Two of the most common estate planning vehicles available are wills and trusts. Your estate plan can include either or both. However, is one better than the other?
As is often the case when discussing legal topics like estate planning, the answer depends on your individual situation. Wills and trusts each have individual strengths and weaknesses. Neither is appropriate for every situation.
To help you make an informed decision, here are some common estate planning concerns and how wills and trusts address each.
If your estate planning goal is to help your loved ones avoid probate, a trust offers significant advantages over a will. A will is subject to probate. During the process, an interested party may challenge the will. Even if there is no challenge, the process can be both lengthy and expensive.
A trust is not subject to probate. Rather, the assets pass to your designated beneficiaries right away upon your death.
There is a greater upfront cost to establish a trust than a will. However, a will can end up costing more in the long run, in part because of probate.
A trust gives you more options for distributing your assets. You can set conditions as to when and how your beneficiaries receive their property and how they can use it.
For example, if you were to leave assets to a minor relative, you could stipulate that the funds are only available to pay for education or set up a timetable by which he or she would receive them. A will does not have this level of flexibility.
Generally speaking, a trust is more complex than a will. When you create a revocable trust, you can change or cancel it, but this can be a more difficult process than making changes to a will.
Despite their differences, both wills and trusts have a similar goal of expressing your wishes for your property and protecting your family and heirs from needless difficulties after your death.