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What's the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

Posted on: January 25th, 2017
Everyone has heard the terms "will" and "trust," but not everyone knows the differences between the two. Both are useful estate planning devices that serve different purposes, and both can work together to create a complete estate plan.
 
One main difference between a will and a trust is that a will goes into effect only after you die, while a trust takes effect as soon as you create it. A will is a document that directs who will receive your property at your death and it appoints a legal representative to carry out your wishes. By contrast, a trust can be used to begin distributing property before death, at death, or afterwards. A trust is a legal arrangement through which one person, called a “grantor,” transfers ownership of certain property to another person (or an institution, such as a bank or law firm), called a "trustee." The trustee then holds legal title to the property for the trust’s beneficiaries. A trust usually has two types of beneficiaries -- one set that receives income from the trust during their lives and another set that receives whatever is left over after the first set of beneficiaries dies.
 
A will covers any property that is only in your name when you die. It does not cover property held in joint tenancy, property with a beneficiary designation, property with transfer on death provisions, or property in a trust. A trust, on the other hand, covers only property that has been transferred to the trust. In order for property to be included in a trust, it must be put in the name of the trust.
 
Another difference between a will and a trust is that a will passes through probate. That means a court oversees the administration of the will and ensures the will is valid and the property gets distributed the way the deceased wanted. A trust passes outside of probate, so a court does not need to oversee the process, which can save time and money. Unlike a will, which becomes part of the public record, a trust can remain private.
 
Wills and trusts each have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, a will allows you to name a guardian for children and to specify funeral arrangements, while a trust does not. On the other hand, a trust can be used to plan for disability or to provide savings on taxes. A trust can also provide asset protection during your lifetime, which can provide substantial benefit and savings should you need long-term care, be involved in a law suit, or be in any other situation where your assets could be at risk.
 
To learn more about wills and trusts, and how each could be beneficial to you, come to one of Reisner Law Group’s free estate planning workshops!  We will teach you about the key components of a great estate plan, and we will have a little fun while we're at it! 
 
At Reisner Law Group, PLLC, it’s all about your life, your legacy, and your peace of mind.  To register for a workshop, visit http://reisnerlawgroup.com/event.php or give us a call at (716) 375-4213 in the Olean/Western NY Region or (315) 925-7800 in the Syracuse/Central NY region.  We hope to see you soon!

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