If you’ve ever looked up what a will is, the odds are good that the word “trust” was accompanied in those search results. Wills and trusts are often used interchangeably – and although they do work together, they are separate entities with different legal values. Let’s break down the difference between wills and trusts, how they coincide, and how you can make your own.
A will is a legal document that organizes the distribution of your assets or appoints legal guardianship of minor children after your death. Think of a will as an umbrella term used to determine who gets what – including:
Creating a will is not mandatory, but having one lets you dictate your wishes so your family can avoid judges, state officials, and unneeded family conflict when deciding what assets should go where. To ensure that you cover everything, it’s always recommended that you work with lawyers with expertise in estate planning.
A trust is a more specific aspect of a will – for example, trusts allow you to put conditions on your car or your home as opposed to the whole of your assets. Some other things you might consider covering in your trust would be:
Like wills, trusts are optional, but they can cover more precise details on how and what aspects of specific assets should be used. Plus, trusts can be put into effect at any point, whether that’s before, at, or after death.
In most cases, trusts are used to protect financial-based assets for three reasons:
Trusts also help your family avoid the probate process (which is when your will and trust must be proven valid in a court of law).
Wills are helpful legal documents, but they fall short in several ways: They allow you to make direct arrangements to appointed beneficiaries, but if you have children or an inheritance, you’ll want a trust to carry out specific wishes.
For example, if you plan to gift your children different assets for when they turn 21 years old, you’ll need a trust to put that legally into effect. Or if you want to stagger an inheritance instead of gifting a lump sum all at once, a trust will help you do that too.
Ultimately, together, a will and a trust create a complete estate plan.
The good news is that it’s easy to create your own will and trust. There are many online resources that can walk you through each aspect – but the downside is that these documents are quite detailed and require a basic understanding of “legalese.”
That’s why it’s best to have your will and trust prepared by estate attorneys who can help you navigate that every aspect is filled in correctly and comply with your state’s laws. Arkansas, for example, will require different details depending on your marital status and whether or not you have children.
With decades of combined experience in estate planning and family law, the expert team at Hickey & Hull Law Partners can help you create and complete every aspect of your will, no matter the types of stipulations you might want to include. Call us today or fill out our online form, and we’ll get started. Our River Valley office number is 479.434.2414, and our Northwest Arkansas number is 479.802.6560.