Do I Need a Will or Trust?

Probably the most common question people ask Checkett & Pauly is whether they should make a will or trust. The Internet is full of helpful information regarding this issue, but the amount of information can be absolutely overwhelming and often wrong. Plus, everyone’s situation is different.
In general, a will can do most everything a trust can do. That is the good thing. The bad thing is that your heirs will have to go through probate for your wishes to be carried out. Probate can be expensive, time-consuming, and extremely stressful. That is a lot to put on your loved ones.
Keep in mind that a will virtually GUARANTEES probate. Many people think that by having a will their estate avoids probate. In fact, the opposite is true. In Missouri, if you are in possession of a will at the time someone dies it must be filed with the probate court.
The primary advantage of a revocable or living trust is that your assets will not have to go through probate. Your estate will be transferred to your loved ones smoothly and quickly with a great savings in time, money, and misery. A trust does cost more to set up, but it will likely more than pay for itself in the long run.
If you are getting older, you may also want to consider what would happen if you can no longer care for yourself. This is where a living trust can be of great benefit, as it provides for an easy way to appoint someone to handle your affairs if you are not able to do so yourself.
If you decide to go with the trust, remember that you are still going to have to have a will also, especially if you have children. You name your guardians in a will because only the probate court can actually give them the legal authority to act as guardians of your children. Your will also serves as a safety net to “pour over” into your trust any assets that were not titled to your trust beforehand.
Transfer on Death (TOD) and Payable on Death (POD) designations can also be used to seamlessly transfer assets upon your death. However, TODs and PODs alone are not sufficient and they should not be your sole estate planning tool.
Estate planning need not be complicated or stressful. Explore and discuss your various options with Checkett & Pauly. It will be much easier to determine which option is best for you and your family.