Wills and trusts are two valid estate planning tools you can use to distribute your assets after you pass, but they function differently in how they accomplish your goals.
Both legally binding documents give you the final say in where your assets go upon your death. However, their significant differences provide varying advantages and disadvantages, depending on your goals and the size of your estate.
Wills and trusts go into effect at different times
A will does not go into effect until after you pass away, while a trust is effective as soon as you form it. When you create a trust, you essentially turn the ownership of your assets over to the trust. If you name yourself a trustee, you maintain control of your assets while you are still alive, but you need to identify a successor trustee.
Trusts do not go through probate, while wills do
Massachusetts probate law requires assets in a will to go through the probate process. The court settles your debts and then follows the guidance in the will.
Trusts do not go through the probate process. Therefore, your heirs receive their inheritance faster than with a will. Your beneficiaries also avoid paying probate fees.
Wills require less maintenance than trusts
To prevent newly acquired assets from being subject to probate, you must immediately move them into a trust. Otherwise, if you pass before you put them into a trust, they must go through probate. Wills already pass through probate, so they do not usually require as much upkeep.
The process of setting up and maintaining a trust is often more complicated. However, they provide benefits that may be worth it for you and your heirs.