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What is the difference between a will and a trust?

On Behalf of | Jan 29, 2024 | Wills & Trusts

When it comes to planning for the future, two common legal tools often come into play. These are wills and trusts. Both serve as mechanisms to distribute assets, but they have distinct differences.

Understanding these differences can help you if you are looking to provide for loved ones.


A will, also known as a last will and testament, is a legal document outlining your wishes for the distribution of your assets after you pass away. Think of it as a detailed blueprint that dictates who gets what from your estate. In a will, you can name beneficiaries, designate guardians for minors and even specify funeral arrangements.

One key feature of a will is that it only takes effect upon your death. It undergoes a legal process known as probate, during which a court validates the document and oversees the distribution of assets. Probate, however, can be time-consuming and may involve legal fees.


Unlike wills, trusts come into play during your lifetime. A trust is a legal arrangement where you transfer your assets to a trustee, an individual or institution responsible for managing the assets on behalf of your beneficiaries. The big advantage of a trust is that it bypasses probate, allowing for a quicker and potentially more efficient distribution of assets.

Trusts offer flexibility in managing your estate. For instance, you can specify conditions under which people distribute assets, such as providing funds for education only when people meet certain criteria. Additionally, trusts can provide for the seamless transfer of assets in case of incapacity, without the need for court intervention.

Options and choice

The decision between a will and a trust depends on individual circumstances and preferences. Wills are generally simpler and more cost-effective, making them suitable for straightforward distributions. Trusts, on the other hand, offer greater control and privacy.

Deciding which option is best for you requires careful consideration of your specific needs and goals. By knowing the distinctions between wills and trusts, you can take a proactive step toward securing your legacy.