3 Reasons Why a Living Trust Is More Beneficial Than Just a Will

Web Admin - Wednesday, January 23, 2019
Des Plaines living trust lawyerIf you wish to leave a legacy to your children or other beneficiaries after your death, it is imperative that you have an estate plan that will ensure prompt and accurate distribution of your assets. Many people think that writing a will is the best way to do this. However, while a will is important, putting your assets into a revocable living trust can provide several additional benefits.

Avoid the Illinois Probate Process 

In order to distribute assets according to the terms of a will, the will must go through the probate process. This involves filing various court documents required by law to establish the value of each asset and to re-title each asset from the deceased’s name to the recipient’s name. This can be a long, drawn-out process.

Secure Adult Heirs’ Immediate Access to the Estate

One of probate’s most serious drawbacks is the freezing of assets. Specifically, any assets that are held solely in the name of the deceased are frozen upon their death. Imagine a married couple who amassed several large investment and retirement accounts and multiple pieces of real estate during their lifetime. Upon the death of both spouses, their children cannot touch any of the assets until a probate court judge approves the will and appoints a Personal Representative to handle the estate. Leaving large investment accounts without active management can be risky.

By comparison, imagine that all of the couple’s assets had been placed in a living trust, meaning that the assets are titled in the name of the trust rather than in the name of any individual. Upon the death of the trust-maker, their designated successor has immediate access to the assets of the trust.

Secure Assets for the Long-Term Benefit of the Family

Imagine our married couple has three children and has a will. Upon the death of both spouses and probate action, the assets of the estate must be divided amongst the named heirs. Assuming the estate is to be divided equally among the three children, the inherited assets are now at risk to creditors, bankruptcy, a lawsuit, or a divorce. 

Creditors. If the married couple had all of their assets in a trust, ownership of those assets can remain titled in the name of the trust indefinitely. Because the assets are not titled in the individual children’s names, the assets are protected from creditors, even if one child files for bankruptcy or gets divorced. The beneficiaries named in the trust will have access to the assets in accordance with the directions specified in the trust documents. 

Heirs with disabilities. Upon the death of the spouses, one child (or an objective third party such as a bank) could be named as the successor trustee with directions to manage the trust in a certain way. This approach can be used to ensure that the use of the assets is prioritized in some way, such as to meet the basic needs of a child or grandchild with a disability. Keeping the assets in the trust can also serve to protect the right of a disabled heir to receive needs-based government benefits.

Underage heirs. Keeping the trust open with a successor trustee can also be beneficial for heirs who have not yet reached adulthood. When a will leaves assets to a minor, the probate court must appoint a conservator to manage the minor’s assets. Once our fictional married couple has died, there is no telling who that conservator might be and what decisions they might make. In contrast, assets left in a trust can be managed according to specific directions written into the trust. Thus, the maker of the trust can dictate when and for what purposes a youthful (or even as-yet unborn) heir can access their inheritance.

Consult a Palatine Revocable Living Trust Lawyer

A well-thought-out living trust can give you greater peace of mind and benefit your heirs in the long run. To discuss options for writing or updating a living trust, call an experienced Schaumburg living trust attorney at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. We have prepared living trusts for many high-asset families with complex issues of inheritance. To set up a free initial consultation, call 847-934-6000.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


Why Do I Need a Living Trust? Won't My Simple Will Work Just the Same?

Web Admin - Friday, May 20, 2016

Why I Need a Living Trust, Illinois Estate Planning Attorneys When people begin the process of estate planning, they often have several questions about what course of action would be in their best interest, or in the best interests of their surviving family members and loved ones. One frequently asked question asks what the difference is between a simple will and a living trust. 

Is one option a better choice than the other? 

The answer really depends on your particular situation. However, for most typical family situations, a good choice is to use a living trust to transfer your property upon your death. 

When you prepare a will as your sole means of transferring your property upon your death, your will must go through the probate court, which can be complicated and your surviving family members could end up fighting over your will once you are gone. However, using a revocable living trust, which you can prepare while you are still alive, can help your family avoid probate after you pass on. Individuals who are looking to exercise more control over their property may find that a living trust is a useful estate planning tool. One of the estate planning attorneys at our firm can help you prepare a declaration of trust at your convenience.

Five Advantages to Using a Living Trust Over a Will

Below are examples of the advantages of using a living trust over a will. 

1. Property transferred through a living trust will not go through probate. Probate is a long, tedious, and costly process before the probate court where the validity of the will is demonstrated, all debts held by the decedent are paid off, and then the remaining property is distributed to the family members. The more complicated the decedent’s estate is upon his or her death, the more complicated and drawn out probate can be. 

2. Out-of-state property transferred through a living trust can avoid ancillary probate. When property is located out of state, instead of having to go through probate in each state, a living trust can allow for the property of out-of-state property without ancillary, or out-of-state probate. 

3. Getting the opportunity to manage your property during your lifetime. By being the settlor of your own living trust, you retain control over the trust until you decide that you want to hand over the reigns or you die. 

4. Living trusts remain confidential, wills are not. Since probate is a legal proceeding, if your will goes through probate, your will becomes part of the probate court records, which are made available for public inspection.  

5. The successor trustee is able to take over once the principal is disabled which is a huge advantage. The “seamless” transition of control over the trust and the trust corpus upon the disability of the grantor is a huge advantage of the trust over the will.

Getting Legal Help with Living Trusts

If you think that a living trust might be the best estate planning tool for you, please feel free to contact one of our experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys today. Our law firm serves the communities of Crystal Lake, Palatine, Des Plaines, Mount Prospect, Long Grove, Kenilworth, Riverwoods, Buffalo Grove, Barrington, and Arlington Heights. Call 847-934-6000 to speak to a member of our team.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


Estate Tax Changes: Is it Time to Revisit Your Living Trust?

Web Admin - Friday, October 11, 2013

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) introduced “portability” as a permanent law which has many Illinois residents asking about the need for customary trusts. Portability allows a transfer up to $5.25 million in federal tax exceptions to surviving spouses. Previously, a married couple could only make the best use of both spouses’ exception amounts by dividing asset ownership and establishing a credit shelter trust (or an A/B living trust) that initiates after one spouse is deceased. Accordingly, a married couple can pass on $10.5 million to their heirs free from federal estate taxes.

If you have an existing A/B trust plan drafted prior to the estate tax law changes it is most likely based on the Federal Estate Exemption amount, which when it was $650,000, probably worked for a “mid-sized” estate. Now that the exemption is $5.25 million, people need to revisit the funding/formula clause of their A/B trust plan so that there is money present for a surviving spouse. Using portability rules at the federal level can allow a surviving spouse to live off the estate without necessarily the need for A/B planning depending on the size of the estate.

Additionally, a deceased spouse’s estate will not be taxable if less than $5.25 million. A surviving spouse will be required to fill out an IRS Form 706. The United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return will allow the surviving spouse to use the deceased spouse’s tax exemption or it will be lost. This exception is not transferable, but an A/B living trust can take advantage of the exemption amounts for potential transfers to grandchildren.

Though portability simplifies federal estate planning, but not Illinois Estate Tax, the need for traditional trusts is still apparent with the use of a credit shelter trust. There is potential to lose a deceased spouse’s unused exceptions if the surviving spouse remarries. A credit shelter trust with a new spouse can be used to protect this exception before remarriage. Prior to a remarriage, a credit shelter trust may provide asset protection and secure inheritances for children of former marriages and save assets from an heir’s creditors.

Inflation can also effect an exception amount because the portability law is fixed, but again a credit shelter trust can offer a safeguard. Finally, a living trust can avoid the costs and delays of probate that can cause family grief after a family death.

Since portability is here to stay, now would be a good time to revisit your living trust to determine how the portability law effects inheritance distribution. Contact an Illinois estate planning attorney to make sure your assets are accurately dispersed as you intend.

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