What Is the Difference Between Wills and Living Trusts?


Quick Answer

A will is established so an individual can outline his wishes for property distribution once he passes away and indicate who should be guardian of any minor children, Legal Zoom notes. A will involves the probate process. A living trust also outlines how property is distributed to beneficiaries but does not have to go through the probate process.

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Full Answer

While the overall purpose of living trusts and wills is to designate certain beneficiaries for property and assets, each document serves a different purpose. Most people should have a will drawn up, but the need for a living trust depends on the financial circumstances of an individual, his age and marital status, Nolo notes.

A will describes the property meant to be dispersed, and it indicates who receives the property, Nolo advises. Most people use wills because they are easy to create and don't require special language. Wills must go through probate, which is the court process that oversees the property distribution, and probate can sometimes be expensive and lengthy. A living trust also outlines who receives certain assets, but those who use a living trust do so to avoid probate but still retain the benefit of control over the property distribution. Living trusts are more complicated to draw up and can't be used to name guardians for minor children.

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