Will I Need a Trust if I Already Have a Will?

Trusts and wills are two divergent estate planning mechanisms that are often also used in conjunction. This article includes some of the basic elements of a will and trust that everyone should understand.

What is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust? 

Trusts and wills are both estate forecasting mechanisms that can help protect a person’s assets and direct the assets to heirs and beneficiaries pursuant to the decedent’s wishes.  For a married couple, distribution to the first decedent’s living spouse can occur without estate tax or gift liabilities due to the limitless marital deduction establishment in the current Washington and United States Estate and Tax Law. 

Passing wealth to a succeeding generation may be more complex and may require having both a trust and a will. A will is a written document stating a deceased individual’s direction on how their assets and properties should be bequeathed, for instance, to a spouse, minor, relative, charity, or friend. It becomes effective after someone dies.  

However, unlike a will, a trust, with the exception of a testamentary trust, becomes effective when a person writes it.  A testamentary trust is contained within a will, and becomes irrevocable upon the grantor’s death. A living trust becomes effective upon execution and can be either revocable or irrevocable, depending on the circumstances. The benefits of a revocable versus an irrevocable trust are more complex than can be covered here and the choice is very specific to the goals of the grantor. 

Unlike trusts, wills must pass through a court process referred to as probate. This process is quite simple and in some jurisdictions, more complex and onerous in others, especially if a family member or other heir or beneficiary contests the will. Washington has a fairly straightforward and streamlined probate process.

Benefits of a Trust

Trusts can be an effective tool to assist someone in achieving their goals during their lifetime and when they die. However, like other financial and estate plans, a person should timely review their strategies with their estate planning attorneys to ensure they match the current goals, situation, and goals. Some advantages of a trust include:

Avoiding Probate Court

Unlike a will, trusts permit people to avoid court processes. This is one of the main advantages of a living trust. This is because probate can be expensive and tedious. However, a trust can also be ineffective at avoiding probate if all of the grantor’s assets are not contained in the trust. Keeping Financial and Personal Information Private

Due to a lack of court process, a living trust enables a person’s wish for their personal wishes and assets to remain more private.  .

Maintaining Control of a Person’s Assets After Death

Both a testamentary and living trust enable a person to continue protecting their assets and family after their death. This may include delaying the transfer of assets until kids attain a certain age, ensuring that money is distributed to the rightful people, and ensuring beneficiaries with special needs qualify for the inheritance without affecting governmental benefits to which they may be entitled

How a Frey Buck Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

Although individuals may plan, scheme, or take precautions about their future, nobody truly knows what the future holds. Therefore, the estate planning process is a crucial process to uphold and preserve someone’s legacy by covering the contingencies. This requires the help of trusts, wills, and a Seattle estate planning attorney. The attorney can assist with drafting effective documents that will help you to:

  • Uphold your wishes
  • Minimize the hassle of court processes
  • Preserve your assets
  • Identifying appropriate fiduciaries (executor/personal representative and trustee)
  • Assist the family in executing your wishes
  • Offering any legal help when the need arises

Finally, an effective estate plan should also include durable powers of attorney for medical and financial decisions and a health care directive.

Issues involving a will or trust should be handled by a reliable lawyer from a reputable firm. Most importantly, your choice of estate planning lawyer should handle all matters relating to will trusts, and probate. If you need assistance with your estate planning, contact us at Frey Buck today for more information.