WILLS AND TRUSTS
WHY SHOULD A PERSON HAVE A WILL?
A Will is a document that takes effect on death and recites the wishes of a person regarding the disposition of his or her real and personal property. A Will designates who will receive his or her property and under what circumstances. It designates a Personal Representative (referred to as an Executor in some states), as well as the division of assets among certain people and/or charities.
HOW DOES A WILL HELP IF A PERSON HAS MINOR CHILDREN?
If a person has a minor child, a trust can be created in the Will which holds the property for the minor child until he or she reaches a certain age. During the term of the trust, the income and principal of the trust can be used for the benefit of the child. The trust may distribute the principal over several years as opposed to one lump sum distribution. If there is no trust in a Will, the minor child receives his or her inheritance at 18 years of age.
CAN A PERSON WHO HAS A SPOUSE OR CHILD WHO IS DISABLED AND ON MEDICAID, OR MAY BE ON MEDICAID IN THE FUTURE, PROTECT THAT PERSON FROM LOSING PUBLIC BENEFITS AND PRESERVE THEIR INHERITANCE?
Yes. A Special Needs Trust may be created as part of the Will which will hold the disabled beneficiaries’s inherited property. This will allow that person to continue receiving Medicaid or other public benefits in the future, at the death of the person who writes the Will.
WHEN SHOULD A PERSON WRITE A WILL INSTEAD OF A TRUST?
This is a very complicated question. Depending on the amount and type of property a person has, his or her beneficiaries, gift and estate tax objectives, as well as charitable considerations, a Will may or may not be the best alternative, and a Trust should be considered. Some trusts are used only to avoid probate, while other types of trust are used to reduce estate taxes. If a person is not sure whether a Will or a Trust is the right planning document, an estate planning attorney should be consulted.
HOW DOES A PERSON FIND AN ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY TO PREPARE A WILL OR A TRUST?
Many attorneys write Wills and Trusts, so it is difficult to know whom to hire without a recommendation. A law firm with a Florida Board Certified Elder Law Attorney, or a Board Certified Wills, Trusts and Estates Attorney is good way to know that the law firm hired is qualified to help with a person’s estate planning. If you have a taxable estate, a law firm with an attorney who holds a Master’ Degree in Tax Law is another way to find a qualified attorney to prepare a Will or a Trust. Attorneys who have served in leadership capacities on estate planning councils or have written or lectured on Wills and Trusts are additional indications of substantial involvement in the practice of estate planning.
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