Understanding the difference between a will and a trust

There is a lot you and other New York residents need to think about when doing your estate planning. Which relatives do you want to leave your favorite heirlooms to? How should you divide your home and vehicles amongst your loved ones? Can you specify how you want your grandchildren to spend their inheritance? What if you become incapacitated before you die?

These questions can be addressed when you create a will or a trust. Can you make both a will and a trust when you are planning your estate? Of course, but it helps to understand the differences between the two.

Leaving an inheritance

If all you are looking for is to specify “who gets what” in terms of your possessions and money after your death, a will may be an ideal choice. Your will addresses the property that you own in your sole name and goes into effect after you die. The probate process is involved with a will, if only briefly, to confirm the executor of your estate and transfer assets to your heirs. You might want to take note that whatever is in your will is going to become public record.

Addressing specific wishes and concerns

On the other hand, whatever is in a trust remains private, and the probate process is not automatically involved in a living trust. A living trust is a document that goes into effect immediately after you sign it, rather than upon your death. If you want to specify that your grandchildren receive their inheritance after graduating from a college you approve of, or to gradually distribute assets to a relative you are concerned might spend it all at once, including these wishes in a trust would be a good choice. Also, you may include terms in your trust that involve incapacity. For example, you might appoint a trustee to care for your medical and daily needs if you develop Alzheimer’s.

Either a will or a trust may work for your particular needs, and speaking with an estate planning attorney could help you decide which options are best for you.

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