Living Trusts vs Wills: What is the Difference And What is Best for You?

You have worked hard to secure your future and those of the people you love. You want to control what happens to your assets after you die.

There are several approaches to making sure your assets are dispersed consistently with your requests.

Maybe you have heard of these two legal instruments, but no one ever explained how they are different to you.

So, what is the difference between a living trust vs. will

Read further to find out which approach to estate planning is best for your situation.

What Is a Trust?

These tools are sometimes called living trusts because they provide both before and after death asset management.

A living trust allows you to specify where your assets go and when your heirs can access them. You can also use a living trust to manage your property in the event you become injured or disabled and cannot do it yourself.

Living trusts are categorized as either revocable or irrevocable. A revocable trust means you can change the terms any time during the grantor’s life. Irrevocable trusts require you to permanently surrender any rights to revise the trust after it is established.

What Is a Will?

A will is a written legal document that specifies how you want your assets dispersed after you die. A will can be canceled as well as revised at any time during your lifetime. Wills identify a guardian for your kids in the event of your untimely death.

Will vs Living Trust; What’s the Difference?

Both wills and trust are similar in that they address your plans to distribute your property once you die. Before you choose one, study these following differences to find which works better for you:

Probate Court Proceedings

Wills are subject to probate court proceedings. Probate is a division within the judicial system that ensures that a deceased person’s property is allocated to the right beneficiaries. The court will also make sure that the deceased’s debts are all paid off.

Public Disclosure of Information

Certain cases filed with a court system can be viewed by the public. Probate cases are one of them. When a will is submitted to the court, anyone case request to see the filing at the court clerk’s office and view what’s included.

Information included in living trusts stays confidential. Only beneficiaries who have access to trust files can see this information.

Living Trust vs. Will: Which One is Best?

So which method is best for you? Here are some considerations that might influence your decision:

Marital/Family Status

If you are married, wills can transfer your assets to your spouse. If you have young children, a will can transfer their guardianship if both parents pass away.

Current Health/Age Status

Living trusts are not necessary for those who are healthy and at middle age. They set parameters to manage your care and property in case you are not able to.

Time Commitments

Managing a living trust can be a big time commitment. Living trusts can only disperse assets that you actively place into it. You must continually change legal ownership of all your assets like your cars, bank accounts or businesses to the name of the trust.

Types of Assets

If you own a business or other enterprises, you do not want to tie up operations while probate matters are finalized. Sometimes probate cases can take years to settle.

Next Steps

Are you planning your estate? If so, check out these helpful estate planning worksheets to help you through the process. If you are still unclear about a living trust vs. will, give us a call.

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Top Three Advantages of a Living Trust

We cannot avoid death, but we CAN plan for it.  That said, only 60% of Americans have made a will or living trust to help those they leave behind.

When it is time to complete your estate planning, give strong consideration to creating a living trust.  A living trust provides for distribution of your assets according to your instructions.

But what other reasons are there for choosing a living trust for asset distribution?

That is the subject of today’s article as we reveal the three biggest advantages of a living trust.

A Living Trust Avoids Probate

The most significant advantage of a living trust is that it enables your estate to “bypass” probate

Probate is the court-supervised process that allows for the dispersal of your assets according to your instructions by your executor.  All wills must go through probate, a process which can take several months or even years.

A living trust, on the other hand, is not subject to probate.  As such, your family only has to wait for a few weeks to receive any death benefits, saving them considerable time.

Your successor trustee must pay your debts and distribute your assets as you wish.

A Living Trust Maintains Your Privacy

A will is a public document.  That means the information contained in your will is a matter of public record.  Anyone can search public records to find out about the distribution of your assets.

A living trust, on the other hand, is a private document and the information therein remains private.  A living trust is strictly between you and any parties involved, and your estate is distributed in private.

A Living Trust May Save Money

While creating a living trust may cost more than drafting a will initially, upon your death it may save your survivors considerable money.

When you set your living trust, the first thing you must do is fund the trust.  In other words, you need to transfer all your financial accounts and certificates to the trust through legal documents.

Other items must be considered as you establish a succession plan for your estate.  You’ll need to change the beneficiaries on any life insurance policies to your trust.  You will also need to make arrangements for your IRA or 401k plan.  

Finally, you must create a pour-over will which provides instructions for assets which are acquired between the time your living trust is created and your death.  A pour-over will also covers assets you may have overlooked or excluded from your living trust.

As you can see, there is some initial time and money that must be invested in the creation of your living trust. 

However, your survivors will be grateful for your efforts because it will likely save them time and money.  Your assets will not be subject to probate and they will be able to settle matters in considerably less time. Probate costs are taken from the will, something your heirs can avoid with a living trust.

Advantages of a Living Trust: The Bottom Line

Remember, planning for the distribution of your estate is a gift to your loved ones.  It relieves some of the pressure during a difficult time by providing clear instructions for the distribution of your assets.

Young couples with no children or those with a small estate may benefit from a simple will.  However, if you have assets and wish to pass them on to your heirs, you may wish to enjoy the advantages of a living trust.

If you found this article helpful, please check out more of our estate planning content. Or contact us, below!

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Celebrate Your Military Family, Improve Your Military Will

Celebrate Your Military Family By Improving Your Military Will

There’s an old military adage that says, “No good plan survives engagement.” 

While this quote’s timelessness must lend credit to its applicability in battle, it transcends its martial roots and applies equally as well to law.  Especially Estate Law. 

Take for instance the idea of a Last Will and Testament.  A Will is probably the most well known and well-understood items in an estate plan.  The purpose of the Will is to make sure your assets go where you want them to go after you pass away.  It need not be too complicated, and in many cases, Wills have been as simple as notes scratched on a piece of paper from the deathbed of the person writing the Will.  <- We do not advise this, but if it is a bad idea and it works, is it indeed a bad idea?  

Today, and this month, we are celebrating the Month of the Military Kid.  As a law firm, this got us thinking, what can we do to celebrate?

 Share updates and resources, check.  Spread the good word, check.  Educate…  we can do that!  That is what this blog is all about.  Getting good information, usable information, from our brains and into a forum (this forum!) where readers can make informed decisions.  In that spirit, the purpose of this article is to answer for Veterans and those still serving, why their Military Will is not enough protection for their family, and show them how to fix this.  

Your Military Will Just Is Not Enough

It’s not your fault, and it is not a bad start.  But the hard fact is, your military Will is not enough protection for your family.  Here’s why.

As we mentioned above, a Will of any type is designed to designate who will get your assets when you pass.  The process begins with your death and then must go through a legal action known as probate.  Probate is the bane of estate planners for several reasons.  The top of these reasons being time, cost, messiness.

Probate is an Unnecessary Pain

Death is a hurry up and wait process when probate is factored in.  You are scrambling around trying to figure out last arrangements (if you haven’t set up an estate plan ahead of time), trying to figure out the finances of paying for burial or cremation, ceremonies, and getting family and friends together.  Then, you have all the assets of the deceased to figure out what to do with.

Houses, cars – are they owned?  Who has the right to sell them? Trinkets, storage items, family heirlooms, tv’s, jewelry, books, intellectual property, investments…the list is endless.  And it is going to take 6-9 months to figure out who has the right to even make decisions on these assets.  That is 6-9 months to work through probate, assuming the issue of ownership is uncontested!

Let’s set aside the time suck that is probate on Willed assets and work our way through costs.  Get ready to pay up to 10% of the assets of the estate just to transfer them to where they are supposed to go!

If you are keeping track that’s thousands of dollars and 6-9 months so far.  Again, IF the declarations in the Will are uncontestable.  Do you have an ex-wife that owns half your house but your adult kids and your current fiance’ are the ones named to inherit your assets in your military Will?  How’s that going to be settled?  Who is going to help you (or really them) to figure it out?  And how much is it going to cost?

Wills In the Military

Being honest, we are pointing out the drawbacks of Wills because there is another way for young families to prepare for the future. An approach that can release them & you from the turmoil of probate, the financial burden of an unnecessary legal process, and avoid the messiness of contested assets altogether.   So why does the military get service members set up with Wills in the first place?

For one, Wills are relatively straightforward and easy to set up en masse.  Did your command order you and 100 other people to set up your military Will through JAG?  Was it a pre-deployment Will or something set up for family day?  If so, it may be very limited in scope and entirely out of date if any one of a hundred or more things have happened since it was penned.

New kids, new property, new assets, new marriage situations, and more are all reasons to update a Will.  And in reality, updating a Will is not as simple as crossing off an outdated item and adding a new issue.  You are likely going to have to re-write the whole thing.

So, while military Wills get the job done, temporarily.  They do not grow with you and your needs, and if it has been a year or more since you established yours, you need another option.

Another Option – Let’s Talk Total Estate Planning

Wills are a means to an end and can be effective if you use them in the right way.  However they do come with drawbacks, and for a young military family, there are strong reasons to consider other paths for estate planning.  Especially, trusts, powers of attorney, and other options.

Recall from this discussion some of the drawbacks of Wills, and particularly military Wills.  

  • To transfer assets upon death requires probate, which can take 6-9 months;
  • Probate can cost up to 10% of the assets of the deceased;
  • Disputes over the Will can lead to painful situations which are only solved in probate court; and,
  • Wills only cover items and beneficiaries specifically.  Any change to your situation and family might change the whole dynamic of the military Will.  

A trust on the other hand

  • Can transfer assets almost immediately upon death, or even before passing if it is set up to do so. 
  • Will not require anyone to pay lawyers or a probate court.  Once the trust is set up the only cost is modifying it, if necessary.
  • Trustees (recipients of the trust) are decided between you and your estate lawyer when drafting and updating the trust.  It is very clear who your trustee(s) will be and under what conditions they assume control of the trust that your assets have been placed in. 
  • You can set up your trust to be disbursed to certain people in certain circumstances.  If you want your brother to receive part of your assets upon passing but not his spouse, you can make that a condition at any point.  
  • Lastly, a trust is private.  The process of going through probate opens up the details of your assets to the public eye.  Your beneficiaries could have unscrupulous suitors showing up at their door if you have a sizable estate to pass on.  A trust being disbursed to the trustee(s) in the manner you wanted is not handled in the public eye.  

Should You Scrap Your Military Will? 

You already know there are no absolutes in life.  And as we have discussed in this article, this sentiment is true in death too!

Should you scrap your military Will wholesale?  Maybe not.

At the very least, it is a fantastic jumping off point to discuss what else you should be considering or should have already considered.

The good news is that while you are still alive, it is not too late!

We Help Military Families Get Their Estate Plans In Order

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Estate Planning: A Key Baby Boomer Family Value!

Estate Planning: A Key Baby Boomer Family Value!

If you were born between 1946 and 1955, you are considered to be a “Baby Boomer.”

If you are a Baby Boomer do not already have an estate plan established, you need one for your own sake and for your family’s.

So, what is an estate plan and why is it important?

In this article, we are going to discuss the basic components of a good estate plan, and why it is important for you and your family to have one.

Estate Plan Fundamentals

Estate planning is the process (and paperwork) of preparing your estate (no matter how big or small) for when you die or otherwise become incapacitated.  There are several different aspects of comprehensive estate planning and what you put in yours will be dependent on your needs, assets, and vision.

The ultimate goal of estate planning is to keep courts out of your assets and personal planning and to ensure that your family knows your wishes in any eventuality. If you do not set up an estate plan, it is very likely that a court will be the one who chooses how your assets are divided and who will take care of your health and financial decisions should you become incapacitated.

Let’s look at each part of a comprehensive estate plan more closely.

Last Will & Testament

A will is a legal document that says how your property will be distributed at the time of your death.  It is revocable and can be amended at any point while you are still alive.  If you have minor children, you will name their guardian in your will.  Here is more information on the components of a last will and testament


A trust is used for both while you are alive (if you become incapacitated) and/or after death.  The effect of a trust is keeping a court out of intervening to manage or distribute your estate.  There are also significant tax planning purposes for establishing a trust for your assets.  If you become incapacitated, whomever you name in your living trust will become your trustee and manage your estate.  The only parts of your estate covered in your living trust are the ones you put into the living trust. To learn more about a trust, you can see our article “6 Reasons to Establish a Trust as Part of Your Estate”.

Health Care Directives

Health care directives will typically include a health care declaration (living will) and a power of attorney for health care (POA).  These documents allow you to choose someone to make your health care decisions for you if you are unable to.  You can state when you want them to start and end and the conditions that should be met before granting someone else authority to make decisions on your behalf.  

Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney is similar to the health care power of attorney.  You can choose someone to make your financial decisions, instead of or in addition to healthcare decisions, on your behalf if you are unable to.  You may also choose the same or an altogether different person than you did for your health care power of attorney to act on your behalf.   

Beneficiaries for Your Bank and Other Accounts

Naming beneficiaries for bank accounts and retirement plans ensure your account are automatically “payable on death” to your beneficiary and allows the funds to skip the probate process. Likewise, in almost all states, you can register your stocks, bonds, or brokerage accounts to transfer to your beneficiary upon your death.

Plan for End of Life and End of Life Events (Funeral)

Make sure your family and loved ones know what your end of life wishes are regarding organ and body donation.  Also, make it clear whether you would like to be buried or cremated.

Instead of doing a funeral prepayment plan, consider setting up a payable on death account at your bank and deposit funds into it.  The account will pay for your funeral and any other related costs.

Why Estate Planning is Important

An estate plan is important for anyone at any stage of their life.  Estate planning will help your family members and loved ones before and after you pass.  If set up well, your estate plan will also ensure more of your wealth gets to people that you love, and less is taken away in probate, and other needlessly expensive and challenging court/tax processes.

Remember, even if you are not a Baby Boomer, it is important to think about estate planning too!

Begin Your Estate Plan Today

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What to Expect From (and How to Prepare For) an Initial Estate Planning Meeting With Your Personal Family Lawyer®

What to Expect From (and How to Prepare For) an Initial Estate Planning Meeting With Your Personal Family Lawyer®

Whether you have met with an estate planning attorney before or it is your first time, it is important to understand how working with a Personal Family Lawyer® is different than meeting with a traditional lawyer.

This article will explain what is involved with such a consultation, and it may even inspire you to meet with us to get your estate planning started or updated. If you do decide to meet with us, I will share instructions on how you can do that, plus include a free offer at the end of this article to give you extra motivation to check us out.

Meet And Greet

Given our unique approach, initial consultation with our office is quite different than an initial consultation with a typical estate planning attorney. A typical “initial consultation” would be a meet-and-greet-type of meeting in which the lawyer tells you the documents you need to put in place and quotes you a fee to provide those documents.

In such a meeting, however, it will likely be difficult for you to know exactly what you need for your unique family situation and how to make the right decision, outside of simply considering whether the cost of these documents fits within your budget or not. Unfortunately, deciding what you need based solely on the cost of documents will likely lead you to make choices that will not actually serve and protect your family and assets.

Family Wealth Planning Session™

In contrast, our initial meeting with you is a two-hour working session, called a Family Wealth Planning Session™. Prior to the Family Wealth Planning Session, we will send you a personalized package of materials that will guide you in locating and listing each of your assets.

What we consistently see is that surprisingly, many people do not have a clear awareness of what they own or where to find their assets. This is the reason there are more than $58 Billion (yes, Billion with a “B”) of lost and unclaimed assets held by state and federal agencies. Often times people become incapacitated or die, and their family simply overlooks these assets.

We know you have not devoted years of your precious time and energy to build your family wealth only for your heirs to lose track of it when something happens to you. That is one reason the Family Wealth Planning Session is so beneficial. Whether you decide to create a full plan or just redesign the one you have, at the very least your family will know what you have and how to locate it should anything happen to you.

Game Planning Contingencies

Also during your Family Wealth Planning Session, we will guide you through a complete understanding of what would happen to everyone you love and everything you own should something happen to you—whether it is under your current plan or the plan the state has for you if you do not have an estate plan yet. From there, you can decide if that plan is how you want things handled or if you would want a different outcome, in which case we can design a plan to ensure things go exactly the way you want in your absence.

Finally, if you do decide to create a plan or redesign an existing one, you can select the type of plan you want based on the different packages we have created, which allow you to literally choose your fee based on what is most important to you, what is not important to you, and with a clear understanding of the impact of your choices.

The Family Wealth Planning Session is a true educational opportunity for you to ensure you are doing the right thing by your loved ones. This investment of your time now will save your family countless hours of heartache and work down the road, while also keeping them out of conflict and out of court.

Unfortunately, death is unavoidable. But you can make it far easier on the people you love by the choices you make now. And facing the reality of this fact today allows you to make choices that will let you enjoy your life even more. Indeed, our clients report a huge level of relief after meeting with us, and they frequently say they wished they had done it sooner.

Setting Up Your Family Wealth Planning Session

We would love to meet with you for a Family Wealth Planning Session. Normally, we charge $750 for these working sessions, but if you are one of the first five families to schedule this month, you commit to doing the homework ahead of time, and you secure your Session with a credit card (which will not be charged as long as you do your part), we will waive that Planning Session fee.

Simply fill out the contact form below or give us a call to get scheduled. Or if you have a relative or friend who would benefit by getting their affairs in order, pass along this article and tell them to call us. It is our mission to keep the families in our community out of court and out of conflict, and it all starts with a Family Wealth Planning Session. Because, really, your family IS worth it.

Claim Your Free Family Wealth Planning Session!

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The Lilac City Law Difference

We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That is why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.

How Becoming Incapacitated Can Affect Your Family

How Becoming Incapacitated Can Affect Your Family

If you should become incapacitated at some point in your life, you can bet it will be both very scary and stressful for you and your family.

Becoming incapacitated and unable to take care of your affairs, does not mean that you do not have a plan or say in your care and finances though.

There are steps you can take today to ensure that you and your family are both taken care of should you or your spouse ever end up in this situation.

Advance Health Care Directive 

An advance health care directive is also known as a living will.  This document allows you to choose someone you trust to make your health care decisions.  This person might be a family member or a trusted friend.  Having someone designated to make sure your health care decisions are in line with your outlook and desires will take the pressure off of you and your family.

Working through the establishment of a living will/advance health care directive means stating clearly which health care and end of life choices you want.  This document also allows you to say what you want or do not want. For example, you can put in your advance health care directive that you do not want a feeding tube or you can put that you do want a respirator if those are your choices.  These directives eliminate ambiguity for your family when trying to make health care decisions on your behalf.

Setting up a living will/advance healthcare directive today is a great first step in getting your estate in order.

Set Up Your Advance Health Care Directive & Living Will Today

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Durable Power of Attorney for Finance 

A durable power of attorney is similar to the advance health care directive in that you choose a family member or a trusted friend to make decisions for you.  The difference is that this is for your finances.  Because of this, you want to make sure you choose a person you completely trust to make sound financial decisions for you and possibly your family depending on the situation.  The person you choose can be the same person as your advance health care directive but does not have to.

Guardianship Plan

When we say a Guardianship Plan, we are talking about a plan set up to help you to choose someone to take care of your minor children if you are unable to.  In many cases, your spouse will be there to the carry-on with guardianship of your minor children, but in the rare case both of you become incapacitated or only one of you are still living, it will give you the reassurance your children will be taken care of.

Along with choosing who will be your children’s guardian, you can also add a letter voicing your wishes for how your children are raised.  You can say what type of education you want for them, what religion you want them to follow, etc.

You can read more about guardianship plans and kids protection plans, here.


Having a trust set up for your children will ensure that your wealth is protected from undue taxes or probate while also setting up the transfer of your wealth and estate to those you designate.  You will be able to name a trustee who will help your children access your gift for things like schooling, housing, basic needs, or other things you want to designate.

To help reduce stress, the trustee and the guardian should be two separate people. However, they must be able to work together and make decisions in the best interest of your children.  Without a trust, your financial and property assets could become the rope in a tug of war between kids, relatives, and others.  If you were to become incapacitated, a trust would truly help to keep things straight for everyone!

How to Find a Living Trust Attorney Near Me

How to Find a Living Trust Attorney Near Me

You have made the first step and have decided to set up a living trust. 

Now, you need an attorney to help you. 

You may be asking yourself, “where do I find a living trust attorney near me?”

If you are in need of a local living trust attorney near you, here are some suggestions to help…

Simply Search Google for: “Living Trust Attorney Near Me”

If you like to use search engines and find info on the internet, then you will already be ahead of the game on this.  Simply type in, “living trust attorney near me” or “estate planning attorney near me” and see what appears.  This should bring up lawyers in your area and surrounding areas that can help.

There will be a map that shows up and gives the locations of attorneys as well as a list.   You can click on the list to be taken to their website.  Another benefit of this list is that you can see the general quality of the reviews for several attorneys at once.

Specialty Search Sites

There are a few search websites that allow searching, but only show results specific to the type of law you are looking for.  They are also great places to find information as they tend to maintain blogs of their own as well.   An example is . Notice that at the bottom of the linked article, there is a link that will redirect you to a page where you can fill in a contact form.  If you fill that out, your contact will be “sold” to an attorney that will contact you.

Another example is . At the top of the screen, it has a place to find in what you find to find.  Here you will type in living trust attorney.  There is also a place to type in “near” where you will type in your city.  This will give a list of attorneys near the zip code you entered.  It tells you the name, their specialty, gives you reviews, shows their contact information, and allows you to click a link to go their law firm website.

Telephone book

If you are not comfortable using the internet, you can use a telephone book to look up living trust attorneys in your area. Phone books are limited in that they do not provide much more than a short advertisement for different attorneys.  No blogs, about me, or additional information.  However, they can be good places to grab a bunch of phone numbers real quick.


If you know someone who has used a living trust attorney, you can always ask who they used and if they would recommend them.  Getting a personal opinion from someone who has used a living trust attorney will help you know more about the lawyer.

Even when you are considering a recommendation, you should still do a little research on them and set up a consultation.  Many lawyers will offer an initial no-cost consultation.  These are wonderful ways to get a better feel for the law firm and if they are someone you feel comfortable handling your case.

Note: A good living trust attorney will…

  • Have expertise in living trusts and estate planning
  • Be respectful of your time
  • Explain the process, procedures, and what will happen with the living trust
Set Up a Consultation With a Living Trust Attorney Today


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Four Benefits of Printing Out Your Guardianship Plan on Good Ol’ Paper

Four Benefits of Printing Out Your Guardianship Plan on Good Ol’ Paper

In today’s society, most things are done on the computer and saved to a hard drive.  Important documents are very rarely printed out and filed in a file cabinet or folder.  However, there are benefits to printing out legal documents including your guardianship plan.

Here are four benefits of printing out your guardianship plan on good ol’ paper.


Most people have passwords on their computers.  If you should die or become incapacitated, how will your loved ones get access to your guardianship papers if you have a password on your computer?  If they cannot figure out your password they will have to trust the judge to make a decision on who is best to care for your children.  This will make it difficult for your loved ones to ensure your wishes are being met for your family.

Even if they are able to get access to your computer, they may not be able to figure out where you saved the guardianship papers.  Everyone has a different way of filing documents on their personal computer. For example, one person might put their guardianship papers in the file titled “Important Documents” while someone else might put it in a file titled “Stuff to Keep”.

Having it already printed and labeled in a file cabinet can be the easiest way for your family to access it.  In fact, here’s what we do when we create a plan for a client!

Verbal communication

Verbal communication is not enough.  It is great that you and your spouse agreed on someone to take your children and that person agreed to step in. However, you need a legal document stating who will be the legal guardian for your children.  If you print out your guardianship papers, you can give a copy to the person who will be caring for your children and you can put one with the rest of your estate planning paperwork. Having more than one copy ensures that it will be found when needed.


Printing out your guardianship papers allows you to give them to your appointed guardian along with any other instructions you may have.  For example, you can write a letter of instruction to them.  You can explain your hopes and expectations for your children’s upbringing including education, activities, and religion.



Having your documents saved on your computer risks them being compromised by hackers. This may not happen often but you do open yourself up to the possibility if you are saving your guardianship papers on the computer. Other security threats you risk by saving your guardianship papers online are:

  • Ransomware (software designed to lock up a computer until a ransom is paid) (very rare for personal computers)
  • Theft
  • Viruses
  • Data failure (data and documents can be lost due to software or hardware failure)

Hackers are not the only ones that can change your document.  If someone really wanted to, they could log onto your computer and change your guardianship papers to benefit them.  If you have them printed out and stored safely then they are much harder to be changed.

Printing out your guardianship papers has definitive benefits that will ensure your wishes are met if you are to become incapacitated or if you die.

Talk to an Estate Planning Attorney About Family Protection and Guardianship, Today! 


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What if I Become Incapacitated? Who Will Take Care of My Family?

What if I Become Incapacitated? Who Will Take Care of My Family?

Not being able to take care of your family or yourself can be a scary thought. 

Who will make all the important decisions about your finances, health, and important decisions about your family?

There are some estate planning documents that will allow you to name someone to take care of you and your family. 

Let’s take a look at what they are.

Advance Health Care Directive

An advance health care directive allows you to name someone to make health decisions for you when you are incapacitated.  This is often used to decide on whether or not to use feeding tubes, ventilators, or other life-sustaining treatments.  It is also used if you are unable to speak for yourself or sign health documents even at a doctor’s appointment.

The Advance Health Care Directive is also known as a living will or durable power of attorney for healthcare.

If you do not have an advance health care directive, doctors will do everything they can to keep you alive even if that is not what you want.  Be sure to discuss with whomever you choose what you would want them to do.

Durable Power of Attorney for Finance

Similar in intent to an advance health care directive, the durable power of attorney for finance allows you to name someone to take care of your finances if you become incapacitated.  This can be the same person or a different person than you named for your healthcare decisions.

If you do not name someone, then a court will appoint someone to manage your finances.  Your spouse may not have access to your finances unless everything has/had already been set into a joint property.

You want to make sure that whoever you name is someone you trust.  They will handle all of your finances!

If you do not have someone you trust, you can contact a professional to help you setup fiduciary support.

Guardianship Plan

A guardianship plan will lay out what is to happen to your children should you be incapacitated. More than likely if you have a spouse, your spouse will take over the full care of your children. However, if you or your spouse is not in town, not readily available, estranged, or any number of other scenarios where you (or they) cannot immediately take custody of your children, things can go sideways, fast!

Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about Guardianship Plans:

You will need to name a guardian for your children.  You can also include what you want for your children, such as the type of schooling they will receive, if you want them to participate in sports, what values and morals you want them to grow up with, etc.

You want to choose someone you trust to follow your wishes.  They also should be able to financially and emotionally support your children and perhaps even have the same faith or values as you do.


Setting up a trust for your children will make sure that they will have the financial support they will need.  It can also ensure that your children will not receive their whole inheritance when they turn 18.  Naming someone other than the guardian to be the trustee of the trust can help make sure your children are using their inheritance wisely.  Regardless, you want to make sure that the guardian and the trustee can get along and make decisions together.

There are many factors involved when trying to lay-out how a trust will coordinate with a guardian, powers of attorney, advance directives, wills, and more.  Your best bet is to set up a consultation with a great estate planning attorney.

Talk to an Estate Planning Attorney About Family Protection and Guardianship, Today! 


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Pay For a Loved One’s Education With an Education Trust Fund

Pay For a Loved One’s Education With an Education Trust Fund


Today’s parents are all too familiar with the budget-busting cost of funding a child’s college education. It can be challenging enough to put aside sufficient savings for a single child’s education, but for multiple kids, the price tag can make donating a kidney for extra cash seem downright reasonable!

In fact, a survey by The College Board found that the “moderate” cost for all expenses (tuition, fees, books, room, and board) for a year of in-state public college averaged $24,610 in 2016-2017. A similarly moderate budget for a private college averaged $49,320.

But don’t freak out just yet! If you are savvy about estate planning, you can use an education trust fund to save for your child or grandchild’s education expenses and specify exactly how you want those funds used.

Create an Education Trust

You can create an education trust that is payable during your lifetime (living trust) or upon your death (testamentary trust). The disbursements from the trust are designated for a beneficiary’s education, and you can specifically designate how and when the funds are to be distributed—meaning the beneficiary can only receive the funds if they are compliant with your terms.

Education trusts can be used to fund not only a traditional university education, but any type of learning institution, such as trade schools, educational workshops, community colleges, and private academies. Or even alternative education, such as travel, workshops, retreats, business building programs, and the like. You get to decide exactly how broad or how limited the use of the funds can be.

Trusts can be created for multiple beneficiaries, whether through separate trusts for each individual or a single trust that funds all beneficiaries. If a single trust is established for multiple beneficiaries, you can require the assets to be distributed in a number of ways: equally, using a set amount, by percentage, or the decision as to how much each beneficiary receives can be left to the trustee’s discretion.

Education trusts are not generally set up as tax-saving vehicles, as would be the case with a traditional 529 Plan (which does provide tax savings but has much more restrictive use). That said, there could be some tax savings if the income of the trust is taxed at your beneficiary’s tax rate, which could be lower than your personal tax rate on income.

Taxes and Financial Considerations of Education Trusts

The only part of the trust that will be taxable is income earned by the investments in the trust (interest and dividends). The trust owes yearly income taxes on income above $600; however, if the trust distributes that income, the beneficiary is responsible for paying taxes at their rate.

The trust is only responsible for taxes on income not distributed by year’s end. And that income is taxed at trust tax rates, which could be higher than the beneficiary’s rate—and possibly even higher than your personal tax rate, so make sure you are clear about whether income should be distributed before year’s end for each year the trust earns income.

If the education trust is irrevocable, meaning that the gift cannot be taken back, and the amount contributed is less than the annual gift tax exemption amount ($14,000 in 2017), then no gift-tax return is required. If the gift exceeds that amount, then it would be necessary to file a gift-tax return, reporting the gift and using up part of your lifetime exemption of $5.49 million. A married couple can exempt $10.98 million in their lifetime.

Contact a Personal Family Lawyer Today!

If you are interested in funding your children’s or grandchildren’s education using an education trust, a Personal Family Lawyer can walk you step-by-step through the process.

Talk to a Personal Family Lawyer About Protecting Your Estate 


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