Understanding the Difference Between Wills & Trusts

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Understanding the Difference Between Wills & Trusts

estate planning law

Planning your estate is no easy task. There are many factors to consider when deciding what will happen to your possessions and assets after you die. Most importantly, how will your estate be managed in the event you pass away or you become incapacitated?

Preparing for the Future

The two most common choices for planning your estate are a will and a trust. Both wills and trusts are revocable documents which can be changed as long as you are alive and competent. That means, if you choose to leave something to a particular family member today, you are free to change your mind down the road. That is, as long as you have the mental capacity to do so.

If for some reason you are not physically fit to make important decisions for yourself, due to dementia or another medical condition, you cannot legally make any changes to your estate planning documents. It’s so important to keep this in mind because you never know what the future holds. That is why it’s a good idea to re-visit your estate planning documents periodically to make sure last wishes are always accurate and up to date.

While both of these can help ensure that your estate is distributed the way you want, the two are very different. It’s important to have a thorough understanding of the differences between a will and a trust before deciding which is right for your estate.

Features of a Will

If you choose to have a will, you need to appoint an administrator who will serve as the executor of your will after you pass. The executor will be responsible for overseeing the probate process and distribution of your possessions and assets. Probate is the process of distributing someone’s estate after their death. Part of the process includes proving the validity of the will in court. Depending on the size of your estate and number of beneficiaries, this can be a long process.

Features of a Trust

Where a will does not go into effect until you die, a trust can be used to distribute your assets while you’re still alive. This could be beneficial if you have dependents and you want to make sure they’re financially supported in the event you become medically incapacitated. For example, if you were to end up in a coma, you could have a guardian in place to temporarily care for your minor children and manage some or all of your assets.

Which is Right for You?

Wills and trusts both have their merits. Many people like the idea of a will because it can be created quickly and at a minimal cost. Others, however, enjoy the flexibility of a trust. The right choice depends on your personal circumstances. When the time comes to plan your estate, it’s in your best interest to contact an experienced estate planning attorney to weigh all possible factors and help you make the decision that’s right for you.