What if I told you that a trust could be less expensive than a will? Often when people come to see me for an estate plan, they tell me "All I need is a simple will, I don't have enough assets for a trust." That's because trusts are associated with wealthy "Trust-Fund Babies" and were once mainly a tool for the rich to avoid taxation. However, times have changed and the usage of trusts has evolved accordingly. Now, the middle class and even people struggling with poverty can use a trust to save their family money. A trust isn't about how much money you have, it's about deciding how you want to be treated as you age and how much protection you want to give to your family.
A trust is not as complicated as it sounds, it's just a contract to hold assets on behalf of someone. One of the benefits of a trust is that since it tells us who the assets are supposed to go to, we do not need to involve the courts and can avoid the probate process.
It is true that a trust costs more to execute than a simple will, but upon death, avoiding probate saves the heirs of the estate thousands of dollars and months or years of legal wrangling.
Remember, if all you have is a simple will, you have doomed your family to endure probate.
More importantly, trusts are not just for after death but can be used as a tool during your life to give your family the tools to support you while protecting your dignity and autonomy. You can use the terms of a trust to dictate who will take care of you, how you will be treated, and what powers you will retain as you age and lose capacity. You can even give instructions that you wish to be cared for in your home and to not be placed in a nursing home.
Trusts can be revocable, meaning changeable, or irrevocable which is unchangeable. A trust can also be revocable during your lifetime and then become irrevocable upon your death. The flexibility that a trust gives you can help you face the unique challenges of your life in a way that the rigid One-Size-Fits-All approach of the law cannot.
A good estate plan is one that protects you as you become more vulnerable and protects your family when you are no longer there. Even if you already have a will, consult with an estate attorney today to find out if you are doing the right thing.