Will Vs. Trust: Which Is The Best Option?

BY: Patrick Adams

When it comes to estate planning, many have questions about which route is best: Creating a trust or simply drafting a will. In my previous experience as an estate planning attorney, I would tell my clients that the answer depends greatly on their particular family dynamic, weighing in numerous factors that include finances, tax implications, privacy, and asset protection.

There is no single document that will be able to address all the requirements of an estate plan, because an estate plan has to address the needs of a person in three different time frames: while living, while incapacitated, and when deceased. In order to make a plan truly complete, creating both a will and a trust, as well as designating powers of attorney for both health care and finances, would be most prudent. However, each client’s needs and wants will determine the use, complexity, and extent of how each of these documents is drafted and utilized within their own estate plan.

As an example, if a client wants to keep family financial information private, generally, creating a trust makes more sense, as it would prevent those details from becoming public knowledge through the probate process, to which a will would be subject. On the other hand, a client might find themselves with a personal estate where the value is less than $100 thousand, or where they have only one or two beneficiaries, or where there is no real estate involved. In those instances, a simple will would likely be their best option. Because every family dynamic is unique, it is always important to obtain the aid of an estate planning attorney who can draft a plan specifically tailored to each individual situation.

A client's financial means also plays a part in the decision, because drafting a will is usually much less expensive (a few hundred dollars, versus $1500+) and less complicated than a trust. Each of these documents usually increases in cost based on the complexity of the family dynamic, estate asset types & values, and tax implications involved.

An example of a complex family dynamic is one in which a couple are both on their second marriage with their own children from a prior marriage. In addition to this, one of the children has special needs and receives government benefits, and another child has an addiction issue that precludes them from handling their personal finances effectively. Assuming this couple has the proper means, an estate plan would most likely consist of a trust (or trusts) to address the blended family issue. It could contain language – or a separate trust could be added – to address the concerns for both of the children as well. 

Regardless of the option or the situation, the best first step in the estate planning process is meeting with an attorney , as they will be able to create a unique plan tailored to your specific needs that provides peace of mind to you and your loved ones. 

To talk through the process further and discuss your options in detail, please reach out via email or give me a call at (608) 826-3538.


Patrick Adams

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