Trusts are fascinating financial instruments that offer a unique way to manage and protect your assets, both during your lifetime and after. Imagine a trust as a special box where you can securely place your valuables. You appoint a trustworthy individual, a trustee, to guard this box. The trustee’s job is to manage the contents according to your instructions for the benefit of the people you choose, called beneficiaries.
A trust can offer you peace of mind, knowing that your assets are in good hands and will be distributed as you wish, without the public scrutiny or delays that can come with probate. Trusts are a popular method to avoid probate, but there are other strategies you can use.
Estate planning arrangements you can use to bypass probate
Probate is lengthy and expensive, and the more assets you own, the longer it will take to settle your estate and distribute the assets to your loved ones. Fortunately, you have several tools at your disposal to ensure your assets transfer smoothly to your loved ones. Here is a rundown of strategies you can consider:
- Joint ownership with right of survivorship: Co-own property with someone else so the surviving owner automatically becomes the sole owner when you pass away
- Beneficiary designations: Name beneficiaries on accounts like retirement plans, life insurance policies, and annuities so these assets will pass directly to your named beneficiaries
- Payable on Death (POD) accounts: Designate beneficiaries on your bank accounts so they will be able to claim the money directly from the bank
- Transfer on Death (TOD) registrations for securities: Register your stocks and bonds in transfer-on-death forms so they go directly to your beneficiaries
- Transfer on Death deeds for real estate: A beneficiary deed can allow you to transfer property upon your death without probate
A living trust may be a vital component of an estate plan, but a comprehensive plan often includes other documents. Estate planning is not a one-time event. As laws and personal circumstances change, different tools might become more appropriate to meet your unique needs and goals.