If you've read up on estate planning, you've probably seen a mix of advice claiming that you must have a will or that trusts are better than wills. Which one is actually better? It depends on what you're looking for.
What's easiest to set up?
A will is much easier to set up than a trust. With a will, all you need to do is write out what you want to happen to your property. Going to a notary and having a witness sign it with you is not required, but it's a quick way to make it easier for your heirs to verify your will when the time comes.
Trusts are more complicated because they aren't just a set of instructions. When you set up a trust, it technically is the owner of your property, while you own the trust.
When you set up a trust, you'll need to transfer the titles and account information for everything you want to be in the trust so that they're in the name of the trust.
Do you need a lawyer?
The short answer is that you never need a lawyer for any kind of estate planning, but you might want one.
You can pretty easily draft a simple will on your own using available templates. A lawyer might be useful if you have complex investments, real estate holdings, or if you want to make your will conditional on certain family events.
Trusts are more technical, so you'll be more likely to want a lawyer. If you don't complete the transfers into your trust properly, you could invalidate your entire trust.
What's easiest to execute?
Wills are actually harder for your family to execute. That's because all wills must go through the probate court.
Even if you have a valid will that properly accounted for everything, a judge will still need to verify everything in a process that takes several weeks at minimum.
Trusts are self-executing. When you designate a beneficiary, that beneficiary automatically takes ownership of the trust property upon your passing.
Can you use both?
You do not have to choose between wills and trusts. Many people use both for different property.
It's also common for people who set up a trust to also create a will that covers any property not added to the trust.
To learn more about whether a will or trust is better for your estate planning needs, contact a local estate planning attorney today.