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Estate Planning: Do I Need a Living Trust or a Personal Will?

On Monday, we discussed the importance of addressing estate planning before the year is up. Whether or not you can make the 2010 deadline, you should still make plans to sit down with an estate-planning attorney early in 2011 to look at your assets and opportunities.

Tax rates are still up in the air and, for many individuals (even those with estate plans in place), 2011 will be a time to revisit the will or trust and make changes as necessary.

Which should you consider first, assuming you have neither?

That depends on your goals, your assets and what you want to do with them. In a recent post for The Star-Ledger, Karin Price Mueller sought to answer that question for one reader, pulling tips and pointers from a number of resources in New Jersey.

Over the next few posts, we're going to take a look at both living trusts and personal wills, hopefully giving you a better idea of what goes into them and why someone such as yourself might be more interested in one or the other.

From the top-down, there are several very obvious differences between the two.

For one, trusts are private documents, whereas wills become public records upon your death. Trusts also avoid probate, though a well made and comprehensive will can drastically reduce the amount of time needed to process your estate plan through the court.

That's just a start, though, and we'll delve deeper into the issue on Friday.

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