Dealing with a family member’s death is difficult enough without the added pressure of complex and burdensome court proceedings. Once a person becomes incapacitated or passes away, their assets and estates must be distributed to their rightfully named recipients. If a living trust is created beforehand, this process can be far easier for all involved. Choosing not to have a will or living trust in place can lead to turmoil as family members work through the difficult process of determining their appropriate share of the estate.
When a living trust has not been established and someone passes, formal probate court proceedings may be required. Probate court can be both costly and lengthy, and is used to determine heirs, distribute assets, and to identify and keep record of the deceased person’s property. Probate hearings are also used to prove authenticity if a will is present. Typically, there is also a guardian appointed to maintain the deceased’s affairs. This trustee’s responsibilities can include paying down debts and taxes and maintaining other complex financial affairs.
Some states offer simplified versions of the probate process, called the Uniform Probate Code. This act helps aid in timely asset and estate distribution, so family members can focus on other tasks that go hand in hand with their loved one’s passing. Pennsylvania does not abide by this simplified process; however, so it is critical to have a living trust in place to bypass having to go through drawn out and stressful probate proceedings.
When drafting a living trust, a trusted friend or family member should be appointed as a trustee to legally maintain all property titles for future beneficiaries. It is also essential to have a will in place that will name a property heir and provide a backup plan for all assets that have not yet been updated on a trust. If a trust or will is not created, Pennsylvania law orders that the deceased person’s property will be given to the closest family members. This can create a great deal of confusion in families of all sizes, but especially larger families.
Creating a basic living trust is a fairly simple process that can be done without an attorney. However, it is prudent to involve an experienced wills and estates lawyer to ensure nothing was overlooked. A trust document is drafted by first naming a trustee and then stating the beneficiaries who will inherit the trust property. When it comes to underage beneficiaries, a delegated trustee must also be assigned to manage the inheritance until the young beneficiary becomes of legal age to manage it on their own. The draft must then be signed under the supervision of a notary and a standard transfer document or deed must be utilized to list the assets under the trustee’s name.
At Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C., we create custom estate plans for our clients that are designed to reduce stress during difficult times. A West Chester wills and estates lawyer can help to resolve any beneficiary questions and oversee the creation of complicated living trusts. Call one of our convenient office locations today in Media or West Chester, Pennsylvania, at 610-565-3700 or submit an online inquiry. We assist clients throughout Chester County and Delaware County.