• Robyn Saito

Trusts vs Wills: Which Do I Need?

Updated: Dec 29, 2021

A will includes your instructions for getting your belongings, money, and other assets after you die. A will is an essential estate planning document, and most people would benefit from having one.

Since wills must be proven during probate, your assets may go to someone other than your intended heirs if your will is improperly constructed and found to be invalid. The whole process could also be costly and time-consuming. Assets in a trust don’t go through probate, so you have more control over who gets the trust assets.

A trust is a legal entity that you transfer ownership of your assets to so that after you die, the people you chose as beneficiaries of the trust get ownership of the assets. Not everyone needs a trust, but they help you dictate how your beneficiaries can access the assets.

Ultimately, wills and trusts work hand in hand. Having a trust ensures your assets are handled according to your wishes, but only assets in the trust are covered. A will handles everything that isn’t in your trust, and your will can even include instructions for transferring things into a trust.

Do I need a will?

Most people would benefit from having a will. You don’t need a will if you have nothing to pass on, but even if you have very little to pass on, a simple will can be useful and inexpensive. Small estates may not need much of an estate plan beyond a will.

If you want certain individuals to receive certain belongings, then definitely look into creating a will. Without a will, disagreements over who should get your assets can delay probate and the time it takes for your beneficiaries to receive their inheritance. Probate — the process through which a court helps distribute your assets — can be time-consuming and very expensive for your beneficiaries if they seek legal advice or an attorney to help settle the estate.

Here are five reasons to get a will:

  1. Wills are an inexpensive way to pass assets to your intended beneficiaries. (Learn more about how to make your own will with our attorney-approved tools.)

  2. Having a strong will could make probate faster and cheaper for your loved ones. Not having a will could potentially cost your heirs a lot of time and lessen their inheritance because of legal fees.

  3. A good will covers everything in your estate. Other options, like trusts, cover a narrower band of assets.

  4. Wills can also help distribute the proceeds of a life insurance policy if its beneficiaries die before you.

  5. If you have any minor children, you can name a guardian for them in your will.