Living-Trust-2-300x200A typical estate plan includes a number of commonly recognized documents.  First and foremost is a Last Will and Testament.  As discussed in many posts in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog, a Will controls the disposition of assets held in a decedent’s name alone.  Thus, assets such as joint bank accounts or items which have designated beneficiaries such as retirement accounts and life insurance pass directly to the other named party.  The terms of a Will do not control these assets.  Therefore, any estate plan should include careful scrutiny as to the title of assets and whether named beneficiaries have been added.

When a person dies, his Will is filed with the Surrogate’s Court along with a petition for probate.  When a Will is admitted to probate by the Court, the terms of the Will become effective.

It has become more popular recently to include the creation of a Living Trust as part of an estate plan.  Living Trusts are also referred to as grantor or revocable trusts.  The basic format of a Living Trust is that assets owned by a person in their names are presently transferred into the trust.  Thus, real estate is placed in the name of the trustee of the trust as well as bank accounts and other items.  The intention is to put a person’s assets into a Living Trust in order to avoid probate.  When a person dies, the terms of the trust can be effectuated expeditiously without having to wait for the probate process to be conducted in the Surrogate’s Court.  Also, the Living Trust can have provisions for the management of property if the grantor becomes ill or disabled.