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A huge myth about how trusts work

In our private property system, having your name on something is a mark of pride and accomplishment. Owning your own home and car are part of the classic American dream. These assets also make up part of the legacy you will pass on to your spouse or children in your estate plan.

You probably know that many New Yorkers include a trust in estate planning. They place valuable assets into the trust, which a trustee administers in the best interests of the benefactors. That can sound like you must give up control over your home and other valuables to the trust, which can sound scary. Nobody wants to be left with nothing just to take full advantage of trusts, which can speed up the probate process and help your estate avoid estate taxes.

Fortunately, it’s a myth that having a trust means you give your things to a trustee, move out of your home and stop drawing on your bank accounts. The names on the paperwork might change, but you and your spouse do not have to give up control over your assets outside of the terms agreed upon in the trust.

Customize your trust

These terms include choosing which trust to use. There are many options under New York law, including revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts and charitable trusts. Each type of trust has its own advantages and disadvantages. Choosing your trust means you get to pick the one best tailored to your particular goals and your family’s needs. You can also set up a guardianship for protection in case you ever become incapacitated.

Whichever trust you use, you generally get to retain the use and control over your assets during your lifetime. You might not notice any difference in your day-to-day life. Then, when you pass away, the trustee will maintain and disburse the assets according to your directions.

If you still have concerns, a discussion with an estate planning attorney should help assuage them.

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