Living trusts, which are documents that let you direct how your property will pass after you die, can be controversial.
The AARP warns about living trusts, saying they are not the right estate planning tool for everyone. A properly created living trust can be helpful if you need help managing assets during a disability, if you have children or grandchildren with special needs, or you own real estate in more than one state. It's also one way to avoid going through probate.
If a living trust is something you need, it's best to consult an attorney. There can be scams associated with people selling living-trust kits charging a lot and convincing people who don't need them to create one.
David Woodburn, an attorney with Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs and the probate chair of the Akron Bar Association, said not everyone needs a living trust, but in many cases, it can make sense. He created a living trust for my husband and me to follow our wishes that our kids would not get their inheritance in one lump sum at age 21 if something were to happen to us, which is the Ohio law. In our living trust, we outlined a distribution for the kids until they are 30 years old. Woodburn said he would suggest a trust for couples with young children.
But trusts are far more complicated than putting together a will. And there are living trust sales people consumers need to beware of.
''If you're hearing you need it just to avoid probate [court], that's a warning,'' Woodburn said. That's an added bonus, but not the only reason someone should get a living trust.
— Betty Lin-Fisher