What is The Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

Jan 4, 2019
Family Law


Welcome to John Hugh Shannon, your trusted source for comprehensive legal information and guidance. In this article, we will explore and demystify the difference between a will and a trust, two essential legal documents used in estate planning. Understanding the distinctions between these instruments will help you make informed decisions when it comes to safeguarding your assets and distributing them according to your wishes.

Defining a Will

A will, also known as a Last Will and Testament, is a legal document that outlines your final wishes and instructions regarding asset distribution after your passing. It serves as a roadmap for the probate court, specifying how you want your assets, such as real estate, bank accounts, and personal possessions, to be divided among your beneficiaries. A will may also appoint guardians for minor children and establish trusts for their benefit.

Understanding a Trust

A trust, on the other hand, is a legal arrangement where you transfer ownership of your assets to a trustee who manages them on behalf of your beneficiaries. Trusts offer flexibility and privacy, as they bypass the probate process, reducing the time and costs associated with it. Moreover, trusts allow for ongoing management of your assets, even if you become incapacitated. They can be revocable or irrevocable, meaning they can be modified or terminated during your lifetime or remain unchangeable.

Key Differences


One significant difference between a will and a trust lies in the probate process. When you have a will, it typically needs to go through probate, a court-supervised process that validates the document and ensures proper distribution of assets. This process can be time-consuming and expensive. In contrast, assets held in a trust do not go through probate, enabling a more efficient transfer of assets upon your passing.


If privacy is a concern for you, a trust may be a preferred option. Unlike a will, which becomes a public record once admitted to probate, a trust remains private, protecting your sensitive information and preserving the confidentiality of your estate plan and beneficiaries.

Asset Management

While a will takes effect only upon your death, a trust allows you to manage your assets during your lifetime. With a living trust, you can name yourself as the initial trustee and maintain control over your assets. Additionally, a trust can provide for the seamless transfer of management if you become incapacitated, preventing the need for a court-appointed guardian or conservator.

Distribution Flexibility

Trusts offer greater flexibility in distributing assets to your beneficiaries. You can establish conditions for distributions, such as releasing funds only when a beneficiary reaches a certain age or attains specific milestones. This control allows you to safeguard your assets and ensure they are used responsibly by your loved ones. In contrast, a will typically distributes assets outright without ongoing oversight.

Costs and Taxes

Depending on your circumstances, a trust may provide potential cost savings and tax benefits compared to a will. While there are upfront costs associated with setting up a trust, bypassing probate can save your estate substantial expenses. Trusts may also help minimize estate taxes and provide additional protection against creditors.

Which Option is Right for You?

Choosing between a will and a trust depends on various factors, including your estate's complexity, your privacy concerns, your desire for ongoing asset management, and potential tax considerations. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney can help you navigate these factors and determine the most suitable option for your unique needs.


In summary, a will and a trust are both essential estate planning tools, each with its own advantages and considerations. A will is a testamentary document that goes through probate, while a trust allows for privacy and ongoing asset management outside of probate. The key is to carefully evaluate your goals and consult with legal professionals who can guide you in making informed decisions to protect your assets and ensure your final wishes are carried out. At John Hugh Shannon, we are dedicated to providing expert legal advice and support.

Laurie Jenson
I appreciate the way the article highlights the impact of individual circumstances on the choice between a will and a trust.
Nov 8, 2023
Frank Schettini
I appreciate the effort to make the legal information more accessible.
Oct 30, 2023
Nathan Hamblen
The practical examples used in the article make the differences between a will and a trust more tangible.
Oct 5, 2023
Andres Escobar
I found the case study discussed in the article to be particularly enlightening.
Oct 3, 2023
Mat Tyndall
The explanations are easy to follow, allowing readers to grasp the nuances between wills and trusts.
Sep 29, 2023
Malkhaz Dzhobadze
Understanding the difference between a will and a trust is essential for estate planning, and this article does an excellent job of explaining it.
Sep 25, 2023
Aimee Lane
I appreciate the emphasis on the importance of considering individual circumstances when deciding between a will and a trust.
Jul 27, 2023
Allan Cohen
Thanks for shedding light on an important legal matter.
Jul 11, 2023
Gokce Caliskan
Great breakdown of the key differences!
Jul 1, 2023
Donald Janosik
Clear and well-structured explanation. Thank you!
Apr 22, 2023
Shelton Guinn
The article is well-organized and makes the complexities of wills and trusts more understandable.
Apr 17, 2023
Semiramis Felicioakinwale
The breakdown of the costs associated with wills and trusts is very insightful. It's an important consideration.
Apr 11, 2023
Jonathan Adisaputra
The article effectively breaks down the technical jargon associated with wills and trusts, making it easy to comprehend.
Apr 6, 2023
Larissa Maia
Great comparisons between wills and trusts! It's all about finding the best fit for specific planning needs.
Sep 24, 2022
Andrew Smit
Well-written and informative. Thank you!
May 19, 2022
Ling Kim
The article's exploration of the legal and financial aspects of wills and trusts is incredibly valuable.
Dec 25, 2021
I like the practical advice provided in the article for individuals pondering the choice between a will and a trust.
Dec 9, 2021
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The article's detailed analysis makes it easier to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of wills and trusts.
Oct 17, 2021
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The article's focus on outlining the key differences between a will and a trust is very beneficial for readers.
Sep 23, 2021
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Considering the differences between a will and a trust is crucial for anyone involved in estate planning. This article is a great starting point.
Sep 14, 2021
Great job on this article! The breakdown of the different legal aspects of wills and trusts is very beneficial.
Jun 30, 2021
Yh America Inc
The insights provided in the article reinforce the need for careful consideration when choosing between a will and a trust.
Jun 24, 2021
Eileen Lynch
I never knew there was such a distinction. Informative read!
May 26, 2021
John Evanoo
The comparison between a will and a trust really clarifies how each can meet different needs in estate planning.
May 16, 2021
Paul O'Brien
This article provides a clear explanation of the differences between a will and a trust. Thanks for simplifying a complex topic.
Apr 23, 2021
Lilly Garabet
This article is a great starting point for those new to estate planning.
Apr 13, 2021
William Cook
The thorough examination of the legal aspects of wills and trusts in this article is commendable.
Mar 25, 2021
Sami Kirkdil
I appreciate the depth of knowledge shared in the article.
Mar 2, 2021
Ann Pak
The article provided a clear and concise explanation.
Jan 21, 2021
Mark Wagner
I now have a better understanding of wills and trusts. Thank you!
Jan 5, 2021
👍 Helpful comparison between wills and trusts.
Dec 28, 2020
Alex Iv
The use of real-life examples to illustrate the differences between a will and a trust makes this article very relatable.
Dec 15, 2020
Giles Offen
The article provided valuable insights into estate planning.
Nov 4, 2020
Sarah Herzog
I never knew the distinctions between a will and a trust until I read this article. It's eye-opening!
Oct 31, 2020
John Dick
The breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of wills and trusts is useful for evaluating the best option for estate planning.
Aug 23, 2020
Thank you for shedding light on this important aspect of estate planning. The comparison between wills and trusts is incredibly valuable.
May 27, 2020
Sam Hall
The clarity and depth of the article's content really help in understanding the nuanced differences between a will and a trust.
May 5, 2020
Tracy School
The article effectively addresses a commonly misunderstood topic.
Mar 28, 2020
Lindsey McMahon
The consideration of probate and its impact on wills versus trusts adds depth to the comparison.
Mar 21, 2020
Ed Dottery
The article succinctly explains the differences between a will and a trust, making it an excellent resource for estate planning discussions.
Jan 17, 2020
Adrian Chambers
Thank you for simplifying a complex topic.
Dec 14, 2019
Tduitet Ugyte
I found the information about asset distribution in wills versus trusts to be particularly informative.
Nov 26, 2019
Ronda Langley
I appreciate the detailed comparison between wills and trusts. It's helpful to understand the benefits of each.
Oct 15, 2019
Victor Duenas
The article underscores the importance of seeking professional advice when deciding between a will and a trust.
Oct 7, 2019
Gretchen Crockford
Thank you for breaking down the complexities of wills and trusts.
Sep 30, 2019
T Musch
I like how the article highlights the flexibility of trusts as compared to wills. It's an important distinction.
Aug 20, 2019
Tacy Pack
The article's emphasis on long-term implications underscores the importance of making sound decisions between a will and a trust.
Aug 19, 2019
Michael Miller
The insights provided in this article will definitely help individuals make informed decisions about their estate planning needs.
Jul 6, 2019
Insightful explanation of the legal aspects of estate planning.
Jun 25, 2019
Daniel Indelicato
This article gives a comprehensive understanding of the differences between a will and a trust, which is beneficial for anyone navigating estate planning.
May 26, 2019
George Merges
The guidance provided in the article can empower individuals to make informed decisions when creating an estate plan.
May 9, 2019
Jeanluc Zeguers
The discussion about the privacy implications of wills and trusts is a significant aspect that should not be overlooked.
Apr 5, 2019
Steve Pooler
Useful information presented in an easy-to-understand manner.
Mar 18, 2019
Rana Kannan
I've always been confused about this. Thanks for clearing it up.
Mar 14, 2019