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What are the differences between wills and living trusts?

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Quick Answer

A will is used to distribute property to beneficiaries, lay out any last wishes and name guardians for minor children. It does involve the probate process. A living trust is also used to distribute property to beneficiaries, but it is not usually subject to probate court, states LegalZoom.

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Full Answer

Although the primary purpose of wills and living trusts is to designate beneficiaries for property, they serve different purposes. Most people should create a will, but whether they need a living trust depends on their age, financial circumstances and marital status, states Nolo.

In a will, the property to be dispersed is described, and the will defines who should get it. Most people who use wills do so because wills are generally easy to create and require no special language to execute. However, wills must go through the probate process, which is the court system utilized to close out a decedent's affairs. Probate can often be a lengthy and expensive process. In a trust, while the property is defined as well as who gets it, the property is transferred into a trust. Most people who use living trusts do so specifically to avoid the probate process, while still retaining the benefits of being able to control property distribution. However, living trusts are more complicated to make, and they cannot be used to name an executor or guardians for children, explains Nolo.

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