Beginning your estate planning journey may seem like a daunting and overwhelming task. Most people typically begin with either formulating a last will and testament or trust, but knowing which one will work toward your best interests can be confusing. Our Arkansas estate planning team explains the differences between trusts and wills to help point you in the right direction.
What is a Last Will & Testament?
A last will and testament is a planning document used to decide to whom and where your assets will go when you pass away.
These documents are relatively simple to produce but also hold several shortcomings. When they are properly established, writing a will allows you the opportunity to do the following:
- Designate who receives your assets
- Appoint an executor to carry out the terms of the will
- Name an individual to manage assets left to a minor
One of the biggest drawbacks of wills is they become public documents once they are filed in probate court. This can lead to disputes between family members or loved ones who feel they were unfairly omitted from the will. These disputes often result in litigation, which is expensive and has the ability to consume the resources you chose to leave to your family, leaving the terms outlined in your will useless.
The most common misconception about having a will is it can help to avoid probate. In fact, the opposite is true. Having a will alone guarantees that probate will occur. If you wish to avoid probate, there are further estate planning methods to pursue.
Choosing a Trust
Trusts have many of the same capabilities as wills, but with several key advantages. Trusts can be made to facilitate nearly any goal. In order to create a living trust, a trustee must be appointed to administrate any assets you wish to place in the trust. Trusts can also be made revocable, which simply means you can give yourself the ability to amend the terms of trust throughout your lifetime.
You are also able to place as many, or as few, of your assets as you wish into a living trust while continuing to use/spend them as you need.
Here are some of the additional benefits made possible by trusts:
- They remain private documents
- They are not subject to probate, and entirely avoid the process and expenses
- Provides flexibility to plan for numerous situations
- Allows you to completely customize the when/where/how/who of asset distribution
- Much harder to challenge, making it far less likely for loved ones to deal with litigious disputes
In short, trusts allow much more in-depth and hands-on control over your assets. Although they take much longer to draft and formalize, their pros far outweigh that simple con. It is worth noting, however, that due to the amount of administration they require, it is usually wise to seek professional services when pursuing the creation of a trust.
Contact Our Arkansas Estate Planning Team Today
We understand how important your family’s future is. With personalized and compassionate guidance, Martin Attorneys, PA is able to help you establish an estate plan that truly stands to benefit your loved ones when the time comes.
If you would like to learn more about how to get started on your estate plan, don’t hesitate to contact us today through our website or give us a call at (479) 888-2039!