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Issues to consider when establishing a trust

Now that 2011 has come to a close, many readers in Washington are looking for ways to plan through 2012 and beyond. When it comes to making estate-planning decisions, individuals will want to ask some important questions and search out the best methods for ensuring the protection of assets for all parties involved. Establishing a trust is one popular way of protecting assets.

Choosing a trustee can be a complicated decision. Typically, people select a family member as a trustee, but too often that proves to be a mistake even in families not accustomed to internal conflicts. Money can sometimes complicate circumstances if effective estate planning doesn't anticipate potential difficulties. Sometimes choosing a friend or a corporate trustee, such as a bank, is a safer decision that prevents messy family arguments.

Something else to consider is that, regardless of whether an end-of-life document has been drafted, everyone essentially has an estate plan. The reason is, even if a person does not have a will or a trust when he or she passes away, the state will decide on distribution of assets in probate. That is why it is important for people to at least draft a will that clearly states to whom certain assets should be given. Establishing a trust can further help individuals avoid the considerable cost of probate fees, in addition to the headaches of court proceedings.

The most common type of trust is a marital or AB trust, which is usually regarded as the easiest kind of trust. The B half of the trust is irrevocable, whereas the A half can be adjusted in terms of asset distribution. For instance, the B half of a trust might be designated for a couple's children, while the A half of the trust is left to the living spouse. The children could possibly be written out of the A trust, but not the B trust.

In short, Washington residents would be wise to make their intentions as clear as possible when writing a will or establishing a trust. Legal professionals who are familiar with estate-planning law can often help in assessing a given set of circumstances in order to make a will or trust equitable to all parties involved.

Source: The Columbian, "Vague intentions plague estate plans, local expert says," Gordon Oliver, Dec. 22, 2011

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