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Why a living trust is right for many estate planning needs

Many New Jersey residents want to pass assets on to family members, but aren't sure how to do so. Estate planning can be especially complicated when a couple is not married but has children from other relationships. Is a will the way to go, or should one consider a living trust?

Wills are often adequate for simple situations, but in complex ones, it's advisable to consider a trust. A trust offers protection for family members and allows a person more flexibility with the person's assets. The person who creates the trust is the only one who can change it, so it cannot be changed by another party upon death.

When the parties are married, the other spouse is typically appointed as the trustee. However, when the parties are not married, it is advised to choose another close person to handle the assets upon death. This is a good idea when there are concerns about the significant other's children trying to manipulate the situation.

It's also a good idea to choose a power of attorney -- someone who can take over medical and legal affairs in the event of incapacitation. Again, it's advisable to choose someone other than a romantic partner in order to avoid family issues.

Living trusts can help provide asset protection while avoiding probate in the event of one's death. They offer other benefits as well; they can help avoid taxes and keep assets private. A trust does, however, require a lot of time and paperwork. Everyone should consider the pros and cons based on their unique situation.

Source: Hometown Life, "Living trust offers flexibility in estate planning," Rick Bloom, Feb. 1, 2015

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