Legal Briefs: What is the difference between a Will and a Trust?

We are often asked about the differences between a Last Will and Testament and a Living Trust. Let's start by describing how Wills and Trusts are similar: Both allow you to designate who gets your "stuff" after your death. Both allow you to name representatives to manage your estate after your death. Both allow you to designate a guardian for any minor children. Both are revocable, meaning you can change or revoke them while you are alive. In these respects, the documents serve similar purposes.

Will vs. Trust

Now for the main differences: A Will takes effect only after your death; a Trust takes effect right now. A Trust allows your successor trustees (i.e. representatives who manage your estate after your death) to manage assets for beneficiaries who are unable to responsibly manage their own assets; a Will gives you no such option. A Trust is a private document; because a Will is subject to probate, it will be filed in court (meaning it is freely accessible to the public) along with lists and descriptions of all your assets and beneficiaries. Perhaps most importantly, a Will must still go through probate to transfer title of your assets to your beneficiaries; but assets in a Trust are not subject to probate.

(Confused about probate? We explain the probate process in a nutshell.)

Mostly, people who ask us about the differences between Wills and Trusts want to know whether one document is better than another, to which we give the classic lawyer answer: It depends. Sometimes, a Will may be more advisable than a Trust; other times, a Trust more advisable than a Will. As a result, we highly recommend consulting with a qualified estate planning attorney before creating your estate plan.

Get a Free Consultation

To discuss which estate planning documents might be best for you, contact the experienced Oklahoma City estate planning attorneys at Postic & Bates today for a free, no-obligation consultation appointment.

[As with all our posts, the contents of this article do not constitute legal advice and are subject to our site-wide disclaimer.]