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What are the differences between wills and trusts?

Most families recognize just how important it is to have a comprehensive estate plan. The problem they may encounter is just what facets of an estate plan make the most sense for their personal financial circumstances. Many people in Massachusetts wonder whether using a will or a trust is the right choice. Fortunately, experts have advice when comparing wills and trusts.

First, any property listed for distribution in a will needs to go through probate. This process can be time-consuming and may not be cost-effective for everyone. The probate process is public, meaning a will might be more likely to be challenged, though some people think that is actually a good thing. A will may also make it easier to transfer different assets into or out of a person's estate. Even with any potential disadvantages, most experts say that any estate should have a will.

As for a trust, its terms can dictate exactly how assets need to be distributed. Since the terms of the trust are usually kept private and it doesn't have to go through probate, a trust is less likely to be challenged. However, certain legal issues must be handled properly with a trust, such as making that trust the owner of the property, including having the trust listed as the owner on a deed or financial account. Some experts say that a trust is useful because the estate owner is listed as the first trustee and ownership naturally passes to the successor when it is appropriate. However the transfer between trustees doesn't always go exactly as planned when other institutions get involved.

The most important thing is that anyone with questions about wills or trusts gets help from a professional. An attorney here in Massachusetts with experience in creating an estate plan can serve as an adviser. This way, the estate owner can rest assured that his or her estate will be handled as desired.

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