Probate is the legal process by which an Ohio court supervises the distribution of the estate of a deceased person. Typically, the court will appoint the executor named in the will to gather information about assets and liabilities, pay outstanding debts from the estate and distribute assets to beneficiaries. Probate requires time, attention and paperwork. However, a living trust may allow assets to pass to beneficiaries without going through the probate process.
It may take the court months to evaluate a will and distribute assets by its terms. By contrast, the assets held in a living trust may be distributed within only a few weeks. Additionally, trusts are private instruments, so the transfer of assets can be kept confidential. On the other hand, wills are public documents. While a large percentage of Americans have wills, only approximately 20 percent of people in the U.S. have living trusts.
Living trusts can be divided into two categories: revocable and irrevocable. A revocable trust allows the trustee to make changes after the trust has been established. With an irrevocable living trust, the trust maker gives up control of the assets. Each of the forms has advantages and disadvantages. For example, a revocable trust may be better for someone who wants to continue to control assets after they have been placed in the trust.
An irrevocable trust may provide certain tax advantages and often makes long-term sense financially. Generally speaking, assets held by an irrevocable living trust are not included as part of the estate. An attorney with experience in estate planning may be able to help individuals prepare for the distribution of their assets and provide answers regarding the probate process. An attorney may be able to draft and oversee the execution of a valid will or create the legal documents necessary to establish a living trust.