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What are the benefits of a trust?

Many residents in California likely consider trusts and other estate documents to be legal vehicles for the rich. However, you don't have to be wealthy to benefit from estate planning and the use of documents such as trusts.

One benefit of a trust is that it can protect your heirs from lengthy probate battles. Probate can be a complex legal process that is both expensive and stressful. The emotional upheaval of the probate battle often comes when the heirs are already grieving for a loved one, so avoiding the process as much as possible is usually preferable.

Probate processes are also usually public or a matter of public record, which can cause problems for some families. Trusts can protect the privacy of your estate and heirs, which is important in controversial decisions. Trusts can protect heirs from public reports and questions or protect some heirs from others who might feel they didn't receive an ample enough portion of the estate.

Trusts can also help protect your legacy, especially if you want to leave charitable contributions to organizations. Trusts give you a way to control your wealth even after life. You can designate a trustee to handle how funds are distributed over the years. This is also a benefit when leaving assets to younger heirs or those who are not able to handle funds themselves.

You can even use trusts to protect your wealth during your own lifetime. You can set up a trust to protect assets from creditors or taxation, disbursing money to yourself as needed. With so many benefits and types of trusts available, it may be worth looking into your estate planning options now.

Source: Fidelity, "What Is a Trust?" accessed Mar. 13, 2015

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