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  • Kimberly Strickland

Do I Need a Will or Trust?

Yes! Everyone needs a will, trust, or both to ensure your legacy is passed on in the way you intend, to provide for children, spouse, and family members, and in the case of trusts, to avoid probate. Wills and trusts are not just for the wealthy. A well-drafted plan ensures that what you do have is not wasted in probate court, establishes your intentions for sentimental items and family heirlooms, and can even state your wishes for the care of pets.

Almost everyone has a digital presence now. Estate planning can also help ensure your online photos, records, and accounts do not disappear. If you were in a Medicaid-funded nursing home at the end of your life, a trust may also prevent or limit Medicaid-recovery states from emptying remaining bank accounts or forcing the sale of the family home to pay back nursing home costs. If you have a retirement account or IRA, a trust can also ensure that your beneficiaries are not hit with a huge tax burden when the funds are distributed.

For families with significant wealth, estate planning and trusts can ensure your money stays where you wanted it to go even if your spouse or children remarry, divorce, are sued, or are the victims of financial predators. Estate planning also ensures your assets are not wasted by frivolous spending. Commonly cited statistics state that 70% of family wealth is gone within two generations—and 90% after three generations. More than half of high-net-worth individuals have never discussed their wealth with their families. You do not have to be a statistic and can instead use estate planning to pass along your wealth plus your wisdom.

Estate planning can help ensure your values are passed on to the next generation and that your wishes are stated clearly. Informal discussions have no legal standing when it comes to the distribution of an estate. The only way to make sure your goals are carried out is to execute a will or establish a trust with a qualified estate planning attorney.

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