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Wills and trusts: which is the right one to have?

Many people might get a will when they start a family. This is an important step in making sure assets are divided according to a person's wishes and ensuring guardianship is properly established for minor children if both parents pass away at the same time. It is important for people to make sure they review their will and estate planning documents periodically. Sometimes people just put their wills in a safe, and don't touch them for years. After a major life change, a will may need to be revised to bring wishes up to date.

People who have wills might also want to consider adding a trust to their estate planning documents. Trusts can serve different purposes for both when a person is living and after they die. People might establish a revocable living trust, which allows a person's assets to be protected from creditors. A trust also helps families after a person passes away.

If a person has their assets transferred into the name of a trust, the trust can avoid probate and the assets can be distributed according to the trust almost immediately. For many people, this often helps keep their estate plans private, as will go through probate and probate becomes part of the public record.

Speaking with an experienced estate planning attorney can help make sure people understand the different aspects of estate planning. They can help assess a person's goals and make sure they have the proper planning documents in place to fulfill those goals.

Source: Poughkeepsie Journal, "Do some research to learn if trust or will is best for you," Mary Kay Dolan-Anderson, Nov. 24, 2012

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