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A current trend in estate planning is to use Will Substitutes – devices that act like Wills, but do not need to follow the strict requirements of Wills law, such as the signature or witness requirements. Common Will Substitutes include joint checking accounts, insurance policies, and inter vivos trusts.
Many people turn to Will Substitutes for a variety of reasons. First, you can retain some control over the property while insuring that it will go to a particular person at your death. For example, you can deposit or withdraw money from a joint checking account that is still “co-owned” by another person. Or, you can set yourself up as the beneficiary of a trust while you live, making sure you get the income during your life, while at the same time making sure the property goes to your children. Second, many people use Will Substitutes as a way of avoiding estate taxes at death. Third, by using Will Substitutes you can insure that the disposition of your property stands even if your Will is invalidated, and you get the pleasure of making your gifts during your lifetime instead of at death.
Modern estate planning reaches far beyond executing a valid Will. By exploring the different available options you can establish an estate plan that starts now, instead of after you are already gone.
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