Contact Us for a Consultation 207-536-7147

Wills & Trusts

Helping You Plan for Your Family's Future

Most people have some understanding of what a will is, but many people do not fully understand why it is so important to have a will and/or a trust. It is important to have your estate planning in order to avoid any confusion or conflict over the disposition of your property and the administration of your estate, to ensure your minor children are left in the care of the right people, and to avoid potential tax liability that could diminish your loved ones' inheritance. Wills and trusts not only name and control who will receive your property and when; they also name a personal representative (a.k.a. executor) and/or a trustee who will be responsible for the maintenance and distribution of your property. A will and/or a trust can be used to limit when, how, and under what conditions your property is distributed, protect against tax liability, and more.

Choosing the Right Lawyer

At the Law Offices of Dylan Boyd, we will work closely with you to understand and achieve your estate planning goals. Contact us online or at (207) 536-7147 to learn more. 

Why Is It Important to Have a Will?

If someone dies without a will, this is known as dying "intestate." When a person dies intestate, the court, applying default state laws, will determine what happens to his or her property, who is in charge of his or her estate, and who will be guardian and trustee for their minor child(ren). This is why it is important to have a will; so you are in control of what happens to your family and your property after you pass.

Intestacy laws aim to pass property in a way that most people would want it to pass, which basically means any property is passed to immediate family members first, like children, then parents, siblings, grandparents, and so on. Intestacy laws only benefit you if you are satisfied with your property going to your immediate family members. 

However, if you have a troubled relationship with a family member, that may not be taken into consideration when the state steps in to disburse your assets. This could result in property--or even the custody of a minor child--passing to a relative whom you would not wish to be a beneficiary and/or guardian.

Another reason why it is important to have a will is the probate process. Property governed by intestacy law must pass through probate court, first, which can be expensive and time-consuming, leaving fewer benefits and more burdens for your loved ones. That said, a valid will also goes through probate to implement its provisions. The distinction is that a well-crafted last will and testament will go through probate rather quickly and without incident because it is harder for someone to challenge it. 

The Risks of “Do-It-Yourself” Wills in Maine

The expense and lack of control that comes from dying intestate, coupled with the perceived costs of hiring a lawyer to write a will, has led to a huge increase in the use of “do-it-yourself” wills. These forms, often found online for a fee, claim to be just as good as a traditional will prepared by an experienced attorney. 

These "one size fits all" documents, however, are not tailored to your unique circumstances. The process to create a DIY will is often accompanied by mistakes that open the door for challenges to the validity of a will upon your death. In fact, a court may dismiss the will completely.

If you decide to try a DIY will, it is a good idea, at least, to have an attorney review your last will and testament to make sure it is in compliance with state and federal laws.

Trusts as Part of an Estate Plan 

A trust is a way for a property owner to pass their assets to someone else to protect the assets and to avoid the probate process, if applicable. The trustor, also referred to as the settlor or trust maker, is the owner of the property and transfers it to the trustee. The trustee is the one who manages the property for the benefit of someone else, known as the beneficiary. The beneficiary is a person or entity for whom the trust was established. 

Trusts can have multiple trustors, trustees, and beneficiaries. Typically, a different person or entity serves each of these unique roles. Sometimes, though, the trustor can act as both the trustor and trustee. Likewise, in limited situations, the trustee can act as both the trustee and the beneficiary.

As part of an estate plan, a trust can be used to minimize estate taxes (for someone with high assets). But they offer other benefits, too. A trust can keep your assets private even when you die because a trust does not need to go through probate, and probate is a matter of public record. Also, a trust can protect assets from creditors or help beneficiaries who cannot manage money well.

Types of Trusts 

Specific types of trusts that people can use to protect their assets or pass their property on to someone else come in many forms. However, all of these trusts are either revocable or irrevocable. 

Revocable trusts, also known as living trusts, allow the trustor to continue to alter the property in the trust. They can even revoke the trust entirely. This gives the trustor far more control over their property. With that control, though, comes a downside: because the trustor still has access to the property in the trust they created, their creditors can often reach into the trust to satisfy debts owed to them.

Irrevocable trusts, on the other hand, cannot be changed or revoked once the trustor creates one. The trustor relinquishes control over the assets in the trust. Creditors cannot touch those assets once they are removed from the estate. Often, the trustor gains in terms of tax and probate avoidance.

Testamentary trusts are created by and contained in the terms of a person's will. The trust is not actually created until the person that created the will dies. Upon their death, the trust is created and funded. Typically, testamentary trusts are created for loved ones with special needs, minor children, and anyone else who inherits a large sum of money when the trust funds. 

Benefits of a Trust 

As mentioned, trusts are beneficial to avoid probate and taxes. By using a trust (in addition to a will or in lieu of a will), assets of a trust pass directly to the trust's beneficiary when the trustor dies. This process means the assets do not go into the trustor's estate. As a result, certain estate taxes do not apply to trusts. Using a trust to pass property to your heirs can have tax advantages and can avoid the potential legal complications of dividing your estate or a contested will.

A trust also gives you the ability to create instructions and conditions for asset distribution upon your death–giving you control over your assets even when you are not here. So, if you have a beneficiary whom you want to reach a certain age or finish college before disbursement of funds or if you want only a certain amount of funds disbursed at different times in the beneficiary's life, you get to decide those things. 

Contact an Estate Planning Lawyer

If you are considering the need for a will and/or a trust, contact the Law Offices of Dylan Boyd, in Portland, Maine. Our estate planning attorneys help clients create documents that they can rely on. Fill out our online form or call (207) 536-7147 to schedule a consultation.

Contact Us Today

We are committed to answering your questions about Criminal Defense & OUI, Family Law & Divorce, Wills & Planning, and Mediation issues in Maine. We will gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.