Where There’s A Will

Having a comprehensive estate plan is not just for the rich. Plan now to make your loved ones' lives easier after you're gone.

funeral–too late for your burial instructions to be followed.

Technically, funeral arrangements are the responsibility of family members rather than your executor. However, there may be some confusion as to which family members should make the decisions. Because the executor eventually will pay the bills (out of your estate), it’s probably better to entrust that person with the necessary documents.

REVOCABLE TRUSTS. Although some people think of trusts as being arrangements for the super-rich alone, the truth is much different these days. Trusts are available and invaluable to people of moderate or even modest means.

Start with a definition: A trust is an entity created to hold and manage property or some other goods for the benefit of someone or some group of people. And under certain laws the property or goods held in a trust are often shielded in part from taxes.

A revocable trust, as the name suggests, is one that can be canceled by the creator. When you create a revocable trust, you usually will want to act as trustee to retain control of the trust assets. A co-trustee should be named, or a successor trustee can be designated, to step in if you are certified incompetent by more than one doctor. The backup trustee might be your spouse, a grown child, even a bank trust department; if it becomes necessary, the co-trustee or successor trustee can take over management of the trust assets. Moreover, assets that you have transferred into a trust are immediately available to your heirs, saving them the time and expense of going through probate court to sort through your affairs after you die.

IRREVOCABLE TRUSTS. These trusts are more permanent, often designed to survive after your death. “I have created an insurance and testamentary trust in my will,” says Parker. “After my death, my life insurance proceeds will go into the trust, to provide income to my wife and our five children. For certain purposes, the principal can be used as well. I want my children to have what they need but I think it would be harmful if they received too much, too soon.”

Cicily O’Bryant, 65, also has five children, all grown now. “One of my children has had some health problems,” says O’Bryant, who works for an educational program near her home in Mattapan, Massachusetts. “I think that he’ll always need some extra income, help with housing and so on. Therefore, I have set up a trust that will go into effect at my death. The money in the trust will provide for him.”

Keep in mind that the trust’s trustee, the person or institution that will manage the trust assets, is a key person indeed. “Selecting the right trustee can be extremely difficult,” says Shote. “You need someone who’ll be responsible in handling trust assets, yet you also want someone who’ll be sympathetic to the needs of the beneficiaries. At the same time, if you name one family member as trustee, you want to be sure that you don’t offend the others who weren’t

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