Trust Plans, Estate Plans, Non-Probate Plans—Which one is right for me?

Envision a couple sitting down with an attorney they just met to begin discussing their estate planning goals. It can be intimidating for clients, and often the first words I hear out of a client’s mouth are “All we need are simple wills.” I have learned over the years that it is often not the case that clients need only “simple” wills. Clients are also understandably anxious about the cost associated with estate and trust planning, or perhaps don’t realize all of the options available to them to accomplish their goals. It’s our job to share our knowledge with clients and explain all of the options they have available to them.


A revocable living trust is often a wonderful solution for a variety of clients, and no, you do not have to be super wealthy to benefit from having a trust. Trusts allow you to simplify your affairs for your children in the event you are suddenly gone. Your assets can be “centralized” into your family trust that is readily available immediately after an unexpected death to care for your heirs. Further, a Trust will completely avoid the need to probate an estate and involve the costs and uncertainties of being dragged into a probate court. Finally, a Trust will provide you with control over how your assets are distributed after death, such as requiring a college degree and/or pushing back distributions to an age where your children and grandchildren are better able to handle a large sum of money.


Equally attractive can be a “non-probate plan” that does not necessarily include a trust agreement. A “non-probate plan” can be accomplished with an experienced estate planning attorney often in conjunction with your accountant and a financial planner. Each of your assets are examined and designated in a certain way to insure specific treatment upon your death. The same goals can be accomplished: simplicity for your heirs during a very traumatic time in their lives (i.e., the loss of their parents) and avoiding the probate courts.


Sometimes, a “simple” estate plan could very well be the right way to go, but often it is combined with some “non-probate” steps. A very popular strategy is to update the title to your home to include a TOD Deed, which transfers your home to your heirs automatically upon your death. It is an effective Trust substitute for some. So never be hesitant to begin planning. Contact your friends here at Fine & Hatfield and give us a chance to show you how easily, affordably and compassionately we can map out your options for you. Plan ahead for your children and your heirs, and sleep better at night.