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Estate Planning

Rhode Island Attorneys Skilled in Drafting Wills and Trusts

After you pass away, your property will be distributed either according to intestacy laws or according to your wishes. The probate process is the legal procedure by which assets are transferred after you die, but this process can be time-consuming and expensive. Consulting an experienced Rhode Island estate planning lawyer is important to educate you about your options so you can make an informed choice about an estate plan that is best for you and your loved ones. Choosing the right plan will ensure that your property is distributed according to your wishes and avoiding the probate process if possible. At Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC, we will provide you with a comprehensive analysis of your assets and recommend an estate plan that suits your family’s needs. We will advise you on the best methods to avoid the lengthy, costly probate process and to avoid estate taxes to preserve your family’s wealth and assets. We represent people throughout Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, and we can also guide clients through a divorce, a real estate dispute, a criminal case, or another legal matter.

The Importance of Estate Planning Instruments

Probate is the legal procedure whereby property is transferred upon the property owner's death. During this process, the property is gathered into an estate, taxes as well as debts and other liabilities are paid, and anything that is left over is distributed to the decedent's heirs. If you pass away with a valid will, the estate will be distributed according to the will's terms.

However, any assets that are not addressed in a valid will must be distributed according to the rules of Rhode Island intestate succession. When there are no surviving descendants, a surviving spouse can petition to inherit up to $75,000 of the real estate or receive a life estate. The spouse can also inherit $50,000 of personal property and half of any remaining personal property. When the decedent has descendants, the surviving spouse gets a life estate in the real estate and inherits half of the personal property.

To make different arrangements, it is important to create a valid last Will and Testament with the assistance of a knowledgeable estate planning attorney in Rhode Island. This document will direct assets to be distributed according to your wishes. The document should also name a person known as an executor who is responsible for administering the estate. The executor will be responsible for ensuring that distributions occur as described in the will. When you have children, you may want to appoint a guardian for your children in the will.

Certain types of assets do not pass through probate but instead pass automatically to beneficiaries upon a decedent's death. These include life insurance proceeds, living trusts, payable-on-death bank accounts, jointly owned property, and retirement accounts. Transferring these assets outside the probate process can save an estate much time and expense and also help loved ones avoid any sort of hassle.

Our Rhode Island estate planning attorneys are familiar with other ways for property to be passed on without going through the probate system when there is no automatic transfer. Holding property jointly can result in the property passing automatically to the other joint owner. Creating a revocable living trust can also dispose of property outside the probate process. Making gifts while they are still living is another way that some people avoid probate.

A trust is a detailed written instrument that describes the distribution of property upon death, or upon another event occurring. A trust can allow for a property owner to reduce their tax obligations, or it can provide particular arrangements for a spendthrift or disabled spendthrift child. A trust may also be appropriate if a couple has a child or children from a prior marriage.

When assets are put into a trust, they are removed from the probate estate. However, trusts are not appropriate or necessary in every case, and you should consult an attorney about whether a trust can be used effectively in connection with your property and plans.

Wills vs. Trusts: What’s the Difference?

Estate Planning is not a subject that is comfortable to discuss with your loved ones, but it is an absolute must in order to facilitate the preservation of your assets and to make certain the people that mean the most to you are taken care of upon you becoming incapacitated or your passing. Of equal importance as preserving your assets and looking out for your loved ones is engaging the right lawyer that will educate you about your options, so you can make an informed choice. The basics of that process is becoming familiar with the difference between Wills and Trusts, two of the most recognized terms when it comes to estate planning. But do you really know the difference? Below is a very brief definition of each term and after reading each, you will be able to discern the difference between the two.

Wills

A Will is a legal document that provides for named beneficiaries that you chose, that will inherit your property upon your demise. In addition, the Will provides for the appointment of an individual to ensure that the mandates of the Will are carried out. The enforcement and validity of the Will becomes effective only upon your death and only covers property that is owned solely by you or jointly with another as tenants in common. The Will does not affect any of your assets that are owned as jointly with rights of survivorship, by the entirety or assets held in a Trust. In a Will you have the ability to appoint a guardian for your minor children, care for pets and provide a directive concerning your remains. Although creating a Will is faster and less expensive than a Trust, the benefits of a Trust are greatly realized in avoiding your Will from being open to inspection by the public and made part of a public record, through the expensive and time-consuming probate process.

Trusts

Trusts are more complicated and can be very complex, but very briefly, a Trust can hold title to a variety of assets – stocks, life insurance policies, real property, cash, etc. The Trust is managed by you or an individual or company you appoint. Unlike a Will, a Trust becomes effective immediately allowing the Trust to be used for disability planning as well as estate planning. A significant advantage of a Trust is that you prevent your family from having to deal with the costly lengthy public probate process. Do you really want the public to know what you were worth and who received your assets? Also, of significance is the ability to prevent the distribution of Trust property to minor children until an appropriate age, something a Will cannot accomplish. Want to keep your wealth in the family and prevent it from falling into the hands of an in-law? A Trust provides that protection. To summarize, a Trust will allow your loved ones to avoid probate thus preventing your financial and family matters from becoming public record, a Trust allows you to plan in the event you become incapacitated, so you can control the destiny of your assets during incapacitation and after you have passed.

Get Advice from an Estate Planning Lawyer in Rhode Island

If you are trying to assure a stable future for your loved ones, it is important to consult an experienced lawyer. At Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC, we understand the high stakes of estate planning decisions. We maintain close and trusting relationships with our clients. Our firm represents people in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts from offices in West Warwick, South Kingstown, and Hartford. Call us at 401-300-4055 or complete our online form. We are also available if you need a real estate attorney or representation in family law, personal injury, or criminal matters.

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