The Advantages of a Living Trust Over a Last Will & Testament

By Laura Wallace Henderson

Planning for your future involves taking measures to direct the management of your belongings upon your death or incapacitation. Known as estate planning, certain actions and documents help you control the division of your assets. While a last will and testament works well for some individuals in certain situations, revocable living trusts may provide additional benefits in helping you to manage your estate.

Last Will and Testament

Your last will and testament, commonly referred to as your will, is a written document that specifies how you want your property distributed when you die. Wills can include various clauses and information, depending on your personal situation. Some wills include information on burial instructions, guardianship for minors and other dependents, as well as the allocation of assets. You can change this signed and witnessed document as you see fit, destroying old copies when you create new original wills.

Living Trust

While wills provide instructions for actions when you die, revocable living trusts supply provisions for management during your lifetime, as well as after your death. Be aware that an irrevocable trust provides a permanent reallocation of your assets. Your living trust serves as a separate entity, allowing you to transfer assets in your name over to your trust. When properly executed, a living trust can help you avoid probate, a legal process overseeing the administration of your estate, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Revocable living trusts often include pour over wills, documents that provide for any assets not placed into the trust.

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While probate procedures may vary depending on state laws, owning assets in your own name at the time of your death means your estate must go through probate. This occurs regardless of whether you had a will at the time of your death. If you die without a will, the laws of your state will determine what happens to your property and your minor children. During probate, your personal representative must perform a series of responsibilities including filing your will, taking inventories, paying debts and distributing assets.


Living trusts have some advantages over wills, although wills are usually simpler and less expensive to create. Consider using an irrevocable trust only when you are certain you won’t change your mind about the assets you transfer into this type of trust. A revocable living trust allows you to designate a trustee to manage your affairs when you can no longer oversee your assets. It also helps your estate avoid the probate process, often simplifying things for your family after your death.

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Does a Living Will Replace a Will?


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Can a Power of Attorney Create a Will?

Planning for your future includes considering the possibility of your incapacitation. A legal document, known as a power of attorney, allows you to designate one or more individuals to take care of a variety of responsibilities if you are unavailable or incapable of performing these on your own. The details you include in your power of attorney document will help define the responsibilities and limitations this written instrument allows.

How to Make a No-Frills Will

By creating a will, you have the power to dictate what happens to your assets after your death. Although contemplating your own demise is never a pleasant experience, proper planning ensures your family and assets are protected when you are no longer around to do the job. If you need to include tax planning information in your will, own a small business or have considerable assets, a simple, no-frills will may not be the most economical choice. If, however, your financial situation is not complex, a simple will is an option. Creating a basic will on your own or with the help of an online legal document provider can also save you hundreds of dollars in attorney fees.

Living Trusts vs. Last Wills

Planning your estate is the key to ensuring that your loved ones are provided for after your passing. However, the cost of retaining a qualified estate attorney can be high. While you can execute your estate plan on your own, the legal aspect is inherently complex and near impossible to navigate when you do not fully understand it. Fully knowing your options is the best way to develop a solid strategy for your money and your family.

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