Property owners in South Carolina may want to consider preparing an estate plan if they do not have one already. An estate plan can include a will or a trust, both of which are used to pass assets and property on to beneficiaries. Trusts offer some benefits that wills do not. For instance, after someone passes away, that person’s will is filed publicly in probate court, and certain parties have an opportunity to challenge the will, including family members who were purposely excluded from the will.

Even if no one contests the will, the probate process can take at least several months to complete, during which time none of the assets can be distributed. Probate court also costs money.

In contrast to a will, living trusts do not go through probate. Assets in a living trust get distributed to beneficiaries by a trustee appointed by the trustor, who can continue to manage the assets if the trustor does not want them distributed right away. Trustors retain control of assets in a living trust while they are still alive, and there are ways to structure a trust so that a trustor can get tax benefits during his or her life. Unlike a living trust, a will does not become effective until after a person dies.

Living trusts do not need to be overseen by a court, and assets in a trust can go directly to a beneficiary, provided the beneficiary is not a minor. Individuals who own property or other assets and who want to learn more about the benefits of a living trust may want to consult with an estate planning attorney.