Friday, July 08, 2005

When Should I Get a Will or a Living Trust?

When should you set up your will or living trust? The answer is very simple: now.

I consulted with a client in late April 2005 regarding a living trust for her estate to avoid the cost and delay of probate. The plan was relatively simple: educational gifts for her 4 grandchildren and then the rest would be split between her two daughters. I sent her drafts of the documents in late May 2005 and she finally came in last week to sign the final versions. On July 1, 2005, she signed the deed to put her home into the living trust. She died this afternoon July 8, 2005).

I know from personal experience that the decisions to be made during the estate planning process can be difficult to face: Who would raise my daughter? Who would I trust to make my health care decisions when I could not? Who could I trust to handle the financial affairs of my estate? While these issues are uncomfortable to address, these are decisions we must make for the sake of our families. It seems ironic for an attorney not to at least have a will, but the truth is that I did not have a will or a living trust for my family until 2002. I had been married for 8 years and my daughter was 5, but better late than never.

A few years ago, there was a song called Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen written by Mary Schmich. It had the following lyrics: "Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday."

While I generally agree with the sentiment, you can and should plan for the future. It will make things easier for your loved ones when you pass on.

This publication is NOT INTENDED TO SERVE AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. Please consult with a licensed attorney if you require legal advice.

About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II, has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.


Anonymous said...

Does it make sense to have a will / living trust if you are single? What if you are married, but without children?

Carl Starrett said...

I have another article addressing this topic:

In my opinion, everybody should at leave have a will regardless of maritals status or whether you have children. Whether you should have a living trust will depend on several factors, include whether you won an reall property and if avoiding probate is important to you.

Anonymous said...

What if you have a lot of debt? What difference would a will make then? Are there really states where probate doesn't matter?