Monday, October 12, 2015

Which Is Faster: A Will or a Trust?

Engine of a Space Shuttle.
 Image by M. Gustafson Gervasi, 2015
"Which is faster, a will or trust?  I just want my family taken care of as soon as possible."  After ten years of serving clients in the estate planning capacity, this is one query that tops of the list of client questions. My answer is often not expected.

"Honestly, whether you use a will or a trust, it doesn't matter. What matters is how organized you are with your final affairs, and more importantly, how organized the person is who you appoint to handle things when you died.  If the person you appoint is crippled with grief, overwhelmed in their own personal life, or simply is an indecisive procrastinator -- then your estate will creep along at a snails pace, trust, will, whatever device you use just doesn't matter."

Personally, I think trusts are a bit oversold.  Here in Wisconsin we have a low probate fee, 0.2 percent of the inventory value.  Other states can be as high as 8.0, 10.0 or even 12.0 percent -- that can easily drive probate costs higher.  Given this, many clients in my office opt for the probate route, using a will which facilitates rather than avoids probate.  When naming a Personal Representative (also known as The Executor in Hollywood as well as the State to our South), I advise choosing someone who:

  1. Is neutral and can help maintain the peace in a grieving family;
  2. Is good with finances and economical concepts (i.e. reviewing medical bills, completing taxes, selling a home, etc.);
  3. Has the time to sort through your bills, contact creditors about final costs, clean out your fridge, sell your car(s), drop off items at the local thrift store, complete final tax returns, and more; and
  4. Is able to make a decision and execute procedures.
As you run through the list of family and friends who fill your life and find you  have few or no choices, consider a professional. Banks, trust departments or even the family accountant may all be able to fulfill this role and help achieve your goal of efficiently getting your final assets into the hands of those loved ones you leave behind.

Thank you for reading, and remember -- a blog post educates only and should not be viewed as legal advice.  Please consult a licensed attorney in your home state for legal advice.  

No comments: