Safeguarding and distributing assets is one of the primary goals of wealth preservation and estate planning. The question is how best to achieve it.
What is a Will?
The will (or last will and testament, as it is traditionally called) is a time-honored legal instrument that gives you varying degrees of control over your assets after you die. It can be fairly straightforward and inexpensive to develop, and it’s amendable, even revocable, during your lifetime. One disadvantage of the will is that it is usually subject to probate.
What is Probate?
Probate is a certificate issued by the court that verifies if the will of a deceased is legally valid, and whether the executors appointed under the will are authorized to administer his or her estate. This court-administered process can be time-consuming, costly, and is necessarily a matter of public record.
An alternative to the will, increasingly common these days, is the revocable living trust (RLT). An estate plan with an RLT can help you maximize control over your assets not only after your death but during your lifetime as well. The RLT offers numerous advantages over the last will and testament, not the least of which is the privacy it ensures because of its freedom from probate. Properly designed, implemented, and funded, the estate plan enables you to:
- Arrange for your own care, should you become ill or incapacitated
- Name a guardian and make provisions for minor children
- Plan for beneficiaries with special needs
- Ensure the expeditious transfer of assets, including real estate
- Exert control over the manner and timing of asset distributions
- Create a succession plan for your business
- Establish a legacy for future generations
- Guard your family’s privacy
- Reduce estate taxes
Of course the revocable living trust, like any complex legal document, is only as good as the knowledge, planning, and care that goes into it. At McDowall Cotter, we offer decades of experience with wealth preservation and estate planning and a commitment to the kind of rigorous ongoing education that guarantees its integrity and success. If you are based in the San Francisco Peninsula, (San Mateo, Palo Alto, Redwood City, Foster City, Burlingame, Mountain View…), South Bay (San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara…), Alameda County (Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, Pleasanton…) and San Francisco, and are looking to make or update an existing will or trust, please feel free to schedule a consultation with our attorneys at McDowall Cotter. For a more detailed discussion of wills and trusts, please see articles by McDowall Cotter wealth-preservation and estate-planning attorneys in our Resources section.
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