Those in Virginia who undergo estate planning do so to secure assets and ensure a better future for their loved ones. Wills and trusts are common ways to secure assets, but it is important to know the differences between these two types of estate planning processes. One major difference is that trusts usually avoid probate, whereas wills do not. For those not familiar with probate, it is basically the settling of an estate and predicated on state law. It is also a very lengthy and public process, so most families should look to familiarize themselves with the probate process.
The laws surrounding probate differ from state to state, but the probate process can take anywhere from six months to a year and even longer for complex situations. If a person dies with a will, probate usually begins when the executor named in the will presents the will in county court. However, if a person dies with no will, the deceased person is considered to have died “intestate,” and the court then appoints someone to administer the estate of the deceased.
For many families, the best way to avoid probate is with a living trust. Like a will, a living trust details what happens with specified assets. However, unlike a will, a living trust allows assets to bypass probate. Assets can avoid probate and be passed straight to beneficiaries. Another plus is that everything is private and stays out of the public record.
Estate planning can definitely be a confusing process. Virginia families who have questions about wills and trusts could benefit by consulting a legal representative. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney can answer questions and provide guidance for families desiring to implement a plan for their future.