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What is the Difference Between a Will and a Living Trust?

Many people confuse the terms “will” and “trust.” A Will and Living Trust are not the same, but both are valuable for communicating your wishes after you’re gone.

A will is a legal document that says what should happen to your things after you die. But it doesn’t actually keep your things safe while you’re alive.

A living trust, however, provides a means to safeguard your belongings during your lifetime and also prepare for their distribution after your demise. It instructs individuals on how to manage your possessions and allocate them to your desired beneficiaries.

Let’s go through a more detailed answer on the difference between a will and living trust.

What is a Will?

A will is a written legal document that states your post-death desires. In your will, you designate recipients of your money, property, belongings, etc. Additionally, you appoint guardians for your minor children, financial handlers, caretakers of your pets, and more. Your will allows you to manage your affairs ahead of time so there’s no disorder or confusion when you pass.

Generally speaking, people are more familiar with wills than with trusts. However, a Will has several disadvantages, including excessive court fees and becoming part of the public record. While you should certainly create a Will, you do not necessarily need to appoint everything in the one document.

Pros and Cons of a Will:


      1. Ease of Understanding: Wills are widely recognized and generally easier for individuals to understand compared to more complex legal structures.
      2. Cost: Creating a will is often more cost-effective than setting up a trust, making it an accessible option for many people.
      3. Guardianship for Minors: Wills allow you to designate guardians for your minor children, ensuring their care and well-being in case something happens to you.


      1. Probate Process: Wills typically go through probate, a court-supervised process, which can be time-consuming and may involve court fees.
      2. Public Record: Wills become part of the public record, meaning that the contents are accessible to anyone. Some people may prefer a more private approach to their affairs.
      3. Court Fees: The probate process can lead to additional court fees, which may reduce the overall value of the estate left for beneficiaries.

What is a Living Trust?

A Living Trust is not merely a post-death document, nor is it one cut-and-dried document. Many types of trusts exist for many different purposes. However, in simple terms, a trust allows you to grant another individual authority over your assets in both death and life. Typically, your trustee does not handle your assets on their own behalf, but for the benefit of a third party (such as a child).

If you have named a trustee to receive your estate or assets when you pass, then there is not likely to be many complications. Your estate immediately passes to their care without all of the court fees that a Will incurs. Additionally, living trusts are revocable, which means you can change them whenever you desire.

Pros and Cons of a Living Trust:


  1. Avoiding Probate: One of the significant advantages of a living trust is that it bypasses the probate process, enabling a smoother and faster distribution of assets.
  2. Privacy: Living trusts offer more privacy since they are not typically part of the public record, providing a higher level of confidentiality compared to wills.
  3. Flexibility: Living trusts are revocable and can be modified or revoked by the creator at any time, allowing for changes in beneficiaries or assets.


  1. Complexity: Creating and managing a living trust can be more complex than drafting a will. It often involves transferring assets into the trust, which requires careful attention to detail.
  2. Cost: Setting up a living trust can be more expensive than creating a will due to the additional legal work involved.
  3. Requires Active Management: Unlike a will, a living trust requires ongoing management. Assets need to be properly titled in the name of the trust, and updates may be necessary as circumstances change.

Considerations for Both:

  1. Legal Assistance: Consulting with a legal professional is crucial for both wills and living trusts to ensure that the documents align with your intentions and comply with applicable laws.
  2. Asset Titling: Properly titling assets is essential for the effectiveness of both wills and living trusts. Failure to do so might result in assets not being distributed as intended.
  3. Estate Tax Planning: Both wills and living trusts can be part of effective estate tax planning, and individuals with substantial assets may want to explore strategies to minimize tax implications.
  4. Family Dynamics: Consider family relationships and dynamics when making decisions about inheritances and appointing guardians or trustees. Open communication can help prevent potential conflicts.

Remember, the choice between a will and a living trust depends on individual circumstances.  Most importantly, preferences, and the complexity of one’s estate. It’s advisable to seek professional advice to make informed decisions based on your unique situation.

Keep Your Documents in a Safe Place

Creating your end of life documents is the first step in securing your wishes. Step two is storing them in a secure place. The final step is to make sure your family can find your documents.

The U.S. Will Registry was founded in 1996 to fill an important gap. The location of your Will and other documents is stored in a database for later access. The U.S. Will Registry provides families and beneficiaries with a means to find lost Wills, Living Trusts, and other estate planning documents of those who have passed away.

Explore Comprehensive Last Will Management with The U.S. Will Registry

Discover our range of services: Free Will Creation, Free Will Registration, Missing Will Search, Free iCloud Storage and Free Death Notices, and Obituaries.
Create and Safeguard your will and ensure peace of mind.

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