The pros and cons of joint tenancies and trusts

Some people who are creating an estate plan in Georgia might wonder whether they can pass assets down to their heirs while avoiding the delays of probate. This can be done with either a joint tenancy or a trust.

A joint tenancy is less expensive and easier to set up than a trust. However, it does have some disadvantages. In essence, a joint tenancy basically means that one person owns the asset along with another individual. For example, this might be a bank account. One disadvantage is that it means that both people have access to the account. Therefore, a beneficiary who is not trustworthy might take all the money out of the account. Even if the beneficiary is very responsible, in the event of a divorce, insolvent credit or bankruptcy, the money in the account could go to an ex-spouse or creditors.

A living trust would protect against these possibilities. Like a joint tenancy, it would ensure that the account goes straight to the beneficiary instead of having to go through probate. However, setting up a living trust is more expensive than creating a joint tenancy.

There may be other advantages to creating a trust. For example, a person can set it up so that distributions only occur when the beneficiary reaches certain milestones, such as graduating from college or getting married. The creator also has the option of having distributions be made at the discretion of the trustee. A trust could be set up to benefit a charity or for many other uses. People should also be aware that there might be other documents involved in an estate plan. For example, a beneficiary designation for a retirement account or a life insurance policy overrides any instructions in a will or trust. It is best to review an estate plan periodically to ensure that it stays current.

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