Nassau County Living Trust

Estate planning is a way of thinking about your future needs and goals and creating legal documents that will help you reach those goals. While estate planning should involve creating a will, there is a lot more to having a comprehensive plan. For example, a living trust is another powerful planning tool that offers many features that may help you reach your estate planning goals. It also provides a way to leave property to others without the property being subject to the delays associated with probate. Furthermore, a living trust allows you to make decisions about your estate that will go into effect while you are alive. To learn more about living trusts and wills, and how each can be used to reach your estate planning goals, contact an experienced Nassau County living trust attorney.

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Living trust defined

A trust agreement is an estate planning vehicle that holds property for the benefit of another person or persons referred to as the beneficiary or beneficiaries. A trust can be a living trust or a testamentary trust. A living trust is created and funded while you as the grantor are still living, while a testamentary trust is created and funded upon a person's death based on provisions in the decedent’s will. For example, your will can provide that upon your death you leave a cash gift to your minor nephew that is to be put in a trust until your nephew turns 25 years old. The trust will not be established until you pass away and your property goes through probate. On the other hand, you can set up a living trust immediately. When you create your living trust, you can name yourself as the trustee. This allows you to retain control over the trust assets during your lifetime.

Types of living trusts

When you decide to create a living trust you should consider what your goals are. Depending on your goals, there are several different types of living trusts. The purpose of an education trust is to put away money for a child’s education. During your lifetime while the child is a minor you can put a sum of money into the trust and direct the trustee to use it only for expenses related to the beneficiary's education expenses such as tuition, books, and room and board. You can also create a minor child trust that you use to give money to a minor for her use after she reaches a certain age. For example, you could allow access to the all or a portion of the funds at age 21. One of the reasons for establishing a minor child trust is to give money to a child or other relative while they are minors, but not allow them to have control over it until they are adults.

Another type of living trust is a spend thrift trust. It allows you to give property to another person, but that person is not responsible enough to manage the funds. Thus, a trustee has that responsibility. Unlike a minor child trust the beneficiary of a spendthrift trust is typically an adult who does not have the skills or maturity to make sound financial decisions. The trustee, which can be you, will manage the money for the benefit of the beneficiary and will have the authority to distribute money to the beneficiary or on behalf of the beneficiary in a responsible manner according to the terms of the trust.

If someone you care about such as your child, a sibling or a relative or a family friend has special needs such as a mental or physical disability, then you can set up a special needs trust to ensure that he or she has funds to pay for certain expenses related to his or her care. A significant benefit of the special needs trust is that it allows you to provide resources to the beneficiary without jeopardizing that beneficiary's eligibility for governmental programs such as social security income or Medicaid. Special needs trusts are often set up to benefit people with autism, Down's Syndrome, and cerebral palsy. They can even be set up for older individuals who are suffering dementia.

Wills vs. living trusts

Living trusts and wills are both estate planning documents that allow you give your property to another person. An important distinction is that a living trust is effective while you are still living, while a gift in a will does not become effective until after your death.

Another significant difference between a living trust and a will is that a will must be probated, while a living trust does not have to go through the probate process. This means that the beneficiaries of a trust will have access to the trust property more quickly than if the property was gifted in a will. Probate can be long and expensive. The time and expense that go along with probate is avoided with a living trust. Instead, upon you death the successor trust that you have named in your trust agreement will take over the duties of trustee and immediately distribute the trust assets to your named beneficiaries or manage the trust assets in the appropriate manner, according to the trust agreement. The idea of avoiding probate is a very attractive benefit of a living trust as compared to a will.

Keep in mind, however, that even if you have a trust, your estate plan should also include a will. For a variety of reasons every asset in your estate will not be part of a trust. Thus, it is important to also make sure that you have a valid will that accurately expresses your wishes.

If you do pass away with assets that are not part of a trust, then the court will have to decide who gets those assets. Under New York's intestacy laws, there are specific rules that dictate who will get those assets. For example, if you have a spouse as well as children, most of those assets will go to your spouse with a smaller share being divided among your surviving children. If you have surviving children, but no surviving spouse, all of your assets will go to your children. The laws of intestate succession generally only allow assets to go to a spouse or a blood relative. NY EPTL § 4-1.1. If you want assets to go to a friend or charity, you would have had to specific it in a will or trust.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

In order to receive all of the benefits of a living trust, it must be set up properly. Different types of trusts have different requirements that only an experienced Nassau County trust lawyer will understand. To learn more about living trusts, wills and other estate planning tools, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates. We will help you develop an overall estate plan that reflects your individual goals. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your estate plan.

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