Garton & Harris

Sharing estates through trusts as well as wills

It is the desire of most people to pass along their personal wealth, whatever it may amount to, to their heirs after they are deceased. In British Columbia, as in most places, wills are the most common method for doing so. However, more and more men and women are taking a closer look at trusts as a way to share the fruits of their labours with their families before they die.

Once upon a time, a trust was viewed as a tool for the very wealthy to control the distribution of their money to assorted heirs. That is no longer the case; anyone with a reasonable amount of money, or other valued assets, can reap the benefits of establishing a trust. The main reason for doing so is to be certain of exactly where one's money is going and for what it is being used.

For many, one of the best aspects of a trust is having the opportunity to see their heirs receive and enjoy their gifts.  While a trust can be set to pay out after the settlor (the person establishing the trust) dies, they can also be used to distribute funds before that day comes. Furthermore, the exact purpose for the gift can be specified. For example, a trust can be used to pay tuition fees for a grandchild, with instructions given to only allow payments when fees are due.

Another appealing feature of a trust is the ability to avoid probate tax if the settlor dies before the trust is fully paid out. In some cases, this may save the beneficiary a lot of money. Not that money is the only thing that can be left in trust; a cottage is an excellent example of a non-monetary asset that may be best handled in this manner. The trust can specify exactly how the asset is to be shared, and can even be set up to pay associated taxes and fees.

The advantages and versatility of trusts makes them worth considering for many people. To be certain what makes sense for a particular situation, however, it may be best to speak with a lawyer about estate planning in British Columbia. His or her experience with estate law can help simplify the process of writing wills, trusts and other important directives.

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