I am trying to set up a living trust with a will & last testament: two apartment complexes (one 40% ownership; one 100% owndership), one residuary house (100% ownership), two cars, stocks, jewelry, furniture, book collection, and bank accounts. Questions:
1. where do I put what? (estate in trust, cars / jewelry / rest in will?)
2. Is Enodare Will Writer a good program?
3. for the shared ownership, if I write I leave my share of the ownership to be divided by my surviving next of kins, what will the Court decide?
4. Can I just write out the will and trust, have both notarized, store them in my safe box, tell my 30+ year-old kids, re-evaluate once every 2-3 years, and forget about them for the rest of the time?
4 Answers from Attorneys
You should consult an attorney about your estate plan given the complexity of your estate. While it may cost some money now to have an attorney do it correctly, it will save a lot more later to fix any problems.
I had a client whose relative left a couple of million dollars accidentally to several charities when she intended to leave most of that to her relatives.
She was trying to save a few dollars by using a software program instead of going to an attorney. It saved her a couple thousand dollars but cost the relatives to whom she was trying to leave her property millions.
There are many good estate and trust attorneys nearby. Get it done right.
In general a living trust, properly funded, will avoid probate. Title to each and every asset whould be in the trust. There are a few exceptions you counsel would aadvise you about (like IRA's or qualified plans). If it is fully funded, your willl is ineffective. It serves as a backup document if you failed to transfer assets to the trust.
You really need to engage counsel to help you with this. The 2 -5 thousand you are likely to spend will likely save you and your family many multiples of the cost of an error. Further, while there are many forms, you need to have counsel prepare documents that actually reflect your personal plan and accurately state where you want property to go. This is truly not a do it yourself project, particularly when you own the assets, and interests in assets, of the type you describe.
It's very easy to do this wrong. For example, my father wrote a his own will leaving everything, including the house, to my mother "for as long as she wants it". This was deemed to create a trust, and when she needed to sell it, she had to file a petition with the court adverse to the kids to have the ability to either sell or borrow on it. Obviously that was not what was intended. Don't waste your money and your estate assets on lawyers and courts which will likely be necessary of you make a mistake. Hire expert counsel to do this right. This gratuitous response does not create an attorney client relationship. The advice provided herein is generic, may not apply to your circumstances and is not to be relied upon in your actions. An attorney client relationship is created only upon execution of an engagement letter hiring me or my firm.
Do it right and have a competent estate planning attorney set it up. If the attorney screws it up, your heirs can sue him or her for malpractice. There's no protection if you screw it up using some program.
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