Top 4 Reasons You Should Consider a Revocable Living Trust

A revocable living trust is an important estate planning tool that allows you to create clear instructions on how your property should be treated. We can explain estate planning basics, such as how this tool can be used as a part of your comprehensive estate plan.

Here are the reasons why you should consider a revocable living trust:

1. Avoid Probate in Virginia

Probate is a court-supervised process that formally qualifies a personal representative who helps wind up the estate of a person who is deceased.

There are many drawbacks of the probate process, including additional costs, taxes, fees, and delays. Many people are intimidated by this process. They also do not like the idea of their financial affairs being exposed to the public through a court administrative process that is triggered by the filing of a will with the probate court.

2. Plan for Incapacity

One of the most critical distinctions of a revocable trust vs will is that a will’s powers only exist if the person who prepared it passes away. It has no relevance if the person who writes it becomes incapacitated.

However, a trust allows for the immediate management of a person’s trust estate. The person who drafts the trust can manage his or her own trust assets anyway he or she wishes so long as this language is included in the trust.

If the person later becomes incapacitated, the successor trustee is authorized to take over the management of the trust assets and follow the instructions included in the trust in case the person passes away or becomes incapacitated. This provides for a seamless transition of trustee authority if the person who created the trust becomes incapacitated and needs someone to take over management of the trust assets.

3. Manage Out-of-State Property

If a Virginia resident owns real property somewhere outside of Virginia, the personal representative appointed to handle the Virginia probate case does not have legal authority with respect to that out-of-state property.

Instead, the personal representative is required to open an additional probate case in the state where the property is located. This ancillary probate proceeding adds additional costs, fees, and taxes.

4. Treat Your Provisions Like a Contract

A revocable living trust is a contract and governed by contract laws. A will is not a contract and is subject to the probate laws of the state where the person happened to be living at the time of his or her death. The probate laws of that other state may be significantly different than the state where the will was originally created.

For mobile clients who are considering moving to another state, a revocable living trust is usually a better bet because you can take it with you and be confident that your wishes will be carried out.

Contact an Experienced Trust and Estate Planning Lawyer

If you would like to create a trust that protects your family and your legacy, an attorney for wills and trusts at Golightly Mulligan & Morgan can help.

At Golightly Mulligan & Morgan, we listen carefully to our clients’ wishes and guide them through the laws that might impact these wishes. We take the information that we learn during confidential consultations to develop a customized estate plan geared to meet their needs.

In addition to preparing trusts, we also prepare wills and powers of attorney. We assist with all aspects of trust and estate planning and assist personal representatives with the probate process. If necessary, we can help clients have a guardian or conservator appointed if a loved one has become incapacitated.

If you would like more information on how to set up a living revocable trust, give us a call. We pride ourselves on making family estate planning approachable and understandable. We would love to have the opportunity to be of service to you and your family.

What is a Stepped Up Basis?

From an income tax perspective, we are often concerned with a person’s “basis” (or “cost basis”) in property. In basic terms, a person’s “basis” in property is the original cost of the property. When property is sold, income tax may be imposed on the difference between a person’s basis and the amount he or she received in the sale. This difference results in a gain (often called a “capital gain”) that may be subject to income tax. Therefore, generally speaking, the higher one’s cost basis in certain property, the lower one’s taxable gain will be, resulting in a lower income tax bill. So, high basis = good; low basis = bad.

When someone dies, the property that person leaves as a gift to others receives a “step up” in basis to the property’s fair market value on the date of death. For example, your favorite aunt just left you a house valued at $250,000 in her will. You learn that your aunt purchased this house in 1975 for $30,000. So, your aunt’s original cost basis in this house is $30,000. Well, because you received this property in your aunt’s will, you inherited the house, but (thankfully) you did not inherit her low basis. Your basis is “stepped up” to $250,000, which was the house’s fair market value at her death. Therefore, when you ultimately sell this house, you get to use your fresh, new basis of $250,000 to calculate your gain for income tax purposes, which can save a bundle on taxes. In fact, if you were to immediately sell this house for $250,000 to an eager buyer, your taxable gain would be a grand total of $0.00.

To really point up the significance of this “step up” in basis rule, imagine your favorite aunt had instead gifted this house to you one day before she died. Under this scenario, you would be forced to use your aunt’s original basis of $30,000 (called a “carry over” basis) when calculating gain on the sale. That same transaction above with our eager buyer has now resulted in a taxable gain of $220,000, all of which may be subject to income taxes. That’s a good day for the IRS, but not so much for you.

By definition, good planning requires that you plan. We can help. Let’s get started today – info@golightlylaw.com.