Estate planning is a complicated process and, in reality, having just a last will and testament in place can do more harm than good. You need to make sure your decisions will be carried out the way you want them to be at death but also during your lifetime, should you become incapacitated and unable to manage your own affairs. It is our firm belief that the estate planning tool that is most versatile and able to meet all of your needs is the trust agreement.

There are different types of trust agreements and you should work with your estate planning attorney to determine the trust that best fits your needs. Do you want to know why you need a trust agreement to protect you, your family and your legacy? In this article, we share our top four reasons why everyone needs to take the time to create a living trust.

1. A trust agreement can avoid probate.

What is probate? Probate is a legal process that proves a person’s estate to be valid after one’s death. The downside? It causes family members and beneficiaries to have to deal with the court system to validate, distribute and manage an estate. Your trust agreement can avoid the probate process since it has the authority to handle and distribute the property within it.

2. A trust agreement will ensure your assets are distributed the way you want them to be.

We all have different goals for our estates but frequently we see parents want to control the way their children inherit. There are numerous reasons for this including not yet being the age of majority, concern over spouses, worries over bankruptcies and the ability to protect a safety net for their children. If any of these goals sound appealing to you or you have similar goals in mind, then you can define how your assets will be managed through your trust agreement.

You could name a trustee to handle your assets for your minor, ensuring that the money is being used to cover things such as education and living expenses. Naming a trustee will allow your children to have access to your assets in a responsible manner.

3. A trust agreement protects your privacy.

Probate is a public process. The New York Surrogate’s Court defines who needs to be notified and how together with providing for specific heirs at law. With only a last will and testament or the lack of any estate planning, your estate will go through probate. This means your wishes, or lack of wishes, will become public record. A trust agreement ensures privacy for you, your family and your wishes.

4. A trust agreement is more difficult to contest than a will.

It is often common to have family members contest a will for many reasons. When a family member does not receive the inheritance he or she feels he or she is entitled to there may be claims that the estate planning documents were created under duress or that you, the creator, was not competent to create them. Not only is a trust agreement private, avoiding probate costs and deadlines and notice requirements, it can protect your estate from potential unnecessary challenges from unhappy third parties.

Is it time to create your trust agreement? Do you know the different types of trust agreements that may be beneficial to your unique family situation? Is it time to update your existing estate planning documents? Let us know so we can work with you to create the estate plan that will reach your goals. Call us (607) 962-6261 at or contact us through our website to schedule a meeting with Attorney Patrick Roth.