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Estate planning with a revocable trust

There may be confusion for New York residents who view a will and a revocable trust as being the same. While the purposes are similar, the decision to use one or another of these estate planning tools can affect the time and privacy involved in settling an estate after one's death. In both cases, an individual may determine how assets will be distributed. However, estate administration is very different for trusts and wills. Whereas a will goes through the probate process, an effort which can often take months to complete, a trust may allow the probate process to be avoided.

In establishing a revocable trust, an individual typically places assets in their name as a trustee, continuing to have complete access to these assets as previously. Assets could be added or withdrawn as needed. Tax responsibilities do not change as long as the individual establishing a trust remains as a trustee. A designated trustee would assume responsibility for the trust upon one's death, managing distribution of assets based on directions contained in the trust agreement. Probate court approval would not be required

A revocable trust may be changed as often as needed during the life of the individual who has created it. The trust becomes irrevocable upon the death of the maker. Administrative costs can be kept to a minimum, making this a less burdensome option for surviving heirs.

It may be important to meet with an attorney who is experienced in elder law and estate planning to ensure that details are handled appropriately. The attorney may highlight issues and assets that have not been considered and may offer insight for dealing with family concerns that might result in challenges to an estate plan.

Source: The Valley Business Journal, "Use of a revocable trust for estate planning purposes", Jack Brown, July 01, 2014

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