Wills vs. Trusts – What’s the Difference?

living trust or will question on the pageWhen it comes to estate planning, many people think that a will is all they need. However, there are actually several different types of estate planning documents, each with its own unique purpose.  In this blog post, we’ll be discussing the difference between trusts vs. wills and how an estate planning attorney at Three Rivers Law Center can help you.

Why Use a Will or a Trust?

Wills and trusts both serve the same basic purpose- to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you die. Both are legal documents used to handle estates.

However, there are some key differences:

Probate

The most important difference is that a will must go through probate, while a trust does not. 

Probate is the legal process of distributing a person’s assets after they die. It can be a long and expensive process, during which your assets may be tied up and not available to your loved ones. Probate can last 18 months or more.

If you have a trust, however, your assets can be distributed immediately after your death, without going through probate. This can save your loved ones a lot of time and money.

Privacy

Another key difference is that wills are public records, while trusts are not. This means that anyone can see a copy of your will once filed with the court, but they would not be able to see your trust unless they are named as a beneficiary.

Trusts can also be used to protect your assets from creditors and lawsuits. This can be important if you want to keep your estate plan private. 

Control

A will only works upon death, so is a means to outline how you want property distributed after your death.

A living trust, however, works in part while you are still alive.  If you become incapacitated, your trustee can immediately carry out your wishes until you recover.  This often works better than using powers of attorney, and will also likely protect you from a guardianship. 

Which One Should I Choose?

The answer to this question depends on your individual circumstances. If you want to maintain more control over your assets after you die or if you become incapacitated, then a trust might be the best option for you.

If you have a very small estate, and don’t mind risking guardianship during your lifetime, then a will might be a better option.

Remember, if you do not have a will or trust, your assets will be distributed according to Washington law.

How Do I Create Either One?

You can create a will or trust by working with an experienced estate planning attorney

They can help you further understand the difference between wills vs. trusts and decide which one is right for you and your family.

While you can write your own will, it is not recommended. If you do not follow the proper legal format, your will could be declared invalid. 

For example, if someone can argue that you were not of sound mind during the will’s creation, they may contest it in court. If you wrote a will but did not have the proper number of witnesses present, then it won’t be considered legal.

If you’re not sure which one is right for you, the best thing to do is to speak with an experienced long-term care planning attorney. They will be able to advise you on the best option for your individual circumstances.

Estate plans are not just for the wealthy. Whether you have property to pass down to your descendants, special needs or healthcare concerns, or privacy concerns, the right legal documentation can help make the process as smooth as possible. 

At Three Rivers Law Center, we can help you with all aspects of estate planning. Our experienced lawyers are available to guide you through the process from start to finish. Contact us for a consultation today.

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