Wills Vs. Trusts: Which One Is Right for You?
Sept. 1, 2023
When you begin the process of creating an estate plan, there are many things to consider. With so many different estate planning tools available that serve different functions, it may be confusing, leaving you unsure about which path to take. Understanding the differences between a will and a trust, how they work, and which type of document is best for you is a good place to start.
At Rutkin & Wolf PLLC, we are proud to serve the estate planning needs of individuals and families. If you are looking to start the process of putting a comprehensive estate plan in place, need to make changes to an existing plan, or have questions about why an estate plan is important and what it can do for you and your family, we are ready to help. From our location in White Plains, New York, we work with clients in the Bronx, New Rochelle, and throughout Lower Westchester County. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
The Importance of Having an Estate Plan
Far too many people pass away before they are able to create an estate plan. Sometimes these people pass away unexpectedly or at young ages, having never taken the step to plan for the future. Others simply never understood the importance of having such a plan in place.
If you die without having your affairs in order, your surviving loved ones will be left with a lot of important decisions to make and uncertainty regarding your wishes for your estate, which can easily become overwhelming in the midst of their grieving process. Creating a comprehensive estate plan removes much of this burden from your family and allows the process to be carried out according to your own wishes.
A will (or sometimes called a “last will and testament”) is likely the most widely-known type of estate planning document. But what exactly is a will, and what can be done with it?
What Is a Will?
A will is a common, relatively basic estate planning document in which an individual clearly expresses what they want to be done with their possessions when they die. A will can also be used to determine guardianship of minor children and specify how any outstanding debts are to be paid.
Types of Wills
Some of the different types of wills include:
“Simple” Will — The most common, basic will.
Joint Will — A will that is shared by two people (often spouses).
Holographic Will — A will that is handwritten without witnesses.
Pour-Over Will — A will in which all assets “pour over” into another person’s living trust.
Advantages of a Will
Possibly the most significant advantage a will has over a trust is that drafting a will is often less complicated and is less expensive than setting up a trust.
Potential Disadvantages of a Will
A will goes through probate, which is an often long and tedious legal process in which a court will oversee the distribution of your assets. A will can also sometimes be more easily contested.
A trust has some similarities to a will, but it also carries with it certain advantages that a will does not.
What Is a Trust?
A trust, like a will, is a legal document used to determine how your assets are distributed upon your death. Unlike a will, however, all of your assets will be managed and dispersed by a trustee (whom you appoint).
Types of Trusts
Some of the more common types of trusts include:
Revocable Trust — A document that can be amended or terminated at any time during the life of the individual creating the trust.
Irrevocable Trust — When someone places their assets in an irrevocable trust, they give up their rights to those assets.
Special Needs Trust — A document through which individuals with special needs (often children) are ensured to be taken care of in the event of their caretaker’s death.
Advantages of a Trust
Unlike a will, assets in a trust do not have to go through probate, which means they can be immediately distributed to beneficiaries when the trust is executed upon your death. This saves time and money.
Potential Disadvantages of a Trust
Though a trust has many advantages over a will, some people in specific situations (when setting up an irrevocable trust) may be wary of giving up their rights to the assets placed in the trust. Trusts can also not be used to establish guardianship over children.
Determining What Is Right for You
Depending on your specific needs, you may benefit more from a will, a trust, or by using both documents. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney can help you understand how each type of document can benefit you and lead you in the right direction to make a well-informed decision.
Protect Your Tomorrow by Planning Today
Establishing an estate plan is a great way to not just ensure your loved ones are cared for if something happens to you but also give you peace of mind as you move forward in life. Through the implementation of estate planning tools like wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and other legal documents, you can save your family a lot of the guesswork that takes place when someone passes away. In short, you can make an already difficult situation a bit less of a burden to those you love.
If you are located in the White Plains, New York area, or the surrounding communities throughout Lower Westchester County, New Rochelle, or the Bronx, and you are interested in getting started on creating an estate plan, get in touch with our experienced team at Rutkin & Wolf PLLC for the knowledgeable legal guidance you need. Schedule a consultation now to discuss your situation.