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Estate Planning: Wills, Trusts, and Avoiding Probate

A will is a document that provides written instructions about who receives your property at death. When you die, a will has to go through a process called probate, a court proceeding that is time consuming and expensive.

A trust, like a will, is a document of instructions about who receives your property at death. A trust, however, does not have to go through probate. Having a trust can save your loved ones time and money after you die.

In the simplest sense, a revocable living trust is a will that avoids probate.

Why you need a revocable living trust

The simple reason most people need a revocable living trust is to avoid probate – a court proceeding that is time consuming and expensive for your loved ones after you die.

There is a considerable amount of confusion about why you may need a revocable living trust. Unfortunately, some of this confusion is created by attorneys. You may have heard that if you don’t have a trust, the government will take your estate. Or that your assets won’t be protected from creditors. Trusts can be used in some very specific situations for such protections, but these circumstances are rare. Usually, you don’t need a trust for these reasons. But you do need a trust so your loved ones can avoid probate.

Without a trust, probate is required whether a person dies with or without a will. The purpose of probate, in and of itself, is perfectly legitimate. The court wants to make certain that property is distributed according to the will while assuring creditors get paid. However, the process of probate is difficult and expensive. It takes approximately one year to complete and costs an average of $2,500 to $5,000.

How I can help you

I have been preparing wills and trusts in Michigan for more than 30 years. I can help you properly prepare a straightforward, simple revocable living trust that accomplishes everything most families need to avoid the hassle and cost of probate after your death. I can also help you with other strategies for avoiding probate, such as using beneficiary designation forms on IRAs and life insurance policies and creating jointly held property. But the trust is the flagship for avoiding probate.

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