Trust vs Will

Understanding the Differences and Choosing the Right Estate Planning Documents

When it comes to estate planning, two primary tools are commonly used to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes: trusts and wills.

Both have their own unique advantages and purposes, and choosing the right one depends on your specific circumstances, goals, and needs. We will explore the key differences between trusts and wills, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and how to determine which option is best for you and your family members.

What is a Will?

A will, also known as a Last Will and Testament, is a legal document that outlines how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. It allows you to designate beneficiaries for your property, name guardians for your minor children, and appoint an executor to manage your estate.

Key Features of a Will

Distribution of Assets

A will specifies who will receive your assets, including real estate, personal property, and financial accounts.

Appointment of Guardians

If you have minor children, a will allows you to name a guardian to care for them if you pass away.

Executor Designation

You can appoint an executor to administer your estate, ensuring that your wishes are carried out.

Probate Process

A will must go through probate, a court-supervised process that validates the will and oversees the distribution of assets.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal arrangement where a trustee holds and manages assets on behalf of beneficiaries. There are several types of trusts, but the most common for estate planning purposes are revocable living trusts and irrevocable trusts. Families often ask us - is a trust better than a will? Well, it depends. Let's first go over what makes a trust unique and how they can be beneficial!

Key Features of a Trust

Management of Assets

A trust allows you to transfer assets into the trust, where they are managed by a trustee.

Avoidance of Probate

Assets held in a trust do not go through probate, allowing for a quicker and more private distribution to beneficiaries.

Continued Control

With a revocable living trust, you retain control over the assets and can modify or revoke the trust during your lifetime.

Protection from Creditors

Certain types of trusts, such as irrevocable trusts, can provide protection from creditors and legal claims.

Differences Between a Trust and a Will

While both trusts and wills serve the purpose of distributing your assets, they do so in different ways and offer distinct benefits. Here are some key differences:

Probate Process

Wills: Wills must go through probate, which can be a lengthy, costly, and public process. During probate, the court validates the will, pays off any debts and taxes, and distributes the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.

Trusts: Trusts avoid probate because the assets are already legally owned by the trust. This allows for a faster, more private distribution of assets without court intervention.


Wills: Because wills go through probate, they become public record. This means that anyone can access information about your assets and how they are to be distributed.

Trusts: Trusts remain private, as they are not subject to probate. The terms of the trust and the details of asset distribution are not made public.

Control and Flexibility

Wills: A will only takes effect after your death, and it cannot provide for the management of your assets if you become incapacitated.

Trusts: A revocable living trust allows you to manage your assets during your lifetime and provides for their management if you become incapacitated. You can also modify or revoke the trust as your circumstances change.


Wills: A will is the only document that allows you to name a guardian for your minor children.

Trusts: While a trust can provide for the financial needs of your children, it cannot designate a guardian. This must be done in a will.

Federal Estate Taxes

Wills: A will does not offer any tax benefits on its own. However, certain estate planning strategies, such as the inclusion of tax-saving provisions, can be implemented within the will.

Trusts: Certain types of trusts, such as irrevocable trusts, can provide tax benefits by removing assets from your taxable estate.

Which One Do I Choose?

Estate planning is a critical process that requires careful consideration and planning. Understanding the differences between wills and trusts, as well as their respective advantages and disadvantages, is essential in making informed decisions about your estate. Whether you choose a trust, a will, or a combination of both, the goal is to create an estate plan that reflects your wishes, protects your assets, and provides for your loved ones. An experienced estate planning attorney has the task of working with you to determine who needs a trust instead of a will, when a will accomplishes everything needed, and can walk you through the ever popular topic of a will versus trust.

​Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney can help you navigate the complexities of estate planning and ensure that your plan is tailored to your specific circumstances and goals. With the right tools and guidance, you can achieve peace of mind knowing that your legacy will be preserved and your loved ones will be cared for.

Schedule your free discovery call today.

Get peace of mind knowing that your family is taken care of and has a plan in place for when you are gone.

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