If you’re in the beginning stages of estate planning, you might be wondering, is it better to have a will or a trust? You’re not alone. This is one of the most common decisions in estate planning, and the advice and guidance of an attorney experienced in drafting wills and trusts can ensure your assets will be distributed according to your wishes.

While we recommend that everyone have a last will and testament, determining whether a trust is right for you depends on your assets and goals. To ensure you get the most out of your meetings with your estate planning attorney, this blog covers some basic information about the differences between a will and trust and the advantages of each. 

What is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

What is a Will?

A will is a legal document that, upon your death, provides instructions on how to distribute your property and assets. With a will, you nominate a person as your executor (also known as a personal representative), who is responsible for carrying out the wishes you set forth in your will.

Your will can be as brief or as detailed as you would like. You can decide to leave everything to one beneficiary, assign specific items to specific people, or split everything evenly between beneficiaries. Your beneficiary can be a charity, a local organization, friends, or family members. Your will also gives you the ability to provide general instructions regarding the care of dependents or pets.

A will is an easy way to help your loved ones settle your estate. Your will defines your expectations for your property and assets, decreasing the likelihood of disputes between family members. After a will is created, you can easily modify it with an amendment or completely rewrite your will. 

In the absence of a will, state law dictates who receives your assets and who is in charge of distributing the assets, which may not reflect your wishes.

While there are no real disadvantages to having a will (in fact, we recommend everyone over the age of 18 have a will), there are a few things to think about. To be empowered to distribute assets according to your will, your executor must be appointed by the Probate Court, and the Court oversees the probate process. This means that your probate assets are public record, and it can take up to a year before the probate process is complete. 

What is a Trust?

A trust is an estate planning tool in which you name a trustee to take care of your property. If there are assets placed in the trust before your death, the trustee can manage the assets during your lifetime and also after your death. Trusts offer privacy and some flexibility that wills do not.  

However, not everyone needs a trust. A trust may be appropriate if you have a high net worth, have complex assets, have dependents who have special needs, or have other estate planning needs that require additional flexibility. 

An additional benefit of a trust is that your assets, their value, and the identities of your dependents will not become public record because the trust would be under the direct management of your trustee rather than the Probate Court.

Can You Have Both a Will and a Trust?

Yes, you can have both a will and a trust, and many clients do. Regardless of whether a trust is right for you, we recommend everyone have a will. To determine which documents are right for you, it’s best to speak with an attorney experienced in drafting wills and trusts

Who is the Best Person to Write Your Will or Living Trust?

It is important to have an experienced estate attorney draft your estate plan. We have seen time and time again problems with self-made wills. Having a properly drafted estate plan is a gift to your family. Having a living trust and/or will written by an attorney with expertise in estate planning and probate services offers both reassurance and peace of mind that your estate planning documents are tailored to your needs and that they meet state law requirements. 

Hire an Experienced Attorney for Wills and Trusts in South Carolina

If you’re still unsure whether it is better to have a will or trust, Eugene Parrs and Ashley Amundson, our expert wills and trusts attorneys, are available to help. Both Eugene and Ashley have a wealth of knowledge, experience, and compassion to guide you through the estate planning process. 

Harvey and Battey is your full service law firm in Beaufort, SC with over 100 years of experience and a strong reputation. With Harvey and Battey, you get the personalized attention of a small firm combined with the knowledge and resources of a large firm. Our attorneys have years of experience in many practice areas such as family law, real estate, estate planning, personal injury, and more. Contact us today to schedule your consultation regarding your specific circumstances and learn how we can be your law firm for life.