A trust is a valuable estate planning tool

When many people consider getting their end-of-life affairs in order, the issue of whether their will is up to date or it's finally time to make a will come to the forefront. While in some instances, the term 'will" is generically used for all of one's estate planning documents, many Georgia residents have a will and nothing else. Although a will may be legally effective at accomplishing a number of its maker's intentions, a trust can often provide broader and more expansive protections.

Both a will and a trust are legal documents, but once executed, a trust forms a legal entity. As such, the trust itself is the legal owner of property transferred to it with the named trustee managing the trust according to its written terms. Financial planning experts point out that even though a will can be effective in transferring property at one's death to heirs and beneficiaries, a trust can do so without the need for probate, which can be a lengthy and costly procedure.

The typical scenario has the creator of the trust acting as trustee during his or her lifetime, during which the trust is able to be amended or totally revoked. Upon death, the trust becomes irrevocable, and assets are distributed to beneficiaries from the net value of the estate. Another benefit to a trust is the option to set terms whereby if the creator becomes temporarily incapacitated, another person can temporarily take over until health is regained. In other circumstances, it may be desirable to set up an irrevocable trust during one's lifetime or have a trust established by the triggering event of death.

Protecting one's estate and seamlessly transferring distributions to heirs are important goals. An experienced estate planning lawyer can offer counsel and advice regarding these objectives.

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