Estate Planning 101: An Overview of Wills v. Trusts
By default, everyone has an estate plan. There is a common misconception that only the wealthy need an estate plan, but the bottom line is that one way or another, your assets will pass to another person or group of people at your death.
There are a few primary ways assets pass upon death: (1) joint ownership, (2) beneficiary designations, (3) testate/intestate succession (probate), or (4) a trust.
Assets owned jointly with another person with right of survivorship will automatically pass to the surviving owner upon your death (i.e. a home owned jointly by a married couple will pass to the surviving spouse on the death of the first spouse). Assets that have a pay-on-death beneficiary will automatically pass to the person named as the beneficiary upon your death (i.e. naming beneficiaries on your life insurance policies or bank accounts allow those assets to pass directly to the named beneficiary upon your death). We’ve previously posted about basic estate planning terminology here and beneficiary designations here.
The final ways assets pass are either through testate/intestate succession or a trust. If you die without a will or trust (testamentary documents) the State of Minnesota has default rules by which your assets pass. A will provides the instructions for probate and allows you to name guardians and conservators for your minor children. A trust is a more complex document that often gives you a lot more control over the disposition of your assets.
Our clients often ask us whether a will or trust is the right option for them. The answer? It depends. There are numerous factors that determine what kind of estate plan is appropriate for your situation. Below is a list of goals and considerations that often influence our recommendations to clients.
Determining what kind of estate plan is most appropriate for you requires competent, thoughtful advice from a licensed attorney.
We’re here to help.
To make an appointment with one of our estate planning attorneys,
call us at (507) 288-5567 or book an appointment online.