When I meet with a new client, we almost always discuss the differences between a Will and a Trust. Frequently, an individual assumes that: Will = simple; Trust = complicated and Will = affordable; Trust = not so affordable. Fortunately, such is often not the case. A Will and a Trust really do different things—or at least address the same matters in much different ways.
A Will directs where someone’s property (accounts, home, car, personal belongings, etc., etc.) goes when they die. For this to happen, a probate estate (court supervised process for handling the affairs for a deceased person) needs to be opened and a personal representative handles the administration of the probate estate. Initial cost of a Will is often a bit less expensive but final administration is more time consuming, more involved and can also end up more expensive.
A trust generally functions as a functional replacement for a Will. A trust’s unique virtues include avoidance of probate and the opportunity to provide ongoing support or distributions to named beneficiaries. While initial cost is often a bit more than a Will, its final administration is dramatically easier, less time consuming, more private and often less expensive.
While every individual, family and situation is unique, it is generally true that a trust is a superior planning tool to a Will. However, I work with clients for whom a Will is the best fit and that’s what I prepare. For others, a Trust makes the best sense. Ultimately, these important determinations are based on a person’s needs, preferences, goals and unique personal and family situation.