Both wills and trusts are important estate planning documents that can be used to govern what happens to your property after your death. Each comes with distinct advantages and disadvantages. It is best to speak to a qualified estate planning attorney who can help you design a comprehensive estate plan—which may include one or both documents—based on your unique situation.
What Are the Main Differences Between Wills and Trusts?
Wills and trusts are both legal documents that allow you to dictate what will happen to your property after you have died. However, there are significant differences.
For example, wills and trusts may begin to take effect at different times. A will has no legal effect until the person who created it has died. A trust, on the other hand, may have immediate legal significance depending on the type of trust used. In some cases, trusts can allow you to protect or begin distributing your assets even during your lifetime.
Wills and trusts also differ in the level of privacy they afford. A will must be filed in probate court, which means it becomes part of the public record. This means that anyone, including those not named in the will, has the right to see it. A trust, however, is private. Generally, no one other than those named in the trust will be able to see the trust document.
Wills and trusts also allow you to distribute your assets in different ways. All assets controlled by a will must pass through probate before your beneficiaries receive them, which would typically happen in the months following your death. However, probate can be an expensive and lengthy process. This is one of the reasons many people, with the help of their attorneys, choose to use trusts to distribute most of their assets. Assets in a trust do not have to go through probate, and they can be distributed on a specific schedule according to your wishes.
Why Might I Need Both?
There are several reasons your attorney may recommend that you have both a will and a trust in place. For example, if you have minor children, a will allows you to nominate guardians for them in the event of your death. Yet, even in that scenario, a trust may still be the preferable way to pass on your assets.
Using both also offers additional security when you want to make sure your wishes are carried out. If for some reason, one is called into question, the other can serve as a backup. Additionally, lawyers sometimes use what is called a “pour-over will” so that any assets left out of a trust will still be distributed according to a client’s wishes.
Contact a Barrington Estate Planning Attorney
The world of estate planning can be complicated and confusing. Fortunately, there is help. The experienced attorneys at [[title]] are well-versed in creating custom estate plans based on your individual needs, and we are available to guide you through the entire process. Begin by contacting a Barrington estate planning attorney today. Call [[phone]] to schedule an affordable and confidential consultation.