Trusts vs Wills
In many respects, a Last Will & Testament and a Revocable Living Trust are similar. Both documents allow their creator to indicate how an estate is to be distributed. Both can be amended or revoked any time prior to the passing of the creator. And, both become irrevocable upon death. There are a few significant differences, however.
Probate is a process in which a Will is validated by the court, often requiring the assistance of an attorney. As such, with court fees and attorney fees, the process can become fairly expensive. Probate also requires that creditors be notified and provided an opportunity to make a claim against the decedent. This may make the probate process lengthy and therefore, require a delay in the distribution of estate assets. Finally, when a probate matter is filed in court, the Will becomes a public document, thus allowing others the opportunity to view the Will’s provisions.
A properly funded Trust can avoid the probate process. Because estate assets are retitled in the name of the Trust, Successor Trustees can typically begin administering the estate almost immediately. Although creditors and final expenses must still be satisfied, the process is usually quicker, less costly, and more private.
Peace of Mind
Perhaps an overlooked benefit of Trusts is the added peace of mind for both the creators of a Trust and those who are left behind. Following the death of a loved one, there is typically a period of grief and confusion. A drawn out and expensive probate can often create additional discomfort for those whose emotions are already tender. A properly drafted Trust may help ease the frustrations and hurt when administering an estate.
Despite their differences, both Trusts and Wills may provide an effective means for distributing the assets of one who has passed away. Because of these differences, and due to the varying circumstances and needs of each individual or family, it is wise to consult with an estate planning attorney to determine which instrument best fulfills your intentions.