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Although they are different legal instruments, Wills (also referred to as “Testaments”) and Trust agreements both highlight the power of an individual or several individuals to plan and decide how their assets, money, funds and property will be distributed upon this person’s death or upon a certain event. Wills and Trusts are extremely powerful tools to enable individuals to protect their property if they become incapacitated, if they die or if they can no longer manifest the way they want to distribute their assets. Importantly, Wills and Trusts enable an individual to plan ahead and avoid later disputes regarding a deceased person’s assets.
A Last Will and Testament is a document with a legal value and authority if executed properly and under the conditions prescribed by the law. A Will sets the way the decedent’s property will be distributed and to whom it will be distributed, upon the decedent’s death. After the passing of a testator (the person who executed a Will), a Last Will and Testament must be admitted into probate where its validity will be examined. The so-called “probate proceeding” will take place at the Surrogate’s court where the decedent had his or her last permanent residence.
A Trust is a legal agreement by which a individual owning some property (a Grantor) entrusts another person (a fiduciary, a trustee) as the title owner of the property for the benefit of one beneficiary or several determined beneficiaries. There are multiple types of trust arrangements. The drafting and preparation of a trust must be tailored to the client’s needs, personal or financial objectives and intent with his or her property regarding the beneficiaries of the particular trust. A trust, regardless of the type, is a complex document requiring an experienced attorney to achieve a client’s goals and ensure its validity.