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Living Trust Best, Estate Planner Says

October 02, 1994

Kathy M. Kristof's article on estate planning ("Live Well, Die Prepared," Sept. 18) was ambitious, comprehensive and an excellent primer for those first beginning to consider the issues involved in passing one's property to the next generation.

Speaking as an estate planner for the last 24 years, I would like to point out a few areas in which her vast canvas may still have provided an incomplete picture.

Although holographic, statutory and do-it-yourself wills can carry out your wishes, they all still must go through the probate process and have no effect until you die.

While it's true that joint tenancy and life insurance policies avoid probate, they provide no planning opportunities and can result in the property being left to unintended heirs.

As Ms. Kristof points out, the modest estate may "skirt" probate using several inexpensive means, making a living trust seem expensive by comparison. I can say, however, that probate fees for even a very modest estate are almost always double or triple the amount of an attorney's fee for drafting a living trust.

Finally, the most compelling reason to use a living trust is that it provides for you, your care and your property if you become disabled. No will, beneficiary designation or other means of holding or passing property gives this flexibility.

And more and more of us are living longer! For these (and many other) reasons, a living trust is the most important part of any well-done estate plan. The National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys emphasizes this approach, and so do I.



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