Estate planning offers many tools to meet the specific needs of individuals and families. Trusts are a popular method to minimize estate taxes and provide other benefits. Among the types of trusts available, revocable living trusts (“RLTs”) offer the most flexibility and can offer benefits during the life and after the death of the trust maker (also called the “settlor”).

Creating a revocable living trust can reduce financial strain for beneficiaries now and in the future while also maximizing available assets. At Pierro, Connor & Strauss, we can determine whether a revocable trust or another estate planning vehicle is right for your situation.

What is a revocable trust?

Trusts are legal entities that separate the rights of ownership. The trust’s settlor has the right to make decisions about how the trust is created and about any property that is transferred to the trust. The beneficiary has the right to receive the benefits of the trust property. The trustee manages the trust assets according to its instructions.

When a living trust is revocable, it can be modified or revoked at the will of the settlor, allowing some measure of control during his or her lifetime. Revocable living trusts allow individuals to plan for how they want property to be managed during their lifetime or distributed after death. Irrevocable living trusts, by contrast, can only be changed in limited circumstances but offer greater asset protection.

A revocable living trust allows for flexibility, but it does not offer the same protections and benefits of irrevocable living trusts and other estate planning tools. However, a revocable living trust can be created in conjunction with other estate planning documents to achieve specific goals. Each situation is unique so speak with a living trust planning lawyer to decide whether a revocable living trust is a good option in your case.

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Benefits of revocable living trusts

In addition to the peace of mind that comes with having a plan in place for one’s assets, revocable living trusts can provide practical and financial benefits. Some advantages can include:

  • Minimizing probate. Property that is already held in a trust at the time of the settlor’s death may bypass the probate process, saving the estate time and money. At death, the trust becomes irrevocable, and the property can be used to settle the creator’s taxes and debts before transfer to the estate or another named beneficiary.
  • Preparation in case of incapacitation. Pre-planning places the settlor’s choice of successor in position to make decisions should a sudden, unexpected, or even expected incapacitation arise. This can include making medical decisions, and it avoids the process of going to court to appoint a guardian to make financial and/or medical decisions.
  • Tax benefits. Though a revocable trust does not eliminate estate taxes, it may be used to avoid gift taxes.
  • Protection of privacy. Taking property out of the probate process maintains privacy over personal and family affairs.

Pierro, Connor & Strauss consider both the short and long-term goals of our clients before making any recommendation. We want to make sure that any trust created works with your other estate planning vehicles and any change in circumstances.

Do I still need a trust if I have a will?

One of the benefits of a trust is avoiding probate. If you only have a will, then most assets will still need to go through probate. This can be minimized by creating a trust and drafting a will that work together. A trust created during one’s lifetime can be funded by instructions in the will to sidestep the probate process and simplify matters for beneficiaries.

Since wills and trusts in New York are both governed by state law, it is important to work with a trust lawyer who monitors updates to the statutes. The attorneys at Pierro, Connor & Strauss stay ahead of the curve so that we can alert clients of how legal developments may impact your existing planned wills and trusts.

Call Pierro, Connor & Strauss to learn more about forming a revocable living trust

Revocable living trusts must be created and managed with care. New Yorkers from Schenectady, Saratoga, or elsewhere in the Albany area are encouraged to speak with an estate planning lawyer at our firm. We also serve clients in Long Island, Hudson, Lake Placid and all New York City boroughs. You can also Contact Us online here to request a free consultation.

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Though all individuals and families can benefit from estate planning, it is especially important when LGBTQ couples are involved. Historical laws, and even current laws in some locations, were drafted with heterosexual married couples in mind. Applying these laws to LGBTQ couples can leave a partner without crucial rights when it comes to inheriting an estate or managing their partner’s affairs in the case of incapacity.

Thoughtful estate planning by an experienced professional can provide protection for those you care about. At Pierro, Connor & Strauss, our estate planning team stays informed of changes to the laws so that we can skillfully implement the tools that achieve your estate planning goals. We understand the challenges that LGBTQ individuals and families face and we work with you to meet those challenges head-on.

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Why estate planning is important

When the U.S. Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriages in its 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, it paved the way to apply the tax and other financial benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. However, this alone did not solve all of the questions and gaps that can arise when it comes to determining the rights of LGBTQ partners regarding, children, property and asset distribution. Estate planning allows couples to take charge, solidifying their wishes in situations where applying default state and federal laws may leave gaps or lead to unwanted results.

When individuals pass away, their probate assets can either be distributed according to their wills or according to New York’s laws of intestate succession. Not too long ago, the intestate laws did not account for same-sex spouses, who were not recognized as legal spouses. Estate planning became a way to achieve what the law did not provide for by default. Today, with same-sex spouses formally recognized, gay and lesbian spouses have the same spousal rights as heterosexual couples when it comes to inheritance. However, unmarried partners, whether of the same or opposite sex, are still not included as next of kin.

Transgender individuals and their families may face additional estate planning issues, including but not limited to identity and gender markers on official documents, insurability, health care, burial and funeral arrangements and health care.

At Pierro, Connor & Strauss, we are here to help gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender individuals and couples protect their legal rights with carefully crafted wills, trusts, and other estate planning tools. Our experienced professionals take the time to understand your needs and then craft wills and trusts and use other tools to achieve the outcome your desire. Speak with an estate planning lawyer to received personalized advice on how to meet your goals with the tools available in New York.

Estate Planning for the LGBTQ Community in New York

Complications in estate planning for LGBTQ couples extend beyond the most obvious legal questions. For example, same-sex and other non-traditional couples often face hostility within their own families. Unaccepting family members sometimes try to cut a partner out of discussions when it comes to making important decisions for someone who is incapacitated. Solidifying a partner’s role with a living will can eliminate this conflict.

LGBTQ families also face unique legal questions when it comes to children. Legally adopted children share the full rights of biological children when it comes to inheritance. However, parents in the LGBTQ community are less likely to be biological parents, and sometimes one parent is the biological or legal adoptive parent. This can create a gap in which the child and/or other parent do not share full familial rights. Fortunately, this exclusion can often be addressed with proper estate planning.

Some LGBTQ families prefer to keep family matters confidential. The probate process, however, is public. Estate planning can reduce or eliminate the need for assets to go through the probate process, which retains privacy.

Speak with an LGBTQ estate planning lawyer

At Pierro, Connor & Strauss, we offer personalized attention when it comes to preparing wills, trusts, and other estate planning solutions. We consider your goals, optimal tax situations, and other factors that may affect how your estate can be structured. We also offer experienced advice in specialty areas such as estate planning for art and asset protection planning.

It always pays to be proactive about estate planning, and this is doubly true for the LGBTQ community. Reach out to the attorneys at Pierro, Connor & Strauss in Albany to discuss your New York estate planning needs.

Life Happens…..Are You Prepared?

Contact us today for a FREE consultation and we’ll be happy to help take the worry out of tomorrow so you can live today.

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