16 August 2009

Wills vs Trusts

Usually one of the first questions asked after someone dies is if they had a will or not. That was the case in the recent death of Michael Jackson. The family produced a 5 page, 7 year old document transferring Jackson's estate into a family trust.

A will generally spells out a one-time distribution of assets, while a trust can stipulate that assets be distributed over a periods of time. With young children, a trust can give them their inheritance in installments such as birthdays, graduations etc.

In many states, including California, trusts are used in place of wills partly as a way to avoid court proceedings and keep financial matters private. Wills must be filed in probate court where they become public documents. Trusts are usually more complicated to set up than wills and may be more expensive to have them drawn up. With a trust, assets are transferred to the designated trustee upon your death. An executor carries out the contents of a will. A trustee does the same thing with the trust but usually for a longer period of time.

There are many questions related to death. One of the main ones is "What happens to the debts I leave behind?" Another one is "What are the benefits of setting up a trust?"

*** This post is for informational purposes only. An attorney should be consulted before any decisions are made concerning a person's final wishes. ***