It’s beneficial to have various options to protect your assets for the future, but it’s also important to use the right instrument for your specific needs. At Skeeters, Bennett, Wilson & Humphrey, our estate planning professionals believe in advising clients on strategies that make sense now, with room to grow into the future. So here’s a basic breakdown of these two estate planning devices.

What Is a Will?

A will is a written document that indicates how your property will be distributed at the time of your death. It must be signed and witnessed. It’s considered a revocable document—which means it’s subject to amendment at any time during your life. 

In addition to outlining property and asset distribution, a will also allows you to appoint a guardian for your minor children and provide instruction for their care and inheritance management.

Using an estate planning attorney to craft a comprehensive will ensures that your estate won’t be tied up in probate and result in more complications for your heirs. 

What Is a Living Trust?

Simply put, a living trust provides lifetime and after-death property management. Your property is placed into a trust, and a trustee controls the trust. The trustee can be you, your spouse, or another person or entity. If you’re serving as your own trustee, the trust instrument provides for a successor upon your physical or mental incapacity or death. Court intervention isn’t required to establish a living trust.

Living trusts also are used to manage property. If you become disabled, the trustee can manage the trust property. As a result, the expense and inconvenience of court-supervised distribution of your estate can be avoided.

Wills vs. Trusts: Which Is the Best Tool for You?

Wills are simple, direct, and take less time and cost to establish. While trusts are more complex and take more upfront effort and expense to establish, they can save a considerable amount of time and cost in the event the trustee becomes incapacitated or dies.

A qualified estate planning attorney can help you choose which tool is best for your particular needs right now. It’s possible that to maximize the potential of a purposeful estate plan, you might require both. During an initial consultation, your legal team will get to know you and your goals, and base recommendations on what helps you and your family achieve the best possible financial security.