Not Just About a Will: Estate Plan Add-Ons

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A will is, and will likely always be, the star of any estate plan, but stopping at just a will could mean seriously limiting your ability to adequately deal with estate property. There are several ways to address some of your property that often are much better than dealing with it in a will, so read on to learn a bit more about these methods and how they might be better at doing their job than a will would be.

What to know about overriding a will

Just as wills are not the only estate planning move to make, it is often not even the final word. The following provisions will take precedence over a will. In other words, if a piece of property is mentioned both in a will and in one of the following provisions, the will does not have the final say about that property. No matter when the will was written or what it involves, using any of the three provisions below will override that will.

A Revocable Trust: You may be surprised at just how similar a trust is to a will, but you also may be pleasantly surprised at how much better they are at allowing your beneficiaries access to property. With a will, it must be probated, and there is nothing that can be done to avoid probating a will. The probate process can last anywhere from a few months to even longer, depending on the size and complexity of the estate and whether or not the will is contested.

With a revocable trust, beneficiaries are named just like in a will, but the beneficiaries have access to any property bequeathed to them immediately (or at least as soon as the death certificate is available). The contents of the trust, furthermore, are private. A will is public information, printed for all to see at the county clerk's office.

Trusts are similar to a will in that a person will be named to oversee it, once the trust's owner passes away. This person, known as the trustee, only comes into power at that time; prior to death, the owner may make changes to the trust at will (thus the revocable part).

Transfer on Death Provisions and Deeds: These other two methods of dealing with estate property are simple to accomplish, quick, and efficient. The transfer-on-death provision involves designating a person or persons to take control of an asset, such as a bank or investment account upon the owner's death. It is preformed with a document and is effective as soon as the owner of the account passes away. Deeds to real estate can be adjusted and changed to perform any number of custom-made designations, such as rights of survivorship and adding others onto the deed. This is done via quit-claim deeds at your local county office.

Speak to an estate attorney, such as Skeen Law Offices, for more information.