The question that many Americans want answered is: is a will or trust best for retirees?
There are simple solutions to simple problems, and complex solutions to complex problems. That being said, when it comes to estate planning many Americans ponder the following: “will or trust?”
If you have found yourself between these horns of dilemma, the simple will and the (sometimes) complex trust arrangement, then you will want to consider a recent Forbes article titled “Wills vs. Trusts: What’s Best For Retirees?”
There is a debate and for good reason. The last will can be simple, and everyone needs one even when they have settled a revocable living trust (i.e., commonly known as a “pour-over will”). Even with a “simple” last will, a period of probate is required and there may be some adverse tax implications. However, this is less likely these days with the federal estate tax exemption pegged at $5.34 million (but do not forget to check state estate taxes that may apply).
A revocable living trust arrangement can move assets very efficiently outside of the probate process. It may aid in the handling of assets as you age and become unable to hand your own affairs. That said, trusts are not as simple as signing on the dotted line.. It must hold title to your assets now, or upon your death to do its work outside of probate. It takes effort, and sometimes the dedication of resources, to achieve these goals. Unless trusts are funded, either now or at death, the pour-over will would have to be probated anyway.
In the end, it will always come down to your needs, the needs of your family, and the nature of the assets to leave behind. However, the question is very real and worth asking: do I need a revocable living trust or can you do it with a last will alone?
Properly answering this question, given your own unique circumstances and objectives, is not a do-it-yourself project. Consult competent legal counsel regarding how each approach may (or may not) be appropriate for you.
Reference: Forbes (February 18, 2014) “Wills vs. Trusts: What’s Best For Retirees?