At The John Sloan Real Estate Group at Keller Williams Realty, we recently assisted two homeowners selling their properties; one had a living trust and the other had only a will.  The one without a Living Trust – let’s call them the Smiths – faced their property going into probate after their deaths because the will didn’t protect their assets. Essentially, wills – which are signed and witnessed – only indicates that beneficiaries receive something upon their passing. (The subject of many cop shows, dramatic TV series and movies.) Therefore, the duo’s children may have to go to court to showcase the validity of the will in the advent of their death.

The couple with the living trust, we will call them the Browns, navigated through a sale of their property efficiently.  The recipients of their life’s hardwork will find that it’s easier to handle once they are gone.  Avoiding expensive court fees is the purpose of the living trust, a legal document providing life and post-mortality management.

The Smiths  paid over $17,000 to the probate attorney because they only had the will. The Browns only paid $850 to set up the Living Trust and not much more when the estate dissolves.

According to the website LegalZoom.com, living trusts, are “used to manage property and assets”,  a will is “about distribution”.  Although costlier to write than a will, the legal paper will:

  • Avoid probate on your assets

  • Plan for the possibility of your own incapacity

  • Control what happens to your property after you are gone

  • Use it for any size and estate; and

  • Prevent your financial affairs to become a matter of public record.

(Yamine-Garone, Mary S. “WILL vs. LIVING TRUST: WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU?” Legalzoom.com, N.P. December 2009)

For the Smiths, their beneficiaries understand what was being given to them. However, it will need to go through probate to prove that the designators were of sound mind and body deeming their earthly goods. The Living Trust can be changed if needed but will avoid anything getting sucked up into the laws governing probate. At the end, the Browns have the final say, even after they are gone.

- End -