Individuals should consider creating both a trust and a will to help ensure that all of their assets are protected and distributed in accordance with their wishes. While a will alone offers a number of benefits, the documentation becomes public information upon a person’s passing and a will is subject to probate, which can be extremely costly sometimes. When an estate planning attorney uses a trust in combination with a will, information is kept private, assets in the trust are not subject to probate, and the creator has more control of the way assets are distributed.

Advantages of Having a Will

If a person passes without having a written will, assets like personal jewelry and art collections, family heirlooms, money, and other valuables or sentimental possessions can wind up in the wrong hands. When a person dies intestate, property will be transferred to individuals based on the state’s “intestate” laws. For married couples, property that’s titled in both names will go to the surviving spouse in the event of the other’s death. Other assets are distributed accordingly.

When there is a will, the testator selects the beneficiaries of the estate, chooses an executor to distribute the property, and can transfer guardianship of minor children. A will can be amended at any time to meet the ever-changing circumstances of the creator.

Benefits of Getting a Trust

Without children or a large estate, a will may be enough to have in place, but once an individual has either, he or she may want to consider creating a trust. A trust doesn’t replace a will, instead of supplements one, and it comes with several benefits.

One of these key benefits is that a properly funded trust will keep an estate out of probate, which could otherwise delay the distribution process by a year or longer. Trusts also maintain the privacy of information, give the trust holder more control over assets, and can transfer guardianship in certain circumstances such as when care is needed for special needs children.

For most people with larger estates and children, having both a will and a trust can ultimately help ensure that property gets where it’s supposed to go.