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Trusts and Estate Planning FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:

Why do I need an estate plan?

A:

Many people assume that state law will appropriately distribute their property to family members. That is true to a certain extent, however, you give up a lot of rights if you fail to plan. For instance, an Estate Plan can help you ensure that your intentions for your assets are met, prevent disputes, reduce stress for your family at a difficult time and minimize or eliminate estate taxes.

Q:

Will an estate plan help me avoid probate?

A:

Yes, to an extent. When you devise assets through a Last Will and Testament or leave no will and make no other arrangements for your assets, Montana’s default Probate process kicks in. But many people would like to avoid the full probate process, given that involving a probate court and potentially a court-appointed executor can be time consuming and expensive. Since probate proceedings happen in court, probate can also be invasive — publicly airing details of assets a family might not be comfortable sharing.

Some Estate Planning options include Trusts; Joint Tenancy with right of survivorship; Payable-on-Death (POD) bank accounts; and Transfer-on-Death (TOD) securities and deeds. Exercising these options prevents named assets from going through probate and creates a mechanism for making sure an asset goes to whomever you intended. Even if your will must go through the probate process, however, for reasons such as having courts sort through family disputes, careful Estate Planning can make the process easier on all involved. Bulman, Jones & Cook will counsel you on your Estate Planning options and make sure it’s done right.

Q:

What is required to make a will valid?

A:

For your will to be valid, you must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. It has to be in writing, there must be an appointed executor, and it will need to be signed by you and two witnesses. Although it’s not required for wills to be notarized, doing so can help them move through probate more smoothly.

Q:

What is a revocable trust vs an irrevocable trust?

A:

A revocable trust is an agreement made by an individual during his or her lifetime, naming a trustee and beneficiary. Trust assets must be moved to the trust with a change in title of ownership. The trustor has flexibility, though, and can amend or terminate the agreement at any time. A revocable trust does not protect trust assets from the trustor’s creditors.

An irrevocable trust moves trust assets irrevocably into a trust, and the trustor cannot amend or terminate the agreement once made. Some irrevocable trusts are life insurance trusts and testamentary trusts. Irrevocable trust assets are protected from creditors in certain circumstances. Furthermore, a revocable trust can become an irrevocable trust when the trustor or joint trustor dies. At this point, the trust asset is protected from trustor creditors. Both revocable and irrevocable trusts have their uses, each depending on the goal you wish to achieve by establishing the trust.