People often think about estate planning as an exercise in document creation, and you certainly have to record your final wishes in writing. That being said, there is an additional element you should seriously consider. After you are gone, there will be administrative tasks to complete so you have to arrange for some type of representation.
Last Wills and Probate
If you use a last will as the centerpiece of your estate plan, you would name an executor in the document. This is the individual or entity that would handle the estate administration duties after you pass away. The executor would admit the will to probate, and the process would be supervised by the court.
Your executor should be someone that has a good bit of business acumen coupled with the ability to meet all of the demands of the court. It can be a time consuming process and there is personal accountability so the individual you choose must be in a position to take on some significant responsibilities.
You should consider the anticipated longevity of the person that you are naming as your executor, and you should weigh any potential conflicts of interest that may exist.
This may sound obvious, but you should make sure the individual you would like to name as executor fully understands the magnitude of the job. Some people think it is largely a ceremonial role bestowed upon a trusted and respected family member or friend, but this is really not the case.
Unless your executor has some type of professional experience in this realm for some reason, legal assistance can be really beneficial during the administration process. We provide this type of guidance through the probate process, but for our estate planning clients, it starts with designing your estate plan to minimize the burden on your executor.
When you understand all the facts, you may decide to use a revocable living trust as an alternative to a last will as the centerpiece of your estate plan. We will get into all of the benefits in a different post, but living trusts can be very efficient and versatile.
You would be called the grantor if you establish a revocable living trust. The trustee is the administrator of the trust, and you can serve as the trustee while you are alive. Throughout your life, you can act as the beneficiary as well so you have total control of the assets in the trust.
The whole point is to use this revocable living trust as an estate planning tool so you have to address what will happen after you pass away. In the trust declaration, you would name a successor trustee to take over the reins when the time comes, and your heirs would be the beneficiaries.
A living trust trustee does not have to work under the supervision of the probate court, and this is one major difference between a trustee and an executor. The trustee would act independently, but there are certain legal steps that must be followed to effectively administer a living trust.
If you do not know anyone who is qualified to serve as a living trust trustee, you could use a corporate trustee such as a trust company or the trust section of a bank. There are some expenses involved if you use a professional, but it can be the right choice when certain circumstances exist.
Once again, we can be engaged to provide assistance during the trust administration process. You can simply instruct the trustee to contact our firm when it becomes necessary, and we will be more than willing to facilitate a smooth transition.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
We are here to help if you are ready to discuss estate administration or any other estate planning topic with a licensed attorney. You can send us a message to request a consultation appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 704-944-3245 in North Carolina (Charlotte, NC and Huntersville, NC) and 606-324-5516 in Ashland, Kentucky or 859-372-6655 in Florence, KY.
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