In estate planning the terms are often thought of as “Wills and Trusts” as the two often go together. However, the biggest question for most people is whether a Will or a Trust should be their primary estate plan instrument. The answer depends on a person’s unique circumstances, but there are some basic differences that everyone should know.
In a Will, you name someone to be the Executor of your estate and give directions what that person should do to distribute your estate to your heirs. The Executor presents your Will to a Probate Court and gets legal authority to carry out your directions.
In a Trust, you name someone to be a Trustee and you give your assets to the Trust. When you pass away, the assets in the Trust are handled according to the terms of the Trust agreement. You can have the Trustee give them to the beneficiaries of the Trust immediately or at a later date. The key difference is that the Trustee does not need to go to Probate Court before carrying out your wishes.
While avoiding Probate might seem like a good idea and make a Trust more attractive, it is not the best option for everyone. Talk to an estate planning attorney before deciding that a Trust is right for you.
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