Tupelo Wills & Trusts Attorneys Assisting Clients Looking To Make Their Estate Plans in Tupelo, MS
Thinking about what could happen to your family and your possessions after you pass away is an unpleasant topic for most but in the light of the recent pandemic, many of us began to think about having basic estate plans in place amidst the uncertainty of a new virus. However, estate planning is something we should think about if we want to safeguard the future of our families. Here are a few basic pieces of information about two of the most essential estate planning tools – wills and trusts – and why working with a Mississippi wills and trusts attorney may be important.
What Is a Will in Estate Planning?
You may have watched a movie or television show with the cliche scene of a family gathered around a table waiting for an attorney to read the will of their wealthy relative who has just passed away. Each member is hoping to take a share of the decedent’s fortune. However, a will is not a document only the wealthier slices of our society are entitled to.
A will is a legal document in which you may record your wishes for how your property and assets should be divided after you pass away and who should receive each asset. Wills need to go through probate before the estate assets can be passed on to heirs, and it is up to the person named as the estate’s executor or personal representative to handle the task of managing the estate.
Without a will, your property may be divided according to Mississippi’s intestacy laws, which simply distributes your estate to your surviving relatives in a certain order. Even if your estate is small and without any high-value assets, having a will is fundamental to ensure your wishes are respected as well as to avoid having your family go through an intestate probate process.
Are Wills and Trusts the Same Thing?
Wills and trusts can work together to protect your legacy, but they are two different estate planning tools. As explained above, a will is a legal document in which you record your wishes for asset distribution among your beneficiaries. However, your assets remain under your ownership and control until you pass away. You may change, update or cancel your will at any time. Once you pass away, your beneficiaries receive their share of the inheritance after your estate has been probated.
On the other hand, a trust is like a “container” or “bank account” for your assets. There are many popular trust types, most of them divided into four main categories – living trusts, testamentary trusts, revocable trusts, and irrevocable trusts. Each of these categories may offer endless options of trust types to fit every estate planning goal.
When you start a trust, you can fund it with property, money, and other items of your choice, and those assets are considered trust assets that exist separately from your assets. If your trust is revocable, you may change it by adding or removing assets and beneficiaries at any point during your lifetime. The main difference between a will and a trust is that a trust allows for the direct transfer of assets to your named beneficiaries without the need for probate, making it popular among individuals hoping to bypass probate and keep their estate affairs private.
What Should Be Included in a Will?
When writing your will, it is important to know what you should and should not include in it. First, in addition to basic information such as your name and address, you will want to include a list of your beneficiaries, including their full name and contact information (if known). You will also want to name someone to be your executor or personal representative and handle your estate affairs on your behalf. Next, list all of the assets that are solely in your name and describe how you would like them to be divided, i.e., which beneficiary should receive what. Your will should have your signature, and you may want to include the signature of two other witnesses that can attest to the validity of the document.
Not all assets in your estate need to be included in a will. For example, assets such as a bank account with a co-owner or a named beneficiary can usually be directly transferred to that person upon your passing. In addition, it may not be a good idea to use your last will to record your funeral preferences, as the will is usually found and read days, sometimes weeks, after the decedent’s funeral.
Why Are Trusts Important for Estate Planning?
Trusts are important for estate planning because of the level of control they may give you concerning how your assets are distributed to beneficiaries. Assets in a will are passed down in a single transaction to the beneficiary, which may not always be an ideal situation for some. For example, if a person has a special needs child who is receiving government benefits, the sudden windfall of inheriting a lump sum will likely disqualify that special needs child from receiving benefits. Instead, you may choose to have a Special Needs Trust in place, which allows the special needs relatives to take advantage of the trust funds to preserve their quality of life without interfering with their eligibility for benefits.
There are many other advantages – as well as disadvantages – of using trusts as a part of your estate plans. It is always best to discuss your estate planning goals with an attorney who can make specific recommendations for your situation.
Why Should I See an Estate Planning Attorney?
Wills and trusts are some of the most fundamental estate planning tools. However, knowing the right steps to take to write a valid will or choose the right type of trust for you and your beneficiaries is not always easy. An estate planning attorney has the knowledge and skills to help you make a confident choice and reduce the overwhelm that inevitably comes when you are trying to think of everything you need to do to protect the future of your loved ones while making sure your wishes are respected.
At Rundlett Law Firm, PLLC, our wills & trusts attorneys have assisted many clients and their families in the Tupelo, MS area in making the right choices and plans so that they can preserve their legacy and enjoy life without worrying about what the future may hold. We know estate planning is not a pleasant topic for many, but we also know that it is a bad idea to procrastinate on getting your basic estate planning documents taken care of and leaving your loved ones with the burden of trying to figure it all out by themselves. You can rely on our legal team to answer your questions and guide you every step of the way. If you are thinking about writing a will or adding a trust to your estate plans, reach out to our office by calling (662) 502-5195 and requesting an initial consultation to learn your options.