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Do I need a Will or a Trust(Revocable Living Trust)?

This is one of the most common questions asked by my clients who are planning their estate.   The answer is “yes.”  You do need one or the other(unless you want the State of Washington to dictate what happens with your property).  A properly planned estate will make sure that your wishes are followed, and will make it much simpler on your beneficiaries.

A Will is a document that directs what you want to happen with your property upon your demise.  A Revocable Living Trust is a pool of assets held by a Trustee, who has instructions as to how to distribute the property upon the death of the Trustor(creator of the trust).

Most of the time, a Last Will and Testament is sufficient, and preferred, over a Revocable Living Trust.  The best way to simplify the Will v. Trust comparison is to envision each of the documents as a vehicle that will get you to the same place.  They accomplish the same end result, but the pathway in getting to the destination is a little different.

In almost all instances, any estate planning objective can be accomplished(placed in the vehicle) in a similar manner, regardless of which option you choose.  For instance, both a Will and a Trust can be used to help with estate tax avoidance, appointment of fiduciaries, distributions to minors, and prohibitions against Will contests.

Wills are simpler, less costly, and require little or no maintenance during your lifetime.  Trusts, on the other hand are more complex at their inception, more costly, and do require ongoing maintenance throughout your life.  For instance, in order for a Trust to accomplish the goal of avoiding probate, all of your assets need to be retitled so that they are owned by the Trust(which means the recording of deeds and execution of titles).  As a result, The costs involved in creating a Trust will often be at least double those involved with creating a Will.

However, a Will usually needs to be probated upon death, while there is generally no probate with a Revocable Living Trust.  Fortunately, in the state of Washington the probate process is pretty user friendly.  That being said, a probate does require some work, which involves some time and cost.  There is also some post death work with a Trust, but that work is usually less involved than what is entailed with a probate.

What you need is wholly dependent on your particular situation.  There are a few instances where the creation of a Trust may be the best option(like if you own property in multiple states).  However, for most people, a simple Will is the most logical route.

The goal of any estate planning attorney should be to determine the client’s needs and goals, and then develop a pathway to accomplishing those objectives.  C. Scott Kee, managing partner at Rodgers, Kee & Card, P.S. has nearly two decades of experience in helping individuals meets their personal objectives and goals when planning their estate.

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