Estate planning might seem overwhelming, but it’s a pivotal aspect of securing your assets and ensuring your loved ones are taken care of after your passing. Whether you’re considering a will, a trust, or both, understanding the nuances of these essential documents is the key to creating a comprehensive estate plan. In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences between wills vs trust, their unique benefits, and how they can work together to provide the best possible protection for your assets and loved ones.

Key Takeaways

  • Wills and trusts are both essential estate planning tools to provide direction for those close to you and ensure the distribution of assets in accordance with your wishes.
  • Trusts offer additional benefits such as greater control over assets, potential tax avoidance, and the ability to manage a taxable estate.
  • Estate planning is necessary for unmarried or LGBTQ+ couples so that their wishes will be respected upon passing.

Understanding Wills: A Key Estate Planning Document

A will is a legal document that outlines the distribution of your assets upon your passing and any decisions that require attention after death. Having a will provides direction for those close to you during a difficult period and ensures that your possessions and assets are distributed according to your wishes. Wills can distribute any assets that do not transfer automatically, such as trust property or retirement accounts, to designated beneficiaries.

The Probate Court’s Role in Executing a Will

The execution of a will heavily involves the probate court. This legal process oversees the settling of an estate after someone’s death, including:

  • Validating the will
  • Appointing a representative
  • Ensuring that the deceased person’s assets are distributed according to their wishes as stated in the will

The probate court validates the will by relying on the testimony of witnesses and ensuring it meets the necessary requirements, as documented in the public record.

How Wills Help Avoid Intestacy Laws

Wills are vital in avoiding intestacy laws, which dictate asset distribution in the absence of a will and often lead to undesirable outcomes. Intestacy laws are state-specific and generally prioritize close family members, such as spouses, children, and parents, in the allocation of assets.

A well-drafted will allows your assets to be distributed as per your preferences, bypassing the potential obstacles of intestacy laws.

Demystifying Trusts: More Than Just an Estate Planning Tool

Trusts, as flexible estate planning tools, transfer assets to a trustee for allocation. They offer numerous benefits, including greater control over assets, potentially circumventing estate tax, and managing the estate. Trusts are separate legal relationships established to guarantee that your assets are distributed to the designated beneficiaries according to your wishes.

Revocable vs Irrevocable Trusts

There are two types of living trusts: revocable and irrevocable. Revocable trusts can be altered during a person’s lifetime, while irrevocable trusts are typically permanent but may present tax advantages and asset protection advantages.

Changes are permissible with revocable trusts during the grantor’s life, in contrast to an irrevocable trust which provides less opportunity to modify, although some certain powers can be reserved.

Living Trusts: An Active Estate Planning Strategy

Living trusts, operational during the grantor’s lifetime, permit effective asset management and allocation. These trusts are established during the grantor’s lifetime, with assets transferred to a trust account for various financial objectives, such as:

  • Estate planning
  • Avoiding probate
  • Providing for minor children or beneficiaries with special needs
  • Managing assets for individuals who are incapacitated or unable to manage their own affairs

Unlike wills, living trusts help to avoid probate, as they are not subject to the probate process, which can be advantageous for privacy and efficiency.

Estate Taxes and Trusts: Can You Avoid Paying More?

Trusts may lower estate taxes, albeit only for estates of substantial net value. When considering whether a trust may be beneficial for tax purposes, it’s essential to evaluate the size of your estate and whether it exceeds the federal estate tax or applicable state exemption amount, as this will determine if you need to pay estate taxes.

When to Consider Both a Will and a Trust

Utilizing both wills and trusts ensures comprehensive estate planning, enabling control over:

  • asset distribution
  • adaptability
  • asset protection
  • estate tax planning
  • guardianship and asset management for minors

Using both estate planning tools ensures that you protect assets and distribute them according to your wishes, providing peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

Testamentary Trusts: When Wills Meet Trusts

Testamentary trusts are created by a will and activated after death, providing additional control over asset distribution. These trusts are often used to manage and disburse assets for minor children or other beneficiaries who may not be capable of managing their inheritance independently.

Testamentary trusts offer a unique solution for individuals looking to create a comprehensive estate plan that combines the benefits of both wills and trusts. There are some limitations, but offer benefits that a will alone cannot.

Protecting Your Minor Children: Wills vs Trusts

Both wills and trusts can be used to protect minor children. A will is essential for appointing guardians for minor children, ensuring that they are cared for according to your wishes. Trusts, on the other hand, can provide financial support for minor children and ensuring their needs are met in the manner you would have wanted if you were still here.

Employing both estate planning tools assures the welfare of your minor children in multiple facets and to make sure all angles are covered.

Navigating Complex Estates: When Trusts Prevail

For complex estates and when minor children are involved, trusts are more fitting as they offer heightened control, privacy, and protection against legal disputes. With a trust, you can appoint a trustee to manage and distribute assets according to your instructions, which is particularly beneficial for complex estates with multiple beneficiaries, diverse assets, or unique circumstances that require specialized management and protection.

Estate Planning Tools for Special Situations

Particular circumstances like philanthropy and caring for susceptible family members can be managed through distinct varieties of trusts. These trusts, also known as special purpose trusts, are established during the grantor’s lifetime to support charitable purposes or address particular family situations.

Charitable Giving Through Trusts

Charitable trusts enable tax-efficient donations while benefiting either the grantor or beneficiaries. By transferring ownership of assets to a charitable trust, you can support causes you are passionate about while also benefiting your beneficiaries and receiving tax advantages.

Special Needs Trusts: Caring for Vulnerable Family Members

Special needs trusts offer financial assistance to individuals with disabilities without hindering their qualification for public support. These trusts ensure that the assets are utilized for the benefit of the individual with disabilities while preserving their eligibility for needs-based government benefits such as Medicaid.

Estate Planning Options for Unmarried and LGBTQ+ Couples

For unmarried and LGBTQ+ couples, estate planning is imperative to guarantee their assets are protected and allocated per their desires. By creating a comprehensive estate plan using wills, trusts, or both, unmarried and LGBTQ+ couples can avoid potential complications and ensure that their assets are distributed to their chosen beneficiaries.

Legal Advice: Consulting with an Estate Planning Attorney

To create a comprehensive and legally solid estate plan using wills, trusts, or both, consultation with an estate planning attorney is necessary. Estate planning attorneys provide guidance throughout the process, aid in the creation of the draft, and answer any questions one may have, helping to avert any potential issues that may arise during the drafting process.


In conclusion, understanding the differences between wills and trusts is crucial for creating a comprehensive estate plan that protects your assets and loved ones. By considering your unique circumstances and consulting with an estate planning attorney, you can craft an estate plan that provides peace of mind and ensures your wishes are carried out. Whether you opt for a will, trust, or both, estate planning is an essential step in safeguarding your legacy and providing for the future of your loved ones.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better trust or will?

Trusts are a better option than wills for larger and more complex estates, or when children are involved as they bypass probate and can protect your assets if you become incapacitated. Wills take effect after death and do not provide this same level of protection, but are still necessary if you have dependents or a smaller estate.

What are 3 advantages of a trust over a will?

A trust provides advantages over a will, such as avoiding probate, protecting privacy, and providing control over how and when assets are distributed.

What assets should not be in a trust?

Assets that should not always be placed in a trust include cash, oftentimes cars, certain business assets, and retirement accounts.

What is the primary purpose of a will?

The primary purpose of a will is to ensure the distribution of assets and any decisions are taken care of after death.