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A Living Trust, Not a Will, Avoids Probate

A Living Trust, not a will, is the best way to avoid probate while maintaining control over the disposition of your assets. Only a living trust allows you to gather all your assets into one place thus facilitating the payment of taxes and other expenses in a fair and equitable manner. The living trust's centralization of asset control avoids the difficulties created when separate assets are distributed, through pay-on-death (POD), to several individuals before your estate's administrative expenses are paid. Who gets left with the responsibility of collecting the funds necessary to pay your final income or estate taxes? Placing all your assets in a living trust avoids that difficulty while still allowing the same individual beneficiaries to receive the distributions you intended them to get -- but after your administration expenses are taken care of. Additionally, a living trust allows you to change your mind, unlike that other probate-avoidance tool, joint ownership.

Creating a living trust is very much like creating a will. The living trust and will serve almost identical purposes -- the collection of your assets, payment of your administration expenses, and distribution to your loved ones -- with one critical difference. A will requires probate. A living trust avoids probate. Everything that a will can do to implement your estate plan, can be accomplished with a living trust. Estate planning need not entail probate -- unless you decide that your situation would best be handled under the supervision of a probate court. For most estate plans, however, probate is an unnecessary, costly and delay-ridden approach that can and should be avoided.