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What is the difference between living trusts and wills?

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2024 | Estate Planning

Planning for the future is something most people think about. When it comes to handling your assets, understanding the differences between a living trust and a will can help you make the right choices.

Both tools serve to manage your assets and distribute them after you are gone, but they operate in distinct ways.

Living trusts

A living trust is like a secret manager for your belongings while you are still alive. It is a document that allows you to transfer ownership of your assets into the trust’s name. You remain in charge as the trustee, maintaining control over everything. You can buy, sell or even give away your assets just like before.

The key benefit of a living trust is that it avoids probate, a lengthy legal process that can delay asset distribution. This means that when you die, your loved ones can get what you left them faster, without the hassle of court proceedings.


On the other hand, a will is a set of instructions for when you are no longer around. In this document, you outline the distribution plan for your possessions after your passing. Unlike a living trust, a will goes through probate, and the court ensures the carrying out of your wishes.

Wills are great for appointing guardians for children, deciding who gets your favorite baseball card collection and even naming an executor – the person responsible for ensuring adherence to your instructions.

Understanding key differences

One major difference is when these documents come into play. A living trust is active while you are alive, managing your assets in the present. In contrast, a will only applies after you have left the stage.

Additionally, the privacy factor sets them apart. Living trusts operate quietly and privately, keeping your affairs out of the public eye. Wills, on the other hand, require filing with the court and become public records.

Choosing the right path

Deciding between a living trust and a will depends on your unique circumstances. If privacy and avoiding probate are top priorities, a living trust might be the way to go. However, if simplicity and tradition are more your style, a will might suit your needs. Seeking professional estate planning guidance can help you sort out your options.

When you arm yourself with a clear understanding of your options, it empowers you to make informed decisions about your future.



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