Will vs. Living Trust: Understanding the Differences

When it comes to estate planning, there are a variety of tools available to help individuals and families protect their assets and plan for the future. Two of the most common estate planning documents are wills and living trusts. While they both serve similar purposes, there are some key differences to consider. Here's what you need to know:


A will is a legal document that outlines your wishes for how your assets will be distributed after your death. It can also name a guardian for any minor children and specify other important details, such as funeral arrangements. A will does not take effect until after you pass away, and it must go through the probate process in order to be administered.

Probate is a court-supervised process that involves validating the will, paying off any debts or taxes, and distributing assets to the named beneficiaries. This process can be lengthy and costly, and it is a matter of public record. Additionally, if you become incapacitated before your death, a will does not provide any guidance or protection for your assets or healthcare decisions.

Living Trusts:

A living trust, also known as a revocable trust, is another legal document that outlines your wishes for how your assets will be managed and distributed. The key difference is that a living trust takes effect immediately after it is created, and assets that are titled in the name of the trust are not subject to probate. This can save time and money and ensure that your wishes are carried out efficiently and privately.

A living trust can also provide for your care and management of your assets if you become incapacitated or unable to manage your affairs. You can name yourself as the trustee and designate a successor trustee to take over if necessary. This provides flexibility and control, as well as peace of mind that your assets will be managed according to your wishes.

Another advantage of a living trust is that it can be used to avoid or minimize estate taxes. By placing assets in a trust, you can potentially reduce the value of your taxable estate and pass more assets on to your loved ones.

Which is Right for You?

Deciding between a will and a living trust depends on your individual circumstances and goals. If you have a simple estate and do not anticipate any challenges or disputes over your assets, a will may be sufficient. However, if you have complex assets, minor children, or concerns about incapacity or estate taxes, a living trust may be a better option.

It is important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you evaluate your options and create a comprehensive plan that meets your needs. They can also help you understand the various costs and considerations involved with each option, and guide you through the process of creating and updating your estate planning documents.

In conclusion, wills and living trusts are both important estate planning tools that can help you protect your assets and plan for the future. Understanding the differences between the two can help you make an informed decision and create a plan that is tailored to your unique circumstances and goals. For more information, please call (847) 367-6990 or email info@hesslawfirm.com today to schedule an appointment.

Categories: Estate Planning