If you die without any planning at all (aka "dying intestate") OR with just a will, the following process typically occurs:
Your estate (all your assets) that were not transferred by other means go through the probate process . During this time, the court decides WHEN distribution will take place and WHO will receive your assets based on your state's laws. Although you can dictate who gets what with a will, a will is designed to go to probate. Thus, you can still be charged huge court/legal fees.
If your total asset value is under your state’s exemption amount your family may be able to do a simplified version or skip probate. However, by the time you pass away, the value may have risen above that amount from inflation/appreciation.
Typically, a family member or a close friend (the “executor”) has to start and complete the probate process, or they usually hire an attorney (the “administrator”). In California and Florida an attorney is required by law. (More money lost.)
Even if you have a will, family members and friends can more easily challenge it causing your assets to be tied up even longer in court, while racking up more fees.
To add insult to injury, all the assets down to the dollar that end up in probate court are published in public records.
Below is an actual screenshot from probate public records of a woman's finances.
Intestacy laws for states vary, but it is widely known by even those who work in probate courts, that it’s often a waste of time, incredibly emotional, and can wipe out a substantial portion of your hard-earned wealth.
A revocable living trust is one of the most effective ways to avoid the probate process.
If something terrible happens to you that causes you to no longer be capable of making your own decisions (e.g.: a coma, stroke, illness) your life and finances are at the whim of hospital code, doctors, and/or court orders dictated by state and local laws.
Doctors may turn to close relatives for major decisions, and states may require a close relative is consulted, some states even allow “close friends”, however, if there is a dispute or you wanted someone else, your life may end up in the hands of the court.
Usually a guardian (or “conservator”) is appointed when a court decides you can’t make a decisions. Other issues crop up when medical bills come in and relatives / friends can’t access funds. Often times, even with a will, the court steps in to make final calls on decisions.
Legal bills, fees, and more may wrack up against your name and estate.
The court is handsy with your affairs to protect you from someone taking control and misusing your assets. However, the whole thing could have been avoided if they knew who you wanted in the first place via the combined power of a fully funded living trust coupled with health care advance directive.
Not to mention, when the court gets involved, all the meetings and records become public.
Protect your family and close friends from going through expensive, life-draining probate purgatory for a year or more just to get your money and possessions. [Revocable Living Trust]
Make sure only someone you trust and not a court system manages your money, what drugs you get, and how you are to live (or die) should you become incapacitated. [Health Care Advance Directive Durable Power of Attorney for Finances]
Gift it to your parent(s) or friends so they can create their own estate plan and their family (or you) can avoid probate. [Gift a Living Trust]
Make sure your kids are taken care of by someone you select, not the courts. [Guardianship via Pour-Over Will, Living Trust]
Historically, it’s been expensive to have a trust created.
Attorney fees can cost $2,075+.
People also get nervous when they think about their own death, but being that you’re here, you're one step closer to maintaing control so the court doesn't to it for you.
Perhaps you’ve witnessed or been involved firsthand in a probate or trust situation. Or, maybe you’ve heard stories. Whatever the reason, by doing this now, you’re taking the bull by the horns and will likely be very thanked by loved ones later on.
EasyTrust was developed to make it affordable, accessible, and as simple as possible to remove the burdens of estate planning.
This is a huge misconception that fuels the profit of probate court and probate lawyers.
Every state has different laws, but if your asset value (every single thing you own, such as your home, vehicles, jewelry, livestock, etc.) is over a certain amount (often times, very low), then you may have to go through the entire probate process. Below is a state lookup tool to see if your assets are at-risk for the probate process.
If your net worth / gross net worth is under this amount, then a will may suffice for now.
If your net worth is over that amount, estate planning today may be well worth your time.
The laws are always changing so we recommend you do your own research to confirm your state's most recent rules as this is not legal advice, but an idea of how different states decide what estates require the probate process.
An EasyTrust revocable living trust is a separate entity from yourself that you (the "Initial Trustee") control. They are one of the most popular and highest recommended estate planning tools used to avoid probate and ensure you have control.
They "live on" after you die to distribute your assets to your loved ones.
They are private (you keep them in your records and share with your beneficiaries (heirs)), under your control, and unlike wills, can help your loved ones avoid probate court entirely, including costly fees and months to years of waiting time.
Most who have gone through thorough research of estate planning come to the conclusion that a living trust is the best route in the long run.
A revocable living trust is a separate entity from yourself that is controlled by you (we name you the "Initial Trustee").
The two key elements are: Creating it and “Funding” it.
Think of it like a safe deposit box. You own the safety box (the living trust), and fill it with your personal assets (by naming them in the document).
You control everything about it and everything in it.
You can fill it with more items or remove items from it.
Any big-ticket assets with title documentation (e.g.: the deed paper that says who owns your house) should be retitled from your name to your trust's name. (Similar to if you own a business and your business "owns" the property but you own the business.)
From a control, management, and ownership-perspective, since you are the grantor (creator) and trustee (person in charge), the way you do things today with your assets under a trust title does not change.
And, like a safe deposit box, when you die, it "lives on" for the purpose of distributing your items of value, thus avoiding probate court.
So, upon your passing, instead of courts deciding how your assets are managed or letting things get figured out in court, your living trust enables your Successor Trustee (someone you select) to distribute the assets to loved ones as you directed.
Wills and Trusts are both estate planning documents used to pass assets on to beneficiaries at death. At a high level, the two big differences revolve around probate and control.
1) Probate: A living trust can be used to avoid probate entirely, whereas a will cannot. When you die, assets titled as owned by you where there is no named beneficiary (and not jointly owned) are no longer accessible once you’re dead. That means your beneficiary can’t just waltz on over to the property bank and ask for keys / funds without petitioning the court and waiting for approval. Even if it’s your mom! Or, child! A trust enables the designated successor immediate access.
2) Who holds title: Trusts are built to hold title so you maintain control even after you die, whereas will are not.
This control is automatic for personal belongings without title documents once they are named. For a trust to be effective for larger assets, those assets are transfered from your name to your trust's name (or the trust should be named the beneficiary) . This is called funding the trust.
Doing this ensures even when you die, a living entity, your living trust, controls them, so the assets can bypass probate.
While you live, your control remains the same, only the name on the title changes.
A will does not involve a layer of protection via transferring assets out of your name, so upon death, probate is triggered because the property is owned by a deceased person. With probate comes the subsequent headaches.
We walk you through how to do this at the end.
Probate court is a legal process that handles assets and debts when someone dies with a will or dies intestate (without a will / trust). The probate process includes:
Most estates are not complex and don’t require complex legal research nor are there substantial creditor claims.
There are ways to simplify it via use of affidavits or simplified probate for small estates, however, it still takes time and can cost money.
The thing that really gets people is when they realize that all of this could have be avoided with a bit of planning ahead of time!
If you have an effective trust funded with your big ticket assets, your assets do not go to probate court because the trust is a “living” entity even though you are dead. Legacy Revocable living trusts are authored to distribute your assets and bypass probate.
Wills, although pitched as easy to create, go through probate court, along with all your assets they name. You can bypass this by different means (joint tenancy (simply postpones probate unless both die at the same time), PODs, and listing beneficiaries), but a living trust, by its nature is devised to avoid probate entirely.
Probate involves hefty fees, publicly releasing your financial information, and time.
It’s also a heck of a lot easier for an individual to challenge a will when you pass away compared to a trust. This can cause even more time, often multiple years, which can drain your estate.
Oftentimes, people will start with a will, then do more research, and realize that a trust is the way to go depending on their net worth / circumstances.
Each state varies wildly when it comes to probate fees.
A good rule of thumb is between 3% - 7% of your estate’s gross value (including debt against your house!).
Say you have a house worth 300,000, even if most of that is debt, that’s anywhere between 9,000 to 21,000 in fees!
Or, 500,000 that’s 15,000 - 35,000 in fees!
It can be much higher, especially the more your estate is worth. Every asset you keep out of probate reduces your probate court fees.
You can save your loved ones thousands and tens of thousands of dollars (or hundreds of thousands depending on the size of your estate) by having a funded living trust.
When you are completed with the trust the final step is to "fund" it. This means, transfering your titled property (if any) to the trust.
We provide a walkthrough for next steps on how to fund your trust.
Each asset varies slightly.
For most people, this is their home or investment property (please check with your county to ensure there are no reprecussions as this varies by state).
Retirement accounts, IRAs, and more should NOT get transferred.
Personal property with no title documentation can also be handled directly by the trust directions.
When you create your trust, you are essentially making a "living" document that survives even after you pass away or become incapacitated.
Because you "funded" it with your property while you were among the concious / living, the living trust document now has the authority to distribute the assets since the property title documents say that the trust owns it.
During your lifetime, the trust names you as the Initial trustee, the controller of the trust and assets. But, when you pass away, it lives on to give it to your heirs.
"Funding" is a similar concept to creating a company or sole proprietorship. You want to ensure your company (in this case, your living trust) owns the property you want it to control. You completely own and control the company (trust) as the Director/CEO (the Initial Trustee). You transfer the title of the asset to the name of your company (trust) to ensure it is out of your name and can distribute funds/has access in your absence.
In other words, by transferring title to your trust and out of your full name (you still retain control), you’re ensuring your property is with a living entity (that you are the owner of) so when you die, no probate is triggered since the “owner” of it on title (your trust) never died.
It’s a one-time event for each asset that has a title. Typically, just the big-ticket items such as real estate and naming the trust as beneficiary of accounts (usually the easiest to change).
If you would like an expert to do it, we can help you with that (eg: deed creation for real estate). If you have any questions as well, we offer a non-legal online support channel.
If you are in the middle of a divorce, have family members that you anticipate fighting, have a net worth over $11 million (or $22 million if you're married), or want a customized trust, we recommend you speak with an attorney.
Easy Trust Maker is a platform for couples and individuals who want to make their own standard revocable living trust and estate plan.
We are not an attorney nor do we offer legal advice. We offer forms by our in-house attorney team and resources so you can create your own living trust, pour-over will, and other documentation at your own accord without the need for large legal fees.
We recommend working with an attorney if you have specific needs or a complex situation (e.g.: in the middle of a divorce, net worth over $11 million, etc.).
Yes! Revocable living trusts can be changed and altered to fit your needs as time goes on. For any reason.
We provide resources to help you do this.
Yes. You can revoke (end) your trust at any time, for any reason.
To do so, you simply sign a document revoking it. We recommend having that document notarized to confirm validity.
If you make a joint trust, either you or your spouse may revoke it using this method.
To amend it, that requires both spouses (to ensure one spouse doesn’t take advantage of the other).
A durable power of attorney for finance allows you to dictate who gets to make decisions for you and regarding your finances. It comes into play if you become mentally incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions.
If you don’t have this, the court will assign who will be in charge of your affairs based on state laws. With the aid of these documents, someone you trust can be assigned to handle your affairs, such as paying for bills, managing your investments, and/or dealing with medical care needs.
A health care advance directive grants a person you name to have access to your HIPAA records and greants the ability to make medical decisions on your behalf.
HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act. HIPAA was created by Congress to increase medical privacy for people as previously medical records were easy to access and could be used to exploited patients.
A health care advance directive is designed to guide your chosen agent and/or medical professionals on your health care preferences should you become incapacitated. By granting a trusted family member, friend, or primary caregiver permission to access your medical records and make decisions on your behalf, you can substantially improve how you’re taken care.
Our estate plan for you includes a health care advance directive.
Yes! We’re so confident you’ll love it, that we offer a 30-day money-back guarantee and let you try before you buy. We're one of the few in the industry to do this.