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Revocable Living Trust

AARP agrees that utilizing a revocable living trust is the new thing! Revocable living trusts provide savings opportunities, save probate expenses, and provide other advantages over a will.

What is a revocable living trust?

It is a relationship established between three parties:

    1. The creator of the trust;
    2. The trustee who manages the property within the trust and distributes proceeds to beneficiaries; and
    3. The beneficiaries who receive the property according to the terms of the trust.

A revocable living trust allows assets within the trust as well as income generated by those assets to be managed and distributed by the trustee. The trust income and property are then distributed in accordance with the terms and conditions of the trust. This type of trust is referred to as a living trust because it is established during the life of the creator.

How does one benefit from a revocable living trust?

A revocable living trust provides numerous benefits to the creator. If the creator becomes incapacitated, the trustee is typically authorized to manage all of the assets within the trust as well as any obligations in accordance with the terms of the trust without court intervention. A revocable living trust will also provide financial assistance to family members if the creator becomes incapacitated. Upon the death of the creator, the trust transfers assets outside of the estate and outside of probating a Will. A living revocable trust can also be structured to minimize federal or state tax consequences. A revocable living trust also allows the creator to act as trustee, either with their spouse or without their spouse, or even revoke or modify the trust prior to death.

How does a revocable living trust compare to a will?

Both a revocable living trust and a will are tools that provide a method of passing property and other assets to family members and loved ones. However, a revocable living trust avoids the probate process, whereas a will does not. Unlike a will, a revocable living trust does not need to be administered by a probate court. By avoiding probate, an estate can essentially save numerous costs and assets will be distributed faster to family members and loved ones. In addition, a revocable living trust protects the privacy of the decedent as well as their finances. While court documents and the probate process are a matter of public record, a revocable living trust is handled outside of probate and is therefore kept private.

The attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. are skilled in all aspects of elder law and are dedicated to representing clients with diligence and compassion during emotional times. Contact the experienced New York elder law attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. for a consultation by calling them at 866-825-1LAW or vising them at www.thobsonwilliamslaw.com.

Keeping Your Will Updated and Naming Beneficiaries on Assets

A Last Will and Testament is an important estate planning document that contains provisions for assets and the distribution of property upon death. Unfortunately, many individuals fail to account for assets that do not pass directly under a Will. These assets may include life insurance policies, pensions, IRAs, and 401(k) or 403 plans. After the policyholder of these assets dies, the policies may distribute the benefits to their heirs at law if there is no beneficiary designation and no Last Will and Testament. Following major life events, such as marriage, divorce, change of employment, disability or death of a spouse, individuals should create or update their Last Will and Testament and their beneficiary designation forms on retirement benefits or other assets.

 

A life insurance policy is a financial instrument that pays out a sum of money either on the death of the policyholder or after a set time. A policyholder must designate a beneficiary of the policy proceeds when he or she passes away. If the individual fails to update their policy, especially following a major life event, an unintended party, such as a former spouse, may end up being the sole beneficiary. For this reason, it is best for policyholders to consistently amend and update polices to align with their wishes for the future. A policyholder may be able to name their estate as a beneficiary, to have the policy’s proceeds pass under a Last Will and Testament and divided amongst the individual’s designated beneficiaries. However, if the proceeds become part of the insured’s estate, they are not exempt from the estate’s creditors and are subject to probate.

 

Generally, if the deceased names a beneficiary for a pension, IRA or a qualified retirement plan such as a 401(k) or 403 plan, it will not be subject to probate and thus the terms of a Will do not control. Once an individual dies, the beneficiary named on the policy or IRA will be entitled to the funds remaining in the account. To access the funds, the beneficiary makes a claim and the IRA/Pension/Insurance policy makes a payment or a series of payments to that person.

 

However, complications arise when individuals fail to keep beneficiary designations up to date or fail to name a beneficiary at all. If an individual does not name a beneficiary, the funds will be payable to the estate and subject to probate for distribution. The probate process could result in delays, reducing the amount of funds received by the beneficiaries and limiting payout options. It is important that, if the individual gets married, has children, or gets divorced, he or she updates their beneficiary designations. If an individual dies without changing a plan’s designation from a former spouse, his or her ex-spouse will be entitled to its contents, even if the ex-spouses haven’t spoken in years or if the ex-spouse remarried. It is important to also update the retirement accounts if a beneficiary passes away. If a beneficiary dies before the account holder, it would be construed as if there were no beneficiary named and the account’s funds would most likely be payable to the estate and subject to probate.

 

Neglecting to update a Will, life insurance policy, and retirement accounts when major life events occur may lead to unwanted outcomes. It is important that individuals review these documents regularly to ensure that it reflects their current situation and wishes for the future. If you or a loved one needs assistance with reviewing a Will or another estate planning matter, look to the experienced New York estate planning lawyers at Hobson-Williams, P.C. The firm’s attorneys will help you establish an estate plan that is reflective of your current wishes and will help ensure your assets will pass as intended. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call contact our New York estate planning law firm at (718) 210-4744.

The Importance of a Last Will and Testament

Perhaps the most surprising fact reported following the death of musician Prince Rogers Nelson was that the celebrity died without a Last Will and Testament. As mentioned in a previous blog article, Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson filed an Emergency Petition in a Minnesota court seeking the appointment of a Special Administrator. The circumstances surrounding the celebrity’s death is not uncommon, as 55 percent of Americans do not have a will or an estate plan in place, according to LexisNexis.

Wills are an important part of estate planning to consider, even for young people. They protect the succession of assets and ensure that the intended beneficiaries are able to access those assets, according to the deceased’s wishes. To accurately reflect the wishes of an individual, a Will should be reviewed and re-drafted every decade or so or when personal circumstances change.

Some of the factors that may affect an individual’s decision to draft a Will may include a person’s medical condition and family medical history; participation in the armed forces; level of involvement in dangerous recreational activities such as alcohol and drug consumption; health and fitness habits; and desire for financial independence.

When it comes time to draft a Will, a person should list his or her assets and desired beneficiaries. It is just as important to include digital assets, such as access to photos/videos, documents and other files, passwords and sensitive accounts (such as a savings account), as it is to consider physical ones. When drafting a Will, it is important to take into consideration extenuating circumstances, such as the unexpected death of a beneficiary. An individual may name a contingent beneficiary if his or her primary beneficiary or beneficiaries predeceases him or her.

Without a Will, the fate of a person’s estate, stocks, savings and other holdings could be decided by the state. Without a Last Will and Testament to provide clear guidance for the division of estate and assets, a deceased’s loved ones may encounter stress and be forced to endure costly legal battles to settle the estate following the loss of their loved one.

When considering drafting a Last Will and Testament, it is important to contact an experienced estate lawyer who can guide you through the process and help you make informed decisions that affect both you and your loved ones. If you or a loved one needs a Last Will and Testament or other Advance Directives, contact the experienced attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. at (718) 210-4744 to ensure that your property passes to those you choose and not according to the laws of intestacy.

The Musical Icon Prince May Have Died Without a Will

According to documents obtained by People Magazine, Prince did not have a Last Will and Testament. Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson filed an Emergency Petition in a Minnesota Court seeking the appointmeprincent of a Special Administrator.

Sources report Prince’s sister as stating, “I do not know of the existence of a Will and have no reason to believe that the Decedent executed testamentary documents in any form,” states the document, which was filed in Carver County Minnesota.

An Administrator is appointed to settle an estate after a person has died.  A petition must be filed with the court and a personal representative must be appointed.  The personal representative is responsible for the following:

  • Collection, inventory, and appraisal of assets of the person who has died.
  • Protection of the estate’s assets.
  • Payment of decedent’s debts.
  • Distribution of the remaining assets to the proper parties as provided by law.

According to a survey conducted by FindLaw.com, 35% of those surveyed had a Will but individuals over the age of 65 did execute a Will. Without a Will, property passes according to the State’s intestacy laws.

Some sources believe that Prince’s current estate is valued at over $300 million dollars. The failure to execute a Will may result in his property being distributed in a manner contrary to what he may have wanted during his life.

If you or a loved one needs a Last Will and Testament or other Advanced Directives, contact the experienced attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. at (718) 210-4744 to ensure that your property passes to those you choose and not according to the laws of intestacy.

Do I Need to Make a Living Trust, or is my Will Enough?

Part of estate planning is determining how you will distribute your property and to whom at death.  It is very important to have a will, otherwise your property will be distributed by intestacy, and may not be distributed according to your wishes.  While wills and trusts have some elements in common, they serve two separate functions.

In New York State, a will is a written document that must contain a signature at the end witnessed by two people.  The purpose of a will is to name beneficiaries who will receive property after your death.  A will is revocable and can be destroyed by a physical act such as burning or tearing, by operation of law such as divorce, by presumption (for example, after your death the will cannot be found), or by a subsequent will.  Accordingly, a will may be revised many times during one’s life.  In a will, an executor for the estate and guardians for children may be named, and instructions for wishes to be carried out may be listed.  Upon death, a will goes through the probate process and becomes a public document.

A trust is a relationship between the person who funds the trust (the settlor), the trustee (the person who manages the trust), and the beneficiary (the person who benefits from the trust).  As a trust does not go through the probate process, it is much more private than a will.  Avoiding probate is both cost and time effective.   A trust also allows the beneficiary to enjoy gifts from the settlor of the trust during the settlor’s lifetime so that the settlor can see the enjoyment the beneficiary gets from it.  Additionally, a trust is a good option if you want to be able to distribute funds to children who have not yet reached the age of majority.  Generally, living trusts are revocable and allow for the continuous transfer of assets.  Another benefit of a living trust is that, unlike a will (unless you have appointed a power of attorney), if you become incapacitated, the trustee will take over.

It is best to consult with an experienced attorney to determine whether you should consider making a living trust.  Contact an experienced elder law attorney who can best assist you in planning your estate.  Call the Law Offices of Tanya Hobson-Williams toll free at (866) 825-1529 or (718) 210-4744.