Estate Planning with Wills & Trusts

Estate Planning with Wills

Most people know about wills and their basic purpose – to ensure that a person's assets go to the right beneficiaries when that person passes away. However,  wills can also accomplish the following:

  • List who gets what.  The most common purpose for a will is to name those people who will receive property belonging to a person when he or she passes away.
  • Name guardians for children.  A will lists the people who will raise a person’s minor children if something happens to him or her. The will also usually contains at least one alternate in the event the first choice cannot serve.
  • Establish trusts.  A will can be used to establish a trust to hold property for the benefit of someone else.  This can be helpful to manage assets for  minor children until they have the maturity to manage the assets for themselves. It can also be used to limit a surviving spouse's access to assets in a second marriage situation.  Or a person may want the beneficiary to use the property for a while, and then for it to pass on to someone else.  A trust established through a will can accomplish these objectives.
  • Naming executors and trustees.  A will usually states who will be the executor of an estate, which is the person who is charged with carrying out the terms of the will.  Wills can also name the trustees of any trusts established in a will.

While wills can serve as a powerful estate planning tool, they are only effective if they are properly drafted to suit the needs of each individual.

Estate Planning with Trusts

Trusts are an important, valuable tool for estate planning.  They can administer property during a person's lifetime and then distribute that property to the trust beneficiaries upon the person's death.  In that respect, trusts can be thought of as a "will substitute".  Trusts are not just for wealthy people.  They are for anyone interested in having their estate pass to their beneficiaries in an efficient, cost-effective, private manner.

Trusts are an arrangement where one party holds property on behalf of another party.   For estate planning, trusts are created by the person doing the estate planning (the grantor), who authorizes another person (the trustee) to manage the assets for the benefit of certain people (the beneficiaries).
Some ways that trusts may be useful in estate planning are:

  • Trusts for minors. Many people leave assets to their children or their grandchildren in a trust as part of a comprehensive estate plan. This is typically done to ensure the money is there for the children’s benefit while they are younger-for support, education, medical expenses, etc. Once the children reach a certain age or achieve certain milestones (such as graduating from college), they may receive distributions from the trust to do with as they please.
  • Special needs trusts. Special needs trusts are tools that enable a person to leave property to an individual with special needs. Many individuals with special needs receive government benefits. If those individuals with special needs inherit money, it could jeopardize their eligibility for those benefits. Special needs trusts protect those individuals’ government benefits while allowing them to have money for any extras they may need.
  • Marital trusts. Married couples sometimes use trusts for the benefit of their spouse to protect property and to ensure that it ultimately goes where it needs to go. For example, a husband with grown children from a previous marriage may put assets into a trust that allows his wife to use his property after his death, but states that the assets will ultimately pass to his children.
  • Revocable living trusts. Many trusts are "revocable" meaning that the trust documents can be amended or changed.  They are completely separate from wills and are primarily used to avoid probate, keep estates private and minimize expenses.  They can be helpful when a person owns real estate in more than one state.
  • Irrevocable life insurance trusts. Irrevocable life insurance trusts (or ILIT’s) can be used to move a person’s life insurance proceeds outside his or her estate for estate tax purposes.
  • Spendthrift trusts. Spendthrift trusts are generally established to protect the beneficiaries’ assets from both themselves and their creditors. These trusts often have an independent trustee who has  discretion over the distribution of assets of the trust
  • Asset protection trusts.  These trusts are irrevocable trusts used to protect assets from nursing home expenses and other creditors.

There are many types of trusts, each of which serves a valuable purpose in accomplishing a person's estate planning goals.  Contact our office for more information on how we can help to determine the best way to preserve your wealth and your legacy.


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Dell Burtis Law is located in Tiffin, Ohio and assists clients throughout Seneca, Sandusky, Huron, Crawford, Wyandot, Hancock and Wood County, Ohio, with legal matters relating to Estate Planning (wills, trusts, powers of attorney), Elder Law (medicaid and nursing home planning), Business Law (formation, succession and purchases/sales) and Real Estate (titles, closings, agreements and easements).