Wills, trusts, and special trusts

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:35 pm
When a person dies, the ownership of his or her property passes to other people. If the deceased person left a valid will, the will dictates who will get the property. In order for the heirs under the will to receive the property, however, a probate judge has to first determine that the will is valid, and then orders the assets to be distributed to the heirs. This typically takes six months to a year to complete, and it can even take longer. Persons wanting to avoid probate can do so by creating a living trust. Typically, people are their own trustees during their lifetime, but a successor trustee can be appointed to take over financial management in case the person were to suffer a debilitating illness, etc. . . Then, when the person dies, the trustee will distribute or hold the property according to their instructions. If you have a child or grandchild who is receiving SSI or other benefits, you may want to leave his or her inheritance in a 'Special Trust.' This is an arrangement that allows the trustee to temporarily use the funds in a way that will not destroy the receiver's eligibility for the benefit programs. This allows the trustee to raise the heir's quality of care from the base level of such benefit programs. Conversely, if you have a relative or friend who is leaving property to you when he or she dies, you may want to ask that person to leave it to you in a 'Special Needs' trust for the same reasons. There are many different types of wills, trusts, and special trusts, so consult an attorney for further information.

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