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Should You Have A Will Or A Living Trust?

Should You Have A Will Or A Living Trust?

Estate planning can be confusing. You have a multitude of options for how your assets should be handled in the event of your death. While a will is a route most people take for directing their assets after death, there are times where having a living trust is more beneficial.

What is a Will?

A will is a legal document. It contains a plan regarding the distribution of your assets should you pass away. Essentially, it allows you to have some final input into how your estate should be managed, even if you cannot make the said changes yourself.

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Your will includes a designated executor. An executor is a person you select to help distribute your assets as set forth in your will. The executor has no say in regards to the management of your assets until your death. Upon your death, your estate goes through probate. During these court proceedings, your assets are distributed according to the executor’s instructions as the representative of your will.

What is a Living Trust?

A living trust is also a legal document that places all of your assets into a trust. The trust functions, with you designated as the trustee, until your death or a point where you become mentally incapacitated.

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Prior to your death, you have full rights to manage the assets held in the trust as you see fit, conversely you are not the legal owner of the items. Instead, the trust is the legal owner. You simply maintain the legal right to manage the assets that the trust owns. Instead of designating an executor to manage the distribution of your assets, you select a successor trustee to assume control of the trust should you no longer be able to manage the assets.

Which is Right for You?

To help you decide which option is right for you, there are a few considerations that need to be made. According to Steve Bliss, a probate and estate planning attorney, one benefit of using a living will is it can keep everything out of Probate Court.

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Ordinarily, your trustee successor is allowed to take immediate control of the trust should you become incapacitated, or if you pass away. This allows assets to be distributed more quickly, as court proceedings are not necessary. Nevertheless, a living trust can also help you maintain a level of privacy. As part of probate proceedings, your will is submitted to the court to open probate. At that point, your will becomes public record. This means that it can be read by anyone who requests it, allowing them to verify what you left and to whom you left it. Trust documents can only be viewed by beneficiaries or heirs, depending on the laws governing the process in each state. Accordingly, the only way the information becomes public record is if a lawsuit is filed regarding the document’s validity.

While a will only takes effect upon your death, a living trust can be enacted should you become incapable of managing the trust. Notwithstanding, this can include instances of mental illness, as well as medical conditions that render you unable to manage the assets, such as a prolonged coma. While the assets within the trust would not be distributed until your actual death, the successor trustee can take over the management of the assets immediately.

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Does Having a Living Trust Mean You Don’t Need a Will?

Whether you would need a will and a living trust depends on a few variables. For example, if you own other assets that are not put into the trust, you may want a will to manage how those are distributed upon your death.

Additionally, many states require that issues regarding the custody of any children to be addressed in a will, and not a living trust.

How to Decide

Consequently, the best option for you may be simple or you may find it challenging. When in doubt, seek out the assistance of a legal professional who specializes in the area of estate planning and probate.

Moreover, this can allow you to ask questions regarding your specific situation and determine which path works best to meet your needs.

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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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