If you are serious about avoiding probate costs and delays for your heirs and want to avoid conservatorship court proceedings if you become incapacitated, “The Complete Living Trust Kit and CD-ROM” by attorney Karen Ann Rolcik will show you how. This new book has superb explanations showing how homeowners can benefit their heirs by avoiding costly mistakes.

Everybody wants to leave the largest net estate for their heirs and/or charities. But this book shows property owners how to simplify their estates while also avoiding probate expenses. Rolcik, an attorney who specializes in estate planning, shares her practical advice and experiences so readers can apply her explanations to their situations.

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Rolcik emphasizes that the costs of distributing an estate through probate court typically are at least 3 percent of the estate’s net assets and can take a year or two after the decedent passes on. More important, the author explains the major probate drawbacks, such as making your will public knowledge and delaying asset distribution to heirs for many months.

Although Rolcik is a lawyer, she doesn’t write like one. Instead, she explains the pros and cons of living trusts in easy-to-understand terms, using her experiences to illustrate the topics discussed. For example, she advises husband and wife to each have a separate living trust, rather than a combined living trust, because after a spouse dies a combined living trust becomes irrevocable for the surviving spouse.

This is not an ordinary book about living-trust benefits. It explains much more, including how wealthy spouses can use family trusts to save on estate taxes. Whether you live in a common law or a community property law state, Rolcik emphasizes how living trusts make a loved one’s death easier to accept by avoiding often-emotional probate court proceedings.

In addition to explaining revocable-living-trust benefits for homeowners and those who own real estate in more than one state, the author shares her experiences with pour-over wills, living wills, durable powers of attorney for health care and financial matters, and other important ancillary documents.

Heavily emphasized is how to use living trusts to avoid court-appointed guardians or conservators when a person becomes temporarily or permanently incapacitated. This is an often-overlooked living-trust advantage, which Rolcik thoroughly explains, placing heavy attention on avoiding probate court interference because of heavy costs and delays.

Whether the reader prefers to use the computer CD-ROM to create a living trust or use the fill-in-the-blanks forms, understanding the living-trust benefits is simplified by the concise explanations. Readers who prefer to spend $1,000 or more having an estate planning attorney prepare a living trust will have major advantages by first reading this book and then asking intelligent questions.

Chapter topics include “Probate: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”; “Probate Alternatives and Beneficiary Designations: Sidestepping the Probate Process”; “Estate and Inheritance Taxes: Is Uncle Sam a Beneficiary of Your Estate?” “Living Trust Nuts and Bolts”; “Your Assets”; “Creating Your Living Trust: Putting It All into Action”; “Funding Your Living Trust: If You’ve Got It, Fund It”; “Estate Tax and Probate Savings of Living Trusts”; “Ancillary Documents to Avoid Living Probate”; and “Administration of Your Living Trust After Your Death.”

This ultra-complete book does an admirable job explaining why virtually every homeowner needs a living trust to save costs and delays as well as avoiding inconveniences for heirs. Without getting bogged down in legal terms, the author explains living-trust benefits so readers can easily understand them. On my scale of one to 10, this outstanding new book rates an off-the-chart 12.

“The Complete Living Trust Kit,” by attorney Karen Ann Rolcik (Sphinz-Sourcebooks Publishing Co., Naperville, Ill.); 2007, $34.95, 117 pages plus Appendix and CD-ROM Forms; available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries and www.Amazon.com.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

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