It’s flattering to have fans, but it can be frustrating when they watch everything you do. It’s not just the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous that interests people; fandom continues after death. A recent example is Hugh Hefner. The Playboy founder passed away at the age of 91, and now people are asking what will become of his estate.

The more complicated an estate becomes, the more detailed the estate plan should be. While a will is a useful tool for basic assets, it’s subject to probate. Probate is costly, time consuming, and subject to disputes. Also significant: anything that goes through probate is accessible to the public.

The trust advantage

Trusts allow complex assets to change to hands efficiently, without touching probate or public record. They keep ownership and assets private while granting flexible, personal control over the estate. While there are many different trust structures, the fundamental concept is that the trust controls property through an appointed trustee. Upon death, the trust then transfers ownership of property to beneficiaries, based on the terms that you define.

With complex property, there are several advantages to a trust over a will:

  • Trusts are private.
  • Trusts are harder to contest.
  • Trusts allow faster transfer of ownership.
  • Trusts allow for detailed distribution of assets, which may be essential for complex property.

Avoiding probate

Even if the deceased left a will in place, probate will take a long, thorough review of any property before it changes hands. The more complex your estate, the longer probate will take. A longer timeframe brings added concerns: higher administrative cost, more likelihood for dispute, and any logistical challenges that come when property is managed by interim owners. By avoiding probate, a trust increases privacy and reduces the administrative logjam.

Trusts are complicated, but fit to individual needs. It’s possible to limit inheritance to spendthrift heirs, define business plans following your death, or to leave special care instructions for family members with unique needs.

A trust protects your privacy and your loved ones, on terms you set. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you gain a better understanding of what type of trust is best for your personal assets.