What is a Trust?
A Trust is a distinct legal entity capable of holding and owning property for the benefit of its Beneficiaries.
What's the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?
(1) Longevity - A Will exists for a limited time. It distributes property upon your death and that's it. However, a Trust can manage and distribute property for as long as you instruct (or your assets provide). If you have minor children, they could have their needs addressed under the management of a Trustee. Likewise, you could have any distribution of funds withheld until your children reach a more suitable age.
(2) Probate treatment - Property distributed through a Will is legally required to go through Probate court (expensive & time-consuming). Conversely, property held in a Trust, at the time of your death, avoids Probate.
(3) Breadth of purposes- There is more that can be done through a Trust than a Will. Trusts are instruments with far reaching abilities. For example, Trusts can be devised to protect beneficiaries from creditors or they can preserve government benefits for beneficiaries with special needs. Trusts are powerful legal instruments with far-reaching advantages.
Probate is a court-controlled process with mandatory fees based on the size of your estate. These fees are set by Missouri law. Even for small estates, forming a Trust is typically less expensive. Likewise, Probate court requires hiring an attorney and jumping through a lot of hoops. Probate can delay the distribution of your assets by months. In short, Probate can be a headache. For most people, it is simpler and less expensive to have a Trust formed.
Benefits of a Trust
Peace of Mind
Provide for the long term benefit/care of Beneficiaries--particularly relevant for those with minor children, special needs family members, or elderly dependants.
When property is in a trust, ownership/benefits will be discreetly transferred. Probate court is a matter of public record.
You retain the ability to modify or eliminate the trust.
You can move property in and out of the trust, during your lifetime.
You avoid the costs and headaches of Probate.
Control of Assets
You maintain greater control over the distribution of your assets, upon your death, than you do with a Will. For example: Distributions/benefits can occur gradually, at a future time, or be triggered by a future event (when your child reaches a certain age, graduates from college, gets married, etc.).
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