The Wealth Advisor
Wills vs. Trusts: In Plain English
Everyone has heard of wills and trusts. Most articles written on these topics, however, often presume that everyone knows the basics of these important documents. But, in reality, many of us don’t – and with good reason – as they’re rooted in complicated, centuries-old law.
Let’s face it, if you’re not an estate planning attorney, these concepts tend to remain merely that – concepts. So, if you’re “fuzzy” about wills and trusts, know that you are not alone. After we show you the difference between these two documents, we’ll tell you why a trust is the better choice.
Wills vs. Trusts: Defined
Let’s take a minute and define both “will” and “trust”:
Will. A will is a written document that is signed and witnessed. A will is considered a “death” document as it only goes into effect when you die.
Trust. A trust is a legal document, signed and witnessed, and effective during your lifetime, during any period of disability, and after death. Because the trust is effective during your lifetime and you can change it, it’s referred to as a “living” document.
The Probate Process: A Key Element in Deciding Between a Will and Trust
One key element in deciding between a will and a trust is understanding the probate process. The term “probate” – which literally means “proving” – refers to the process wherein a decedent’s will must be authenticated, outstanding legitimate debts paid, and assets transferred to the beneficiaries.
The downside is that probate can take a long time – even years – it’s expensive in many places and the entire process is completely public, meaning your nosey neighbor Nancy and evil predator Paul both know exactly who got what and how to contact them. In virtually all cases, the only upside of probate is that creditor claims are cut off.
The Bottom Line on Wills vs. Trusts
HOW TO DECIDE: As everyone’s situation is different, it’s important to analyze every aspect of your situation – and what the future may hold – so that you can determine what’s right for you and whether probate avoidance, incapacity planning, and trust protections have value to you and those you love. Most people receive the greatest overall benefit from having a trust.
ACT NOW: Without an estate plan in place, you and your family are left completely unprotected. Call our office now and we’ll help you determine whether a will or a trust makes sense for your situation. You don’t have to make these decisions alone.
Law Offices of J.R. Hastings • 1003 Third Street, San Rafael, California 94901 • 415-450-6692