Wills and living trusts are designed to protect an individual’s assets and provide for their heirs in the event of their death. A living trust vs. a will is an important comparison that provides valuable insight into end of life planning.  Before you decide which is best for you, educate yourself on wills, living trusts, and how selecting a living trust vs. a will could financially impact those you leave behind.


Drawing up a will has been a standard procedure for many Americans who wish to have a say in the bequeathing of treasured belongings and assets to their loved ones.

The sole purpose in creating this legal document, often referred to as a last will and testament, is to clearly state an individual’s last living wishes regarding the posthumous distribution of their personal property as well as appoint a legal representative to execute the will.

Without a valid will on file, the management of the deceased’s affairs could be handed over to a stranger who has no personal knowledge of that person’s final wishes.  Unfortunately, this means that the individual’s property and assets originally intended for certain family members could fall into someone else’s hands.

Thankfully, the drawing up of a will in the United States is typically straightforward.  In most cases the process requires:  the individual be of sound mind when drawing up the document, a clearly written explanation of the individual’s last wishes, and the signatures of the individual as well as witnesses.

Naming an executor(s) for a will, specific distribution directives of personal property, and guardians for children and their assets are largely typical of most wills and may be handled without any advisement.  However, some special situations may require an attorney’s professional guidance to ensure they are addressed properly.  Examples of such situations may include extensive assets subject to estate taxes, small business ownership, anticipated contention of the will, or a disinheritance.


Though living trusts have not always been common in the United States, they are quickly gaining in popularity and for good reason.

A living trust is a legal document that names an executor to an individual’s estate as well as specific distribution directives for personal property.  Up to this point, a living will somewhat mirrors the information typically included in a will.  It is the next step that sets a living trust vs. a will apart.

Once a living trust has been drafted and signed, the individual’s assets are transferred into a trust which is usually managed by a law firm or bank that acts as a trustee.  This action may ring of finality, but the living trust allows the individual the freedom to amend the trust at any time, which can include revoking it or withdrawing their assets.  While transferring assets over to a trust may sound like letting go of control, it actually is quite the opposite.

This document allows an individual to remain in control of their assets and provide a few added benefits to heirs during what may be a very difficult time.  One of these benefits is that living trusts avoid probate proceedings which can be expensive, drawn out, and drain an estate’s finances.  Another popular benefit is that the individual’s heirs and distributed assets will not be a matter of public record.

In rare cases living trusts may be drawn up on an individual’s own with the aid of educational self-help resources.  However, most living trusts are established with the help of a professional and experienced attorney that can provide added inheritance protection with their extensive knowledge of trusts.


In many ways, a living trust and a will are similar in that these documents exist to protect an individual’s assets and family in the event of their passing.  However, when it comes to a living trust vs will, there are a few important distinctions.

Benefits of Wills

  • Easily drawn up and may not require professional assistance
  • Freedom to decide the distribution of your personal assets
  • Ability to name an executor of your estate
  • Appointment of a guardian to your minor children should you and your spouse pass away
  • Amendments are allowed

Benefits of Living Trusts

  • Freedom to decide the distribution of your personal assets
  • Ability to name an executor of your estate
  • Arrangement takes effect immediately
  • Distribution of property can occur before death or post death
  • Amendments are allowed including revocation or asset withdraw
  • Protection of inheritance against heirs’ creditors
  • Administration of assets for minor beneficiaries outside of court
  • Reduction of estate taxes
  • Elimination of probate process which typically saves heirs money and provides for immediate access to their inheritance
  • Record is kept private

There are a number of considerations when deciding if a living trust versus will is for you.  While both documents do allow you to name an executor, specify how you would like your assets divided, and make amendments, this is generally where the similarities end.

On average, a living trust can afford individual’s a greater peace of mind since it may protect against or minimize the loss of an inheritance to an heir’s creditors, estate taxes, and or an expensive and lengthy official probate process.

As a general rule, it is always helpful to plan ahead so that if the unthinkable happens, your possessions and heirs are protected.  As you ponder a living trust vs will, carefully weigh the benefits of each and consider consulting a reputable attorney for professional guidance that will ensure the best possible outcome for you and your family.