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There are many situations in which a trust is useful.   For example, if you wish to avoid probate, a trust is very effective.  This is especially true if you own property in two different states.

Probate is the process to ensure that property owned by a deceased person can be properly conveyed to someone else.  But probate in Idaho can’t address a condo or cabin located in another state.  Families who own a home here, and a second home in Arizona, may want to put both properties into a trust and avoid paying two attorneys in two different states for probate.

Some people also favor the privacy that a trust can provide.  When the estate of someone with a Will goes through the probate process, the personal representative (sometimes referred to as the executor) must compile an inventory of the deceased person’s assets and file the Will, and a notice that inventory is available for viewing. Certain “interested parties” have a right to review the inventory, even if they won’t be receiving property.

On the other hand, a trust does not have to be filed with the Court, and only the actual beneficiaries of a trust must be informed of the trust and their rights.  Others do not have a right to be involved.

While these are good reasons to consider a trust, a properly drawn trust actually provides many more advantages.  As I have previously described, a trust functions much like a wagon in that it allows you an effective method to hold your assets and control how they are used.   Specifically, it allows you to maintain a significant level of control over the use of your assets even after you become incapacitated or pass away.  A Will allows you only to state who receives your things after you pass away.

That flexibility and control can be a significant advantage depending on the risks to your estate and the issues you wish to address. More on this in future columns.

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