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Estate Planning: Wills

Unlike trusts, personal wills are subject to probate upon the creator's passing. While probate is often spoken of in a negative sense, there are some benefits to it. Plus, with a comprehensive and detailed will, probate becomes a less frightening proposition - one that costs less money and finishes in a timely fashion.

Suppose you fear that certain family members will contest your will following your death. Since a will enters the public record following its creator's passing and is checked over in probate court, any contestation of the document would be carried out in public under the eye of a judge.

Depending on your situation or concerns, this public forum may be a good thing.

Wills are also comprehensive and, in some cases, individuals with trusts will use a will to shore up assets that they have not transferred to that that account. Last Friday, we discussed something called a "pour-over will," which transfers all outstanding assets to the living trust following the trustor's death.

Otherwise, a will can simply stand on its own, next to a trust, and serve as a catch-all for outstanding assets. This might be beneficial if you have different groups of property that you would like transferred in different ways.

Regardless of how you use your will, it is extremely important that you be explicit in your direction. Unlike a living trust, a regular will does not go into effect before your passing. In other words, you don't get to see it in action.

Therefore, it's of the utmost importance that you get it as right as possible the first time.

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