Both a Will and a Trust are useful estate planning documents, but understanding their differences will help you decide which is right for your particular estate planning objectives and personal circumstances.
Is a Will or Trust Best For You?
Also known as a Last Will and Testament, a Will is used to direct how your assets are distributed at the time of your death. A Will allows you to:
- express how you want your assets to be divided and who will inherit them after death;
- name a personal representative to oversee the probate of your estate; and
- choose a guardian to take care of your minor children.
A Revocable Living Trust
One of the most common misperceptions regarding Revocable Living Trusts is that they are only for the super wealthy who have large taxable estates. This couldn’t be further from the truth!
There are many important benefits of Revocable Living Trusts beyond federal and Massachusetts estate tax considerations. A Revocable Living Trusts allows you to:
- have full control over and the benefit of your property without probate court intervention during periods of incapacity;
- to control the distributions of your assets and give what you have, to whom you want, in the way you want, privately and without needless delay or probate court intervention; and
- to plan to minimize or eliminate estate taxes and to safeguard your property from your loved ones’ financial immaturity, their creditors and even their potential future divorces.
Wills vs. Trusts – A Comparison Chart
- Planning for Incapacity
- Probate (at Death)
- Court Costs & Legal Fees
- Asset Protection
- Estate Tax Planning
- Controlled Distribution of Assets
- Planning for Minor Children
- Flexibility & Control
With a Simple Will
Probate Court has control. A Will is a death document and has no applicability when an individual is incapacitated. An individual must petition the Probate Court for authority to handle your financial affairs.
A Will guarantees Probate. The Probate Court has total control and oversees the administration of your estate. A significant amount of documentation must be prepared and filed with the Probate Court.
Significant Probate Court costs and legal fees (approx. 3-5% of an estate’s value).
No privacy as Probate Court proceedings are public record. Family can be exposed to disgruntled heirs, unscrupulous solicitors, etc.
The Probate process can be lengthy and time-consuming (approximately 12-18 months).
Offers no asset protection. Wills only allow for outright distributions. Assets are exposed to your heirs’ creditors, predators, lawsuit and even ex-spouses in the event of a future divorce.
Limited opportunities to eliminate or minimize Federal and Massachusetts Estate Taxes.
Wills provide for outright distributions only.
Probate Court controls child inheritance. A guardian must be appointed. All decisions and financial transactions require court approval. All assets are distributed outright to the child at age 18.
Very limited control as a Will doesn’t take effect until you die. You can write new wills to cover new circumstances, but wills are easily contested.
With a Revocable Living Trust
You maintain control. Seamless transition upon incapacity. Your successor trustee manages your financial affairs according to your specific instructions without Probate Court intervention.
You have total control without Probate Court intervention. A properly drafted and funded Revocable Trust allows you to completely avoid probate.
Typically no court costs or legal fees. Legal fees only as attorney is needed to assist with the administration of the Trust.
Total privacy. Trusts are not public record. Your Trustee and family can take care of your financial affairs privately.
Typically only a few weeks are involved. Larger estates may take longer for estate tax filing, division of assets into new trusts, etc.
Assets can be held in the Trust past death, protecting your assets from your heirs’ creditors, predators, lawsuits and ex-spouses in the event of a future divorce.
A properly drafted Revocable Living Trust includes provisions to minimize or eliminate Federal and Massachusetts Estate Taxes.
Revocable Living Trusts allow you to control the distribution of assets “to whom you want, the way you want and when you want.”
You maintain control. Court approves guardian, but has no control over your child’s inheritance. The trustee you select manages the child’s inheritance, provides funds for medical care, education, maintenance, or any special item you may decide, but does not distribute assets until the ages or circumstances that you have specified in your Trust.
You maintain control of your assets and health, unless you become disabled. At that time, the people you hand-picked will handle your assets and health per your instructions in your Trust. If you aren’t disabled, you can change your Trust or discontinue it at any time. Trusts are difficult to contest.
With 20 Years of Experience… We Do Things Differently
Unlike the “transactional” or “one-size-fits-all” approach to estate planning, the Socius Law Firm is committed to forging lawyer-for-life relationships with our clients.
What We Do
At the Socius Law Firm, estate planning is not done for you, it is done with you. We help individuals and families identify their concerns and planning objectives and work together to create a plan that is tailored to meet their unique family situation, assets and personal values, goals and objectives.
Satisfied Client Stories
How Much Does It Cost
We offer four levels of planning – each highly customized to meet your unique family situation, assets and personal values, goals and objectives. Plan fees range from a low of $1,000 to a high of $8,500 for an extensive estate plan.
- For the family who wants to take care of basic estate planning needs and is not concerned about avoiding probate or maintaining privacy. You’ll gain peace of mind knowing we are here to help you navigate the system during your lifetime and help your family after your passing.
- For the family who wants to avoid probate and gain total assurance and peace of mind knowing that in the event of their death or incapacity, all assets will be transferred to heirs with the most ease and convenience possible in the privacy of our office.
- For the family who wants the total assurance and peace of mind of the "Trust Plan" as well as the added comfort of knowing that all assets transfers are taken care of by our office. We do all “funding” for you.
- For the family who needs more than the foundational planning of the first three levels. Clients choosing the Legacy Plan may have advanced planning needs involving complicated estate tax or asset protection issues.
Call Us Today
Call us to discuss your estate planning needs.