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Avoid These Common Misunderstandings About Wills and Trusts

If you are updating or putting together an estate plan for the first time, there are a few popular misunderstandings about wills and trusts that you must take care to avoid:

  • “Having a will is enough to avoid probate.” In fact, wills lead directly to probate court, because they must be verified via probate in order for their terms to be enforceable. Until and unless the will is approved, all assets will be frozen and unusable.
  • “Having a will minimizes quarrels over assets.” Again, having a will leads directly to probate, meaning that family members who disagree with the terms of the will have an opportunity to contest them in court without having to file a lawsuit or take separate legal action.
  • “Property will be distributed according to the terms of a will within weeks.” Since wills must be probated, property named in a will could be frozen for several months, if not multiple years.
  • “Living trusts are only suitable for large estates.” Living trusts are actually quite beneficial for estates of any size, and they can be created for anyone who wishes to avoid the time, effort, and expense of probate.
  • “Living trusts are public documents.” Living trusts are different from wills (which are entirely public), and the only people who are aware of the terms of a living trust are those who are directly involved.
  • “Living trusts cannot be altered.” Living trusts can be changed at any time, and they can also be revoked whenever you choose, leaving you in total control.
  • “Living trusts require separate tax returns.” Revocable living trusts actually do not require their own tax returns, and individuals who have living trusts need only file personal tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service.
  • “Setting up a living trust takes away control of your assets.” Establishing a living trust requires you to name yourself, your spouse, and/or other trustees, which guarantees that you will always have control over the management of your assets. When you pass away, successor trustees will distribute your assets according to the terms outlined in your trust.
  • “Creating an estate plan only costs as much as drawing up the necessary documents.” Part of the cost of creating an estate plan does involve paperwork, but you may also experience other costs if you take shortcuts when establishing yours. For example, if you only create a will, you and your loved ones will suffer additional costs and financial losses when your assets go through probate.
  • “A will protects me if I am hurt or become incapacitated.” A will only takes effect at the point of your death. Therefore it is essential to establish financial and health care powers of attorney, as well as formulate a plan with your loved ones regarding responsibilities for your care, should you become incapacitated.

Experienced Estate Planning Lawyers in Ozaukee County

At Kitzke & Canfield LLC, we are here to set the record straight. We have decades of knowledge and experience regarding estate planning, and we can help you ensure you are making informed decisions throughout the process. Connect with a member of our team as soon as possible to find out how we can help you protect your assets, loved ones, and ownership rights over your property for years to come.

Call (262) 387-0706 today to speak to an Ozaukee County estate planning attorney.