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Most people understand the basic purpose of a Will. It is the document that describes who will receive their assets when they die. A Will may be sufficient for the estate of many people. However, in many cases, a Will may not be sufficient to address specific needs or circumstances. A trust may be necessary.

To know if a Will is the appropriate document for you, it is important to understand what a Will cannot do. A Will does not allow you to control how your assets may be used after your passing. Also, a Will does not allow you to control how your assets are used while you are still alive, but incapacitated by a stroke, a fall, dementia, or other reasons. A trust is necessary to maintain that type of control.

So, what is a trust? A trust is like the wagon you pulled as a child. A wagon was an effective and convenient way to carry your things. Whether you were pulling the wagon, letting it sit (safely) while you did other things, or even letting someone else pull your wagon, the things in the wagon remained under your control because you still controlled how the wagon could be used.

Placing items in a trust is like placing them in a wagon. You maintain control over the items in the trust because you maintain control over the trust.

Furthering the wagon analogy, at your passing (or should you become incapacitated), the only thing that changes is that you are no longer there to pull the wagon. However, because your things stay safely in the wagon, the person you designated as your successor trustee picks up the wagon handle and continues pulling it — following the instructions you have left. Those instructions can be much more detailed than the instructions in a Will. In upcoming columns, I will give some specific examples how a trust can accomplish things a Will cannot.

Come to a free, no obligation presentation to find out how easy it is to determine the estate plan that is right for you.