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You don't always need to avoid probate

Some people in Michigan believe that it is best to avoid the probate process if possible, and they do this by using living trusts instead of standard wills. These trusts can distribute assets while a person is still alive so that less must be done when he or she passes away.

In many ways, living trusts are very useful and very helpful. This is especially true when there are complications like disabilities or illness—or just the impact of natural aging. For example, a living trust can control assets to make sure that money is used properly. This can help to keep any sort of financial elder abuse from occurring.

That being said, you don't have to use these, and it's not always even the best option to skip probate. In some ways, the two things are actually quite similar.

When your property goes through the probate process, the job of administering the will is given to the person named as the executor of that will. When your property is instead put in a living trust, the property then just goes to the party in charge of the trust, who distributes it as dictated.

Again, there can be advantages to this, but you can see how similar both situations are.

The key is not to assume that either process is better all of the time. Instead, you need to look into both and determine which fits your situation the best. For some people, a living trust is the better option; for others, probate will be just fine. No two situations are identical, so it's very wise to do your research so that you can get everything in order in time.

Source: American Bar Association, "The Probate Process," accessed Oct. 09, 2015

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