Don’t Wait To Plan For The Future

“It’s never too early to plan ahead.” That’s the message Kara Lyons has for anyone thinking it might be time to set up a will or trust. Lyons is a third-generation attorney who concentrates her practice on wills, trusts, estate planning, and probate administration at Lyons & Lyons Attorneys at Law in West Chester. She’s a life-long resident of West Chester and loves helping local residents plan for their futures. We recently sat down with Lyons to learn more about the necessity of creating a will or trust and how it benefits the whole family.

What is the difference between a will and a trust?

The basic difference is how they are administered. A will goes through the probate process, which is the court that handles estates. With a will, you also name a guardian of your minor children and an executor, someone who will gather all your assets, pay all debts and distribute property according to the will. A will is a public document whereas a trust is a private document. With a trust, you’re essentially putting your assets into one entity to hold and administer your property, but you have direction and control over that property. You still have beneficiaries listed, but it doesn’t go through probate court. Instead, you name a trustee to manage and distribute the assets.

When is the best time to set up a will or a trust?

Do it sooner rather than later. Typically, people will wait until they’re married or have a few kids, but I always suggest starting to think about estate planning once you turn 18, the age of majority. Young adults, especially college students, seldom think about estate planning, but there are important documents to consider once you become an adult.

Can you give us a few examples?

A health care power of attorney is important for any adult because if something were to happen to them, the hospital has no obligation to contact the parents. It’s also smart to consider having a durable power of attorney for finances. God forbid something does happen to the young adult, a trusted person should be able to transact business on their behalf. Wills and trusts become important once you acquire assets, because if you pass away with assets and no will, the state has a plan on how to distribute your assets, which may or may not be your plan.

Once you have a will or trust, does it need to get updated?

Major life changes should always cause you to reassess. Some major life changes include marriage, death, birth of a child, starting a business, divorce, etc. If your financial circumstances change dramatically, you’ll want to reassess your plans. Your kids’ guardians may change over time as well. Let’s say your parents were their named guardians and pass away or become incapable of being their guardians. You would need to update your documents.

How long does it take to set up?

On average, from start to finish, it takes a few weeks to have an initial meeting to gather the information, draft and review the documents, then finalize and execute the documents. Obviously, if you have a more complicated estate, it will take a little longer. I have people come in all the time who walk out and ask themselves, “Why did I wait so long?” It’s like a weight off their shoulders. They say they’ve been thinking about doing this for years, but thought the process would be a lot more harrowing than it actually is. If anything, having your estate planning documents in place gives you peace of mind.

Why do you think people put this off?

People don’t like to talk about estate planning because it involves talking about their assets and coming to grips with their own mortality—two things people don’t like to do. When children come into the picture, it usually gives people a little bit more pressure to make a plan. Do it sooner rather than later because tomorrow is never promised. You might be young, healthy and vibrant, but so many things can happen.

Lyons recommends anyone who is thinking it’s time to set up a will or a trust to give her a call (513.777.2222).

“I like being able to help people. It sounds corny, but it’s true. I have people coming to me from all types of situations,” Lyons says. “I love that when people leave they know they don’t have to worry about it anymore.”