What did Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, and Prince have in common? The easy answer is they were all musical superstars. But they had something a lot more troubling in common: They all died without a will. Now there is every good reason for these celebrities to think they were going to live a lot longer, so they may have put off writing a will. Still, it is almost inconceivable that people with the kind of assets they must have accumulated to not have at least a will, if not a trust, to protect their estate and their heirs.
No one likes to think about their own mortality, but the legal implications of dying without a will are enormous. According to LegalZoom.com, "Although laws pertaining to dying without a will (intestate in legal terms) vary by state, distribution of property and assets generally follows a similar pattern. In other words, every state has a 'default' plan for the distribution of property in the event that you die without a will. The laws follow a predefined formula and might not be what you want or expect."
In addition to a will, a trust might provide important protections both while you are alive and after you die. ElderLawAnswers.com clearly explains the difference between a will and a trust:
"A will is a document that directs who will receive your property at your death and it appoints a legal representative to carry out your wishes. By contrast, a trust can be used to begin distributing property before death, at death or afterwards. A trust is a legal arrangement through which one person (or an institution, such as a bank or law firm), called a 'trustee,' holds legal title to property for another person, called a 'beneficiary.' A trust usually has two types of beneficiaries -- one set that receives income from the trust during their lives and another set that receives whatever is left over after the first set of beneficiaries dies.
"A will covers any property that is only in your name when you die. It does not cover property held in joint tenancy or in a trust. A trust, on the other hand, covers only property that has been transferred to the trust. In order for property to be included in a trust, it must be put in the name of the trust.
Another difference between a will and a trust is that a will passes through probate. That means a court oversees the administration of the will and ensures the will is valid and the property gets distributed the way the deceased wanted. A trust passes outside of probate, so a court does not need to oversee the process, which can save time and money. Unlike a will, which becomes part of the public record, a trust can remain private."
As a Boomer, you should make it your business to know about wills and trusts. These essential legal instruments offer you protection and peace of mind. Speak with a legal adviser before it's too late.
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