Parents. If you have young children, at a minimum you need a Will to nominate a guardian to take care of your children if something happens to you and your spouse. With a properly drafted trust, you can even instruct the guardian exactly how to spend your money on behalf of your children.
Homeowners. Probate Avoidance. If you own real property, you want the title to pass to your heirs quickly and avoid the cost and delays of probate. Probate is the court supervised administration of your estate. Probate generally costs 3% of the value of the assets being passed to the heirs, plus filing fees with the court. For example, if you own a $500,000.00 home, probate fees on that asset alone will be $13,000.00 to the executor and $13,000.00 to the attorney, not including $930.00 in filing fees, approximately $150.00 in publication fees, and sometimes a probate bond premium of about $1,000.00. The probate process takes a minimum of 4 months, generally much longer. The cost of probate is money that could go into the pockets of your children or heirs.
A trust generally passes the assets to the heirs just as soon as the bills are paid. If your home is below market and must be sold to pay bills, it is especially important to avoid probate, as there may not be enough money left to pay for probate after the mortgage is paid off.
Everyone Else. If you want to control to whom you leave your assets, and not be limited to the Probate Code, you need at least a Will. Without a Will, your estate is governed by the probate code and the laws of intestate succession. Your hard earned assets may go to someone you do not want to receive them.
Planning for Incapacity. A complete estate planwith a trust and powers of attorney can avoid a costly conservatorship process. The successor trustee can take over immediately, upon your incapacity and take care of your affairs. The power of attorney allows your agent to transfer assets to your trust, if necessary. Remember incapacity does not just mean dementia or Alzheimers. Incapacity could be the result of an accident, a head injury by falling off a ladder, for example.
Estate Tax Savings. If your estate is large, a trust is important for estate tax savings. A properly drafted trust for a married couple can save thousands in potential estate tax.