Is a trust better than a will for you?

by the Editor, SeniorInsider | Jun 02, 2011

Trust and will preparation can be a potentially emotional subject, as it deals directly with estate planning—and estate planning generally means we must confront our own mortality, which few people find to be a pleasurable task. Trust and will preparation must be tailored to your personal and particular situation because what is right for you could be completely wrong for another.

Benefits of a Will in Trust and Will Preparation

A will is simply a legal document planned out during your trust and will preparation which tells your loved ones what you would like done with your specific assets following your death. You can choose an executor when you have your will prepared who will accept the responsibility for distributing your assets, paying any outstanding debts, or taking care of other administrative duties.  

Should you have minor children, you can name a guardian in your will that will ensure they are raised according to your wishes. You can also either choose the same guardian who will also oversee the assets you want your children to have or you can choose a different property guardian to oversee those assets. While in the overall realm of trust and will preparation a will is quite simple to set up—you can even choose to prepare a will or living will online—a will must go through a process known as probate following your death.

Probate can be a lengthy process, sometimes lasting as long as two years. It is also typically an expensive process as during probate your debts, attorney fees, executor fees and estate taxes will all be paid from your estate before any of your designated heirs receive anything you have left to them. Once your will is filed for probate it becomes public record meaning anybody has access to it and can see exactly what you chose to leave to whom. Remember that trust and will preparation has many far-reaching ramifications, so try to think ahead to all possibilities as much as possible.

Keep in mind that if you only have bank and retirement accounts, you don’t necessarily need to go to the expense of having a trust drawn up simply to avoid probate. You will need to fill out beneficiary forms which have some sort of legal language such as Pay on Death (POD) or Transfer on Death (TOD) and name the beneficiary you choose. Upon your death the retirement or bank accounts will transfer immediately to your named beneficiary. Unfortunately, if you want to transfer real estate, this tactic will not work and you will need a trust to avoid probate.

Benefits of a Trust in Trust and Will Preparation

During your trust and will preparation you may decide to opt for a living trust rather than a will. A living trust is considered a legal relationship in which you—the trustee—holds property in a trust for the eventual benefit of another person, your beneficiary. All of your real or personal property, including money, real estate, stocks, bonds, business interests, cars and trucks, jewelry, art and any other personal possessions can be made a part of your trust. In short, a trust benefits you during your lifetime, and benefits your heirs when you die.

Living trust attorneys are critical to the success of a trust as opposed to a will. A trust is much more complicated, as well as more expensive, to set up and manage than a will is, but it saves a considerable amount of money in the end because your assets will automatically transfer to the person or persons you designate rather than going through probate, costing precious time and money. Depending on your specific trust instructions, your beneficiaries can receive your assets immediately upon your death. Trusts are private and are not made a part of the public record, however, you cannot name a guardian for your children in a trust.

If you are under 60 years old and relatively healthy, then a will, along with TOD or POD accounts may be a realistic choice for you. However, if you are over 60, and have property to consider, you should definitely speak to an estate planning attorney and discuss the possibility of a trust.



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