The Difference Between a Living Trust and a Will

While you may have heard of both a will and a living trust, you may think of them separately and not subject to comparison. The truth is that both a will and a living trust can have an important place in an estate plan. In fact, both can act as a means of distributing a person’s assets upon their death. So, what are the difference between a living trust and a will? Why would you use one over the other in your estate plan? Let’s take a look at how these two estate planning tools differ to help answer these questions.

The Difference Between a Living Trust and a Will

A trust is an interesting and useful estate planning tool. There are a variety of trust types and each can serve a unique purpose. A living trust is created by a grantor during his or her lifetime. A trustee must be appointed to manage the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries according to the governing terms of the trust. Often with living trusts, the grantor acts as trustee for his or her lifetime and then a successor trustee takes over when the grantor dies. Once established, the trust immediately takes effect, but, in order to be effective, must be properly funded. To fund a trust, assets must be transferred into the trust. This means that ownership of these assets must be turned over to the trust. Upon the death of the grantor, the corpus of the trust will be managed and distributed by the trustee according to the trust terms. 

A will, on the other hand, is a legal document created by the testator during his or her lifetime that will not take effect until the testator dies. Each state has its own rules for how to create a valid trust and what formalities must be observed for a will to be properly executed. In a will, the testator can detail assets and state who is to receive said assets after the testator passes away.

One of the central differences between a will and a living trust, especially as it pertains to asset distribution upon a trustor or testator’s death is the fact that a will goes through probate and a living trust does not. The assets that are distributed via a will go through probate. Beneficiaries of a will have to wait for what can be a very lengthy court-supervised process to be completed before receiving an inheritance. Probate can also be quite costly with court costs and legal fees adding up along the way. Furthermore, probate proceedings become a matter of public records and, therefore, do not afford much privacy. For these reasons, people often seek to avoid the probate of their estate in whole or, at least, in part. Using a living trust is a good way to do so. Assets passed via a living trust avoid probate and distribution is overseen by the trustee.

Syracuse Estate Planning Attorneys

There are many estate planning tools and options of which many people are not aware. Talk to the knowledgeable estate planning team at CDH Law on how to create a comprehensive estate plan that takes your goals and best interests to heart. Contact us today.

Are There Different Types of Trusts Used in Estate Planning?

A solid, comprehensive estate plan will help ensure that there will be a smooth transfer of assets to a person’s selected beneficiaries once he or she passes away and that everyone’s best interests are protected the whole way. Without proper planning, inheritances can be whittled away by taxes, excessive court costs, and irresponsible spending on the part of a beneficiary. Fortunately, an estate plan can guard against these things with the proper implementation of a trust.

A trust is an entity set up by the trust grantor, or settlor, and managed by a trustee for the benefit of the trust beneficiaries. The grantor transfer assets into the trust. The property held in a trust may include tangible property such as jewelry, cars, and more, but it can also include intangible assets such as securities. The assets held in the trust are referred to as the trust “principal” or “corpus.”

Are There Different Types of Trusts Used in Estate Planning?

There are a number of different trust types that can be used in estate planning. Broadly speaking, trusts are divided into two central categories: revocable and irrevocable. A revocable trust has a great deal of flexibility as it can be altered or revoked at any time during the grantor’s lifetime. An irrevocable trust, on the other hand, cannot be amended or revoked except under very limited circumstances.

More specifically speaking, there are a number of trusts that fall under these two broader subcategories. For instance, there is a living trust which is created during the grantor’s lifetime when the grantor transfers property into the trust. With a living trust, it is common practice for the grantor to also act as a trustee. Once the grantor passes away, a successor trustee takes over and the trust becomes irrevocable. A living trust offers several advantages, one main one being that the assets held in the trust will avoid delays and expenses associated with the probate process. This nearly eliminates any delays a beneficiary may normally experience in accessing an inheritance. The fact that the trust avoids probate also means that there is the benefit of privacy as the assets do not pass through the public transfer of probate.

A testamentary trust, another type of trust, is created specifically by a will upon the death of the grantor. This is a popular option for those wanting to leave money to charities. It can also be a great way to preserve assets if you have children from a previous marriage. Furthermore, a testamentary trust can be a good way of fostering a solid financial future for a surviving spouse by providing a steady income stream over the course of his or her lifetime in the form of trust distributions.

An irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) can also be a valuable trust to include in your estate plan. An ILIT is often used as a tax savings technique as the trust allows life insurance proceeds to be excluded from the estate of both the first spouse to pass away as well as that of the second spouse. The trust is funded by transferring a life insurance policy into the trust. The trust then becomes the owner and beneficiary of the policy. The grantor’s heirs, however, act as the beneficiary of the trust itself.

Estate Planning Attorneys

Do you want to learn more about how a trust can help you create a strong estate plan that protects future goals for you and your loved ones? At CDH Law, we are here to provide you with the answers you need to create an estate plan you can count on. Contact us today.