There are a lot of estate planning tools available to you. The following table summarizes the benefits provided by some of the more common estate planning techniques. Talk to your estate planning attorney for the details. (Note: For definitions of the estate planning tools compared in this table, i.e. "Pour-Over Will", scroll to the bottom of this page). For additional articles and resources, see Planning an Estate and Estate Planning Forms and Tools.
|Benefit of Planning Tool||No |
|Permits you to select thebeneficiaries of your estate||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Permits you to select theexecutor of your will||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Permits you to select thetrustees of your trust||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Permits you to select theguardians for your children||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Avoids the time-consumingand expensive probateprocess||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Timing of Distributions|
|Permits distribution ofassets to children other thansimply upon reaching theage of majority (Ex. 1/3 atage 25, 1/3 at age 30, 1/3 atage 35)||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Prevents conservatorship ofestate owner||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Protects assets fromcreditors||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Assists married couples inreducing estate taxes||No||No||Possibly, if properly designed to save estate taxes||No||Yes||Yes|
Allows the first spouse to die to name the ultimate beneficiaries of his/her estate while still permitting the surviving spouse to utilize the assets and while still deferring estate taxes
No Will means you have no will, and your estate passes to your heirs based on the laws of descent and distribution of your state.
Basic Will means you have a will that distributes everything to your spouse, if living, otherwise to your children when they reach the age of majority.
Pour-over Will means you have a will that distributes everything to a trust.
Living Trust means a trust designed to avoid probate and provide asset management. A basic living trust does not effectively use the $675,000 unified credits of both spouses. Remember, each person is entitled to have the first $675,000 of his or her estate pass to his or her heirs without estate taxes. This is referred to as the "unified credit." Because of this deficiency of a basic living trust, an AB Trust is often recommended instead to married couples with substantial assets.
AB Trust means a trust designed to make sure the $675,000 unified credit of each spouse is used to the full extent possible, while allowing the surviving spouse to have the use of the assets of the deceased spouse during the remainder of the surviving spouse's lifetime.
QTIP Trust means a trust designed to permit a spouse to transfer assets to his/her trust while still maintaining control over the ultimate disposition of those assets at the spouse's death. QTIP Trusts are particularly popular in situations where a person is married for a second time but has children from a first marriage for whom he/she wants to reserve assets.