The end of the year is a great time to make sure your Wealth Plan is in order, and Estate Planning is a key part of your wealth protection strategy.

Jeff Mangieri of DeAndrade Mangieri, LLC attorneys at law, is a wonderful resource for our practice and our clients.

Jeff specializes in general business representation and transactional services in addition to estate planning and probate services.  Jeff provides a range of estate and trust planning services to individuals at various age, income and net worth levels.

He regularly advises clients with foundational estate planning issues and works with high net worth clients on the appropriate use of advanced estate planning techniques such as charitable trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts, grantor-retained annuity trusts (GRATs), and family limited partnerships.

I have asked Jeff to address the most common question we receive from our clients regarding Estate Planning.

jeff-mangieriQ:  Should I use a Will or a Revocable Trust as the centerpiece of my estate plan?

A:  Using a Will as your primary estate planning vehicle will route your estate into probate court.  You can think of it this way:  when you die, before title to your assets can pass to your heirs, everyone that has a claim to those assets must be satisfied or eliminated.  Probate is simply the court-supervised process of accounting for your individually owned assets after you die, settling your debts and expenses and making final distribution of your remaining assets to the ultimate beneficiaries of your estate.  A Last Will and Testament is made with the intention of navigating this process.

Historically, probate is criticized for time delays and costs.  We’ve all heard stories about how long the courts can tie up an estate in probate or potential high costs and professional fees with the probate process.

The probate process has also been criticized for unwanted publicity.  In many states, anyone interested in your estate can have a copy of your Will and an inventory – and thus, can find out what’s in your estate (for business or creditor reasons, or just out of curiosity), and who will receive what.

If you want to avoid the probate process, you can use a Revocable Trust.  A Trust is like a Will in that  it is a written document that determines who gets your assets, and how and when (immediately or delayed).  However, unlike a Will, assets held in your Trust bypass the probate process.

Revocable Trusts tend to be more complex and more expensive to create than a Will, and to work properly, they require that the Trust be designated as the owner of most of your assets.  For these reasons, they are not for everyone.  Look to your lawyer to advise you about whether a Will or a Trust is the better option as the centerpiece of your estate plan.

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