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What is the difference between a will and a living trust?

Posted by Chris Peterson | Dec 13, 2012 | 0 Comments

What is the difference between a will and a living trust?

Wills and living trusts are both estate planning tools for passing your assets on to your heirs and beneficiaries after your death.  An experienced Bryan, Texas estate planning attorney can provide you with the help you need in choosing which is better for you.


A will is a legal instrument in which you state what you would like to happen to your property after you die.  After you execute your will, you should keep it in a safe place; but otherwise you don't need to do anything to maintain it.  A will does not go into effect until your death so if your circumstances change, you are always entitled to change your will.

Contrary to what many people believe, a will does not avoid probate. When you have a will, as a general rule, your estate will need to be probated.  However, a will that is professionally prepared by a licensed Texas estate planning attorney can make the probate process more efficient and less costly.  This is especially true if the will provides for independent administration.

Living trusts

A living trust is a trust that you create during your life and that you can revoke or amend as you see fit. In a living trust instrument, you can specify how you want your assets distributed among the beneficiaries on your death, just as you can in a will

Unlike a will, a living trust goes into effect immediately. Once you set up the trust, you must transfer your assets into it.  During your life, you can be the trustee of the trust and manage the assets as you wish.  In the trust instrument, you can name a successor trustee who will take over on your death or incompetency.

Don't confuse a living trust with a living will, a document in which you state your wishes for end of life care.

Wills and living trusts compared

The main difference between a will and a living trust is that a will typically requires probate on your death, while a properly funded trust does not.  Another difference is that the provisions of a trust usually will remain private, while anyone can look at will that has been filed for probate and at the inventory of estate property.  Finally, a living trust can provide for a successor trustee, not only on your death, but also on your incapacity, which sometimes avoids the need for a guardianship proceeding.

Despite these differences, a living trust is not always a better choice than a will.  For many, the expense and work of setting up and administering a trust outweigh the expense and inconvenience of probate.

For help deciding whether you need a living trust or a will

If you are trying to decide whether you need a living trust or a will, your best course of action is to contact an experienced Bryan, Texas estate planning attorney at the Peterson Law Group.  To schedule a consultation, call us today at 979-703-7014.

About the Author

Chris Peterson

Chris Peterson is the owner of Peterson Law Group. He practices primarily in the areas of wills, trusts and estate planning; probate and trust administration; elder law; and business law. Chris is also the owner of Brazos 1031 Exchange Company.


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