Q: I have a will. Why would I want a living trust?

A:
Contrary to what you've probably heard, a will may not be the best plan for you and your family - primarily because a will does not avoid probate when you die. A will must be verified by the probate court before it can be enforced.

Also, because a will can only go into effect after you die, it provides no protection if you become physically or mentally incapacitated. So the court could easily take control of your assets before you die - a concern of millions of older Americans and their families.

Fortunately, there is a simple and proven alternative to a will--the revocable living trust. It avoids probate, and lets you keep control of your assets while you are living - even if you become incapacitated - and after you die.


Q: What is "funding" my trust?

A:
Funding your trust is the process of transferring your assets from you to your trust. To do this, you physically change the titles of your assets from your individual name (or joint names, if married) to the trustee of your trust. You will also change most beneficiary designations to your trustee.


Q: Tax-Free Gifts

A:
This is easy and it doesn't cost anything. Each year, you can give up to $12,000 ($24,000 if married) to as many people as you wish. So if you give $12,000 to each of your two children and five grandchildren, you will reduce your estate by $84,000 (7 x $12,000) a year - $168,000 if your spouse joins you. (This amount is tied to inflation and may increase every few years.)

If you give more than this, the excess will be considered a taxable gift and will be applied to your $1 million gift tax exemption.

Charitable gifts are unlimited. So are gifts for tuition and medical expenses if you give directly to the institution.


Q: What is a corporate trustee?

A:
With people living longer and health care costs continuing to rise, our savings must grow larger and last longer. With hundreds of investment options to choose from, deciding where to put your money can be very confusing. And if you make a wrong decision, it can be very costly.

One option you shouldn't overlook is the bedrock of asset management and personal service: the corporate trustee.

A corporate trustee is a bank trust department or trust company. Its employees can help you build, manage and protect your wealth when you put your assets in a trust.

A trust is simply a legal document that lets you reduce unnecessary legal fees, save taxes and keep control over your assets while you are living, if you become physically or mentally incapacitated, and after you die.

When you set up a trust, you need to name someone (a trustee) to manage the assets your trust controls. While you can choose just about any adult, there are very good reasons why you should consider a corporate trustee.
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