Estate Planning

There are three main choices for planning your estate:

1: Write a will;

2: Create a testamentary trust; or

3: Do nothing (no plan).

Contino Law can help you with the first two options, however if you opt for number three, your loved ones are not necessarily out of luck.

In Vermont, if you die without a will, most types of assets will be distributed by the probate court according to Vermont’s intestacy laws. Vermont’s intestacy laws are the legislature’s best effort at making a one-size-fits-all estate plan. This works the way many would expect it to in some situations, but can and has produced odd results.

1. Writing a Will

Option number one, writing a will, is a simple and relatively inexpensive way to ensure your property goes where you want when you die. A will is a written document, signed by the testator in front of witnesses, that gives the probate court a set of instructions on how to distribute property and assign guardianship of minors. As long as a will is properly drafted and executed, its provisions do not violate any laws, and there are no challenges to the will by beneficiaries or others, everything should go smoothly – but to avoid those pitfalls, you should hire an attorney to draft your will.

2. Creating a Testamentary Trust

Many people find the probate process expensive and cumbersome, even with a well-drafted will. Option number three, creating a testamentary trust, allows you to pass along most of your assets outside of probate.

One way of doing this is to place your assets in a living trust, which becomes irrevocable at your death. In the trust, you appoint yourself as trustee (person with legal title to the assets) and someone else as successor trustee when you die. Upon death, your assets remain in the trust, and your successor trustee must follow the trust provisions in dealing with the trust assets.