combined with a will?
One of the primary functions of estate planning is to exercise control over how property will be transferred to one's heirs. A simple will can accomplish that objective.
Beyond specific transfers, however, a grantor may also want to have some influence over how his or her beneficiaries use their inheritance. Perhaps an inheritance is designated only for educational expenses. Perhaps a grantor desires an inheritance to be distributed in monthly payments. A variety of trusts can accommodate such specific customizations.
Given the many options available, it's not uncommon for estate plans to utilize both a will and one or more trusts. Yet creating and funding a trust can be a large undertaking. Suppose an individual does not want to create a trust during his or her lifetime, yet desires to limit how the inheritance is distributed to beneficiaries.
For this objective, a testamentary trust may be the answer. This type of trust is not created or funded until after an individual's death. Rather, the trust instructions generally are written into a will. Yes, that means that probate is required, but with careful planning, an estate might qualify for simplified or streamlined probate. Assets identified in the probate process are used to fund the testamentary trust.
A testamentary trust can also be planned in conjunction with another trust created during a grantor's lifetime. Specifically, with a pour-over will, any remaining property identified during the probate process could be transferred into the other trust.
In order to customize the array of estate-planning options to an individual's specific intentions, it may be best to consult with an attorney. Our law firm offers clients services across a full spectrum of estate-planning needs.
Source: American Bar Association, "Introduction to Wills"