Will or Living Trust – Which One is for You?

Often there is confusion as to just what a Will or a Living Trust does.  In today’s post I thought it would be helpful to review briefly the differences between these two planning documents.  Here is a quick comparison:

WILL LIVING TRUST
Will probate be required? Yes- a Will is a death instrument and must be probated to be effective.  If not timely probated the Will cannot be enforced. No - a living (or inter vivos) Trust does not require probate to be effective.
Are my wishes private? No -  the document becomes part of the public record upon filing for probate. Yes – court intervention is generally unnecessary.
Does it avoid the need for a conservatorship in the event of my incapacity? No- you can name who you would like to be your conservator in your Will, but a conservatorship will not be avoided by a Will. Generally yes – the successor trustee will simply step in upon your incapacity, without the need of court intervention.
Does it provide creditor/predator protections? No – however, creditors will only have a limited time after your death to make claims. No – unless the Trust is irrevocable, it is the same as a Will.  If the Trust becomes irrevocable after your death, future beneficiaries can receive creditor/predator protections.
Is it hard to get done? Generally no, but it depends on your individual situation. Generally no, but it depends on your individual situation.
Is it hard to change? No. No, as long as it is revocable.
Is it costly to complete? Generally no, but again it depends on your individual situation.  A Will generally costs less than a Trust. Generally no, but again it depends on your individual situation.  A Trust generally costs more than a Will.
Is it costly to administer after death? Again each situation is unique, but it is generally more costly than a Trust as a result of fees related to probate. Again each situation is unique, but it is generally less costly than a Will because probate is not required.