Many people that are considering their estate plan are curious about probate. After a person passes away, the probate court takes over and sees that the estate is handled properly. Probate court can do things like settle debts and distribute property. However, the probate process is quite lengthy and can take even longer if the estate is complex. To avoid probate, many individuals consider a living trust. While avoiding probate may be an attractive characteristic to a living trust, there are certain things about these types of trusts that may be seen as undesirable.
Aside from avoiding probate, a living trust may be successful at addressing certain estate tax issues. When the deceased's estate is quite large, it may be subject to a greater tax, making a living trust an option to address this. However, individuals can take care of the tax issues that are common with large estates in many other ways.
Even though probate may be an expense, maintaining a living trust can also be quite expensive. After all, the living trust must be maintained from the moment it is created. If, at any point, the living trust is not maintained or mismanaged, the estate may fall into probate, regardless.
Individuals considering a living trust often do it in an attempt to keep the assets contained in it private. Although probate court is public record, unless someone goes looking for a specific estate, it is likely no one will ever know what it contained.
Certain elements of a living trust such as privacy, tax advantages and avoiding probate may make a living trust an attractive estate-planning device. However, individuals with relatively small estates may benefit by simply allowing the probate court to do its job. While it is true that occasionally an estate in probate is contested, an attorney can help identify which estate-planning device is right for you and can also help your loved ones in the event of litigation.