Wills And Trusts: Do You Need Both?

Estate planning can involve several methods of dealing with incapacity, end of life decisions, and dealing with property after death. While an estate planning attorney will often advise clients to be prepared with many different documents, the last will and testament and a trust are often the most important of those. To find out whether those doing some estate planning need both a will and a trust, read on.

A Will is a Vital Estate Instrument

Wills have been around for a very long time. What a will addresses, in many cases, cannot be duplicated with other estate planning methods. For example, the main reason for the invention of wills in the first place was to set up a way for those who were owed money to be paid – even if after the creator's death.

Probate, which is the legal process for processing an estate, is almost a certainty unless the estate is extremely small. Nearly all estates will be probated whether there is a will or not. Probate not only allows creditors a way to make a claim on the estate, but it also assures beneficiaries of a legal and just division of property according to the will or state laws when no will is present. Wills also offer some a way to set up guardianships for minor children and more. A will, therefore, should not be left out of estate planning.

A Trust Means a Smoother Process

Even though a will should be created, a trust is an excellent way to take estate planning a step further. Trusts are like wills in the way that you can name beneficiaries and property, but it has several important advantages over a will: 

  • Trusts are private. Wills are public record, but trusts are not. Any asset placed into a trust along with the name of the beneficiary is entirely private.
  • Trusts are fast. While probate can take several months to be complete, trusts may be settled in a matter of weeks. As soon as the death certificate is ready, beneficiaries may take ownership of their inheritance.
  • Trusts are easy to maintain and may cost less to use than probate. Since probate is a legal process, the estate will be billed for any court costs which will vary from place to place. However, a trust, once set up, requires no court costs whatsoever. It's not a court process, it's a financial one.

In most cases, estate planning experts advise people to have both a will and a trust as part of an estate plan. Speak to an estate planning attorney to find out more.