Wills and trusts are two of the most basic elements of any estate plan. However, while the creation of a will or trust is straightforward in theory, there are many nuances that you must consider; otherwise, the document may not have the intended effect. At Mills & Anderson Law Group, our knowledgeable Las Vegas wills & trusts attorneys have extensive experience helping our clients through the estate planning process. We are immediately available to answer your questions and begin creating a custom-tailored will or trust that accomplishes exactly what you need it to.
A last will and testament, more commonly referred to as a will, is the cornerstone of an estate plan. While most people associate a will with outlining how someone wants their property distributed upon their death, wills actually do quite a bit more than that. Through the creation of a will, you can:
- Decide who gets your property when you die;
- Identify a person to manage your estate;
- Select who will care for your minor children;
- Outline where your pets will live;
- Create a trust;
- Provide instructions for your digital assets, such as social media accounts and digital photos;
- Leave money to your favorite charitable causes; and
- Clarify funeral and burial instructions.
Of course, not everyone has the need to address each of these topics. This is why it’s important that you have a customized will tailored to your specific situation.
Nevada Will Requirements
The requirements for the creation of a will in Nevada are not overly complex. However, you must follow certain procedures, or a court may determine your will is invalid. The requirements of a Nevada will are:
- You must be at least 18 years old; and
- You must be of sound mind.
Most people have a printed copy of their will. If so, you must sign your will in front of two witnesses that do not stand to inherit any part of your estate.
Nevada permits electronic wills as long as they contain your electronic signature. Additionally, you must sign in front of two witnesses, a notary public, or the will must have some “authentication characteristic.”
What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Las Vegas?
If you die without a will, you are said to have died “intestate.” While the terminology isn’t important, the effect of dying without a will can be severe. If you don’t have a will in place when you die, the court will not know how you want your assets distributed. And for obvious reasons, courts cannot take the word of loved ones who stand to benefit from the court’s decision. Instead, if you die without a will, Nevada courts rely on a set of default rules called intestacy laws. The Nevada intestate laws provide a way for courts to distribute your assets among your living loved ones. However, the intestacy laws are rigid, meaning there is no room for variance.
Below are a few examples of how the intestacy laws might play out:
- You leave behind a spouse and two parents but no children: Half of your estate goes to your spouse, and a quarter goes to each of your parents.
- You leave behind a spouse and one or more siblings: Half of your estate goes to your spouse, and the other half is divided among your siblings in equal shares.
- You leave behind a surviving spouse and one child: Half of your estate goes to your spouse, and the other half goes to your child (regardless of who the child’s other parent is).
- You leave behind a surviving spouse and two children: One-third of your estate goes to your spouse, and two-thirds gets divided up between your children.
As you can see, the intestate laws are very specific and may not comport with your desires. Thus, if you are considering drafting a will, it is best to work with experienced Las Vegas wills lawyers. Our estate planning professionals can effectively guide you through the process, ensure that your will complies with state law, and ensure that your desires are clearly spelled out so there are no misunderstandings or feuds after you pass.
Trusts are another common estate planning tool that you can use to accomplish all types of goals. In essence, a trust is a three-part relationship between the person creating the trust (the grantor), the person administering the trust (the trustee), and the people for whom the trust was set up to benefit (the beneficiaries).
Revocable Versus Irrevocable Trusts
Trusts come in many types. However, all trusts are either revocable or irrevocable. Revocable trusts are more flexible in that they allow you to modify or even terminate the trust at any point during your life. However, the benefits of revocable trusts are limited. Irrevocable trusts are inflexible, and once you create an irrevocable trust, you cannot modify its terms unless you have the consent of the beneficiaries. However, irrevocable trusts have valuable benefits. They effectively remove trust assets from your estate, so they are not subject to estate tax and not countable for the purposes of a Medicaid application. Additionally, irrevocable trusts are typically outside the reach of creditors, which makes them a good choice for those looking to protect their assets from the threat of litigation.
What Can a Trust Do for You?
Trusts have many purposes, some of which are very specific. However, as a general rule, assets contained in a revocable trust do not need to go through probate. Probate is the legal process in which a court recognizes an individual’s death, appoints the personal representative named in the deceased’s will, and oversees the administration of the estate. Before a court allows your personal representative to distribute any estate assets to your beneficiaries, the personal representative must settle all estate debts and may need to file a tax return. By transferring assets into a revocable trust, they can transfer directly to the beneficiary without unnecessary delay.
Irrevocable trusts have a wider range of benefits. In large part, this is because once you transfer assets into an irrevocable trust, they are no longer a part of your estate. For example, an irrevocable trust can accomplish the following goals:
- Remove trust assets from the probate process;
- Protect trust assets from creditors;
- Reduce the taxable value of your estate;
- Remove life insurance proceeds from your estate; and
- Reduce your assets, so you can qualify for Medicaid.
Of course, these are just a few of the benefits of an irrevocable trust; there are many others depending on the situation. The Las Vegas trusts attorneys at Mills & Anderson Law Group can help you understand all the benefits a trust can provide to your family.
Specific Types of Trusts
The creation of a trust can help accomplish very specific goals that would otherwise be unattainable. For example, below are a few specific types of trusts and their benefits.
Special Needs Trust
A special needs trust is an irrevocable trust that allows you to provide ongoing support to a loved one with special needs without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits. Individuals with special needs often rely on Medicaid and Social Security benefits to help them cover their expenses. However, by inheriting a large sum of money, they may lose eligibility for these important benefits. The funds in a special needs trust are not countable for Social Security or Medicaid benefits. At the same time, a special needs trust permits the trustee to make distributions for certain “supplemental needs” from trust funds.
Miller trusts are commonly used to help those with excess income qualify for Medicaid benefits, usually in anticipation of the need for long-term care. A Miller Trust, also referred to as a qualified income trust, allows you to place assets into an irrevocable trust so that you can more easily qualify for Medicaid benefits. Miller Trusts must be irrevocable and must also meet additional criteria to be effective.
A spendthrift trust allows grantors to place all distribution decisions within the discretion of an independent trustee. In this way, spendthrift trusts help avoid a situation where the beneficiary squanders the trust assets, either because they are young, inexperienced with money, or suffering from a substance abuse disorder. Spendthrift trusts also prevent the beneficiary from selling or giving away their interest in the trust assets.
Consult with the Las Vegas Wills & Trusts Lawyers at Mills & Anderson Law Group
The creation of a trust or will is essential to an estate plan. These documents can provide your family with certainty, regardless of what the future holds. If you do not yet have a complete estate plan established, or have questions about an existing plan, reach out to Mills & Anderson Law Group for assistance. At Mills & Anderson Law Group, we have more than 40 years of combined experience creating customized estate planning solutions for our clients. We can meet with you to go over your objectives and quickly get started developing an effective estate plan that will provide you with peace of mind for years to come. To learn more and to schedule a no-obligation consultation, you can reach out to Mills & Anderson Law Group through our online contact form.