Trusts vs. Wills: What's the Difference?

When planning for the future, many people turn to trusts or wills to decide what happens to their assets when the time comes. One mistake that tends to be made is the assumption that wills and trusts do the same things. Below you’ll find a general guide to both wills and trusts to find out exactly what they do and when they come into play. (Please consult an attorney for up-to-date, personalized advice.)

Wills

A will is often referred to as a “last will and testament,” and is used as a planning document to decide what happens to your assets when you pass away.

These documents are relatively easy to produce but have several shortcomings. When formalized properly, writing a will in Oklahoma 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

Formalizing your will in Oklahoma requires a notary presence of at least two reliable witnesses. These witnesses will also attest to your competency at the time of signing.

A will also becomes a public document once it is filed in probate court, which can lead to disputes between family members or loved ones who feel as though they were unfairly omitted from or left out of the will. These disputes often result in protracted litigation, which is expensive and may completely exhaust the resources that you chose to leave to your family, endangering your wishes as outlined in your will.

A common misconception is that having a will avoids probate. The opposite is true. Having a will alone guarantees that probate will occur. Avoiding probate requires further estate planning.

Trusts

Trusts have many of the same capabilities that wills do, with several additional advantages. Trusts can be made to facilitate nearly any goal. To create a living trust you must appoint a trustee that will administrate any assets you wish to place in the trust.

You can also place as many, or as few, of your assets as you wish into a living trust while still continuing to use/spend them as you need.

Trusts can also be made revocable. This simply means you can give yourself the ability to amend the terms of the living trust throughout your life.

Key Advantages of Living Trusts:

  • They remain private documents
  • They are not subject to probate, and entirely avoid the princess and expense for many people
  • Allow a great deal of control to plan for several different situations
  • Allows you to customize the when/where/how/who of the distribution of assets
  • Harder to challenge, making it less likely for loved ones to deal with a litigious dispute

With trusts allowing much more in-depth control over your assets, they do take much longer to draft and formalize. With the amount of administration they require, it is usually wise to seek professional services when pursuing the creation of a trust.

Contact Our Oklahoma Estate Planning Team Today

We understand the importance of planning for the future. With family and loved ones in mind, being prepared for any situation can be imperative for their success. At Gossen and Schaller we provide compassionate and experienced services to make sure you find exactly what you’re looking for.

If you have any questions regarding your own personal estate planning, do not hesitate to contact us today through our website or give us a call at (405) 267-9921!