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Wills Versus Trusts: High Sierra Legal Explains the Difference, Part 2 of 3

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Lindsay Wheeler, JD
High Sierra Legal

By Lindsay Wheeler, J.D., High Sierra Legal

In the first article we discussed document preparation services and what legal services may be performed as an alternative to hiring a costly lawyer. This article explains the difference between a will and living trust and why both are important.

There have been billboards around town about preparing for your future — advertisements emphasizing having a plan or a will in place for loved ones when you depart this world.

Most people know about the importance of wills, yet many people die without preparing one. People often don’t want to think about their mortality. However, a will or trust really isn’t for you; it’s your last gift for your family and loved ones. A properly executed will helps your family know your wishes and what you wanted to have happen with your property when you’re no longer here. Without a will, your beneficiaries may have a more difficult time with your assets.

A will is generally used to distribute your property to beneficiaries, specify your last wishes and name guardians for your children if they are underage. These wishes are properly documented in your will.

Once you pass, your will is filed with the Court and the probate process begins. Probate traditionally means the process of proving in court that the will of a person who has died is valid. It generally means the action or process of the court to administer a deceased person’s estate. The term estate doesn’t mean grand palatial mansions and sports cars. Everyone has an estate for the purposes of probate. It just means the stuff you own and leave when you die, and most property cannot be transferred without a court order in order to protect the property and the decedent’s estate.

If a person dies and doesn’t have a will, their property (estate) is still subject to the probate process of the court, and the court will transfer your property to your heirs. When you have a will, the court will affirm your wishes and allow for the transferring of your property to those you name in your will (your beneficiaries) by your named executor (the person who manages your wishes in the will). Most lawyers will charge a percentage of the total estate to be distributed to complete the probate process for you.

A trust, on the other hand, generally avoids the probate process entirely. This is what makes trusts attractive for many people, as there is no court intervention or public knowledge of the trust or person’s estate.

A revocable living trust is a difficult concept for many people to understand. Most people think of a trust and assume you must have to have millions of dollars and a house on Rodeo Drive.

In fact, a living trust is similar to forming a business for yourself or family. You are removing ownership of your property and placing it in the trust, which you manage. You’re essentially giving yourself your own property to manage. When you die, the person or persons you’ve named as your successor manages the trust as you have specified. They may then transfer or distribute the property to your named beneficiaries of the trust. This is how the intervention of the court and the probate process is avoided.

As always, a licensed lawyer should be consulted on all legal matters. Once you have your road map, High Sierra Legal can help you prepare your Will or Living Trust. High Sierra Legal has will and trust packages available which include: all documents relating to a Will or Trust, memorandum of personal property, burial instructions, declaration of remains, financial power of attorney, health care power of attorney, living will, physicians authorization and property deeds. Click here for $150 off a Trust Package or a will package for $400 from High Sierra Legal (offer ends March 31, 2015).

Information: call or email, 775-378-1275, [email protected].

Lindsay Wheeler, J.D., owns High Sierra Legal, which offers services such as divorces, bankruptcies, custody, trusts and wills. Click here for $150 off a Trust Package or a will package for $400 from High Sierra Legal (offer ends March 31, 2015). Or call or email: 775-378-1275, [email protected].

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