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When to choose a revocable trust over a will

Ohio residents know how important it is to plan their estate. However, it may be less clear when someone should consider using a revocable trust instead of a will as the primary method for distributing their assets after they die. Understanding when a trust is the best choice can help someone avoid making critical mistakes when planning their estate.

One reason to use a revocable trust is that it is private, fast and efficient. Unlike a will, a revocable trust won't be filed with the probate court and become a public document. Property transferred to a revocable trust during an individual's lifetime will also avoid the delays and expense of probate. Another reason to use a revocable trust is because it preserves assets for heirs and charities. A trust can include asset protection language shielding beneficiaries from creditors or legal judgments. It is also not generally considered marital property, meaning trust assets won't be subject to a divorce settlement.

Revocable trusts also let an individual retain control over distributions. This means someone can include language stipulating when income and principal will be distributed to beneficiaries. Language can also stipulate specific purposes for distributions, such as health care or education expenses. Revocable trusts can also efficiently distribute retirement accounts, limiting withdrawals to prevent a beneficiary from accidentally triggering a large income tax hit. Finally, revocable trusts are critical for keeping assets in the family. If a divorced or surviving spouse remarries and a new spouse's children are brought into the picture, a trust can stipulate that assets are only distributed to the children of the first marriage.

Ohio residents who have questions regarding revocable trusts may benefit by consulting with an attorney. Legal counsel could help clients establish an estate plan that meets their individual goals and needs.

Source: CBS News, "​5 reasons you need a trust, not a will," Ray Martin, Sept. 17, 2015

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