Estate and Trust Planning

In Estate Planning people develop a plan, often with legal assistance, that ensures assets they have worked diligently to accumulate during their lifetime are protected and distributed to those they love when they are gone.  Otherwise, it is possible the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will take a large portion of an estate in taxes.   With Estate Planning you can implement a variety of tax strategies to keep your assets where you desire them to be.

Estate planning can include execution of a Will, Health Care Directives, and setting up Powers of Attorney.   It can also involve more complex matters such as the establishment of a Trust.

Why Create a Trust

A Trust is a plan under which one person (the trustee) holds legal title to the grantor’s (the original owner’s) property for another person (the beneficiary).  A person can also be the trustee of their own Trust (called a “Living Trust”) and in that manner keep full control over all property held in the Trust.

A Trust is in effect a contract and comes in a variety of forms.  Usually, Trusts distribute property quicker and more efficiently than a Will alone, but Trusts deal only with specific assets so you may need a Will to deal with other holdings.   You will likely want to consult with an estate planning attorney who has expertise in these matters.  You can find one at the law firm of Slater & Zurz LLP at 888.534.4850.

The main advantage of creating a Trust is to spare your family the delay of going through probate court proceedings.  It is also possible to reduce the federal estate tax bill on your assets.   A Trust can also reduce and in some cases eliminate income and capital gains taxes on assets.

Funding a Trust

But creating a Trust is not enough.  You must “fund” your Trust so it will be useful when you die or become incapacitated.   Your estate planning attorney can help you with how best to do this.

Many types of assets can be used to fund a Trust by re-titling them in the name of the Trust.   You can do this with bank accounts, real estate, stocks, and other investment accounts in the state of Ohio.   Certain assets may also be used to fund a Trust by designating the Trust as the beneficiary of those assets.  Many people make their Trust the primary beneficiary of their life insurance policies.   Beneficiary designations can be used with annuities or retirement accounts like 401(k)s.   IRAs can also be used to fund a Living Trust after the death of the principal.

Choosing Your Estate Planning Attorney

An estate planning attorney has to be well-versed in the many tools one can use to effectively plan how assets can best serve a person while they are living and when they die and beneficiaries take over.

The estate planning attorney must understand how proper planning can benefit the client and must be able to thoroughly explain the advantages and disadvantages of incorporating certain features in the plan and not employing others.

An estate plan is not something that is completed in one meeting.   It is an ongoing process and should be frequently reviewed by the estate planning attorney and the client to keep pace with changing family and financial circumstances.   Share with the attorney what is going on in your family.   A sibling rivalry, for example, may not seem important but could surface later in a probate challenge.

The Right Trustee

It is a good idea to choose someone who is capable of understanding your instructions for management of the Trust and carrying them out.   The Trust document itself will provide some direction but you should sit down and talk with the trustee so that he or she has a firsthand grasp of your goals and intentions.  You may want to include your estate planning attorney in the discussion.

As part of effectively managing the Trust’s assets, the trustee may prepare an annual account of the Trust’s activity and its assets.   This may increase the beneficiaries’ confidence in the trustee and help them understand how the Trust is operating.   As the Trust creator, you may want to introduce the trustee to other trusted professionals who confer a benefit on the Trust with their services such as your   Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Tax Preparer.

The attorneys at Slater & Zurz LLP law firm can help with all aspects of estate planning including choosing a trustee and have many years of experience dealing with the kind of situations that present themselves in this area of the law.  Contact the firm today at 888.534.4850 with any questions you have about probate matters or check out their website,