Main Differences between a Will and Trust

calendar07 Apr, 2023
timeReading Time: 5 Minutes
Main Differences between a Will and Trust

A will and a trust are two types of legal documents that individuals use to outline their wishes and intentions regarding their assets and property after they pass away. While both documents serve similar purposes, they differ significantly in various aspects of the law.

What is a Will?

Will in law is a legal document that outlines the distribution of an individual’s assets after their death. It is a written statement of the individual’s wishes for the disposition of their property and assets. A will is a crucial document that ensures that the individual’s property is divided according to their wishes and not left to the discretion of the state.

The person who creates the will is referred to as the testator. The document is created with the assistance of a lawyer and must be signed in the presence of witnesses to be legally valid. The will may consist of one or multiple clauses which specify various aspects of the individual’s asset distribution, from naming the executor to naming beneficiaries and guardians for minor children.

In case the individual dies without a will, they are said to have died intestate, and the state decides the distribution of their assets according to the law of intestacy. In such cases, the state may also appoint an executor.

A will can be amended or revoked by the testator at any time during their lifetime. It is advisable to regularly review and update one’s will to reflect on changing life situations such as marriage, children, and divorce.

Will Trust
A legal document that outlines how a person wants their property to be distributed after their death A legal document that transfers property from one person (the grantor) to another person or entity (the trustee) to be managed for the benefit of a third person (the beneficiary)
Only takes effect after the person’s death Can be established during a person’s lifetime or after they die
Can be revoked or changed by the person who created it at any time until their death as long as they have legal capacity Can be revocable or irrevocable depending on the terms
Requires probate, which is the court process of distributing property according to the will and settling any disputes that may arise Avoids probate due to the property already being owned by the trust
Offers flexibility in terms of how the property is distributed and who receives it Offers more privacy than wills because trusts are not subject to public record
Does not provide any tax benefits Can provide tax benefits and help minimize estate taxes
Does not provide any protection against legal challenges Can offer protection against legal challenges because the trust property is protected by a trustee
May not protect assets from creditors   May protect assets from creditors depending on the terms of the trust  
May not be suitable for everyone, especially individuals with complex estates or those who want to disinherit certain family members May be suitable for individuals with large estates, significant assets, or special needs beneficiaries

In summary, creating a will ensures that a person’s wishes regarding their assets and property are met after their death. It remains a vital legal document applicable in almost every aspect of an individual’s life.

What is a Trust?

A Trust is a legal document that outlines an individual’s wishes and intentions regarding their assets and property after they pass away. It is a legal agreement between the creator of the trust, known as the grantor or settlor, and a trustee, who will manage and distribute the assets according to the grantor’s wishes.

There are different types of trusts, including revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, and testamentary trusts. The type of trust chosen depends on the grantor’s goals and objectives, as well as their overall estate planning strategy.

Trusts offer several benefits, such as avoiding probate, protecting assets from creditors or lawsuits, and providing for the needs of beneficiaries over time. They also offer privacy since the distribution of assets occurs outside of the court’s jurisdiction and is not made public.

Creating a trust requires careful consideration of the grantor’s assets, beneficiaries, and overall goals. It is essential to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure the trust is drafted correctly and meets the grantor’s objectives.

Overall, a Trust is an essential legal document that can help individuals ensure that their assets are distributed according to their wishes after they pass away. It can provide peace of mind knowing that their loved ones will be taken care of and their assets protected.

Differences between a Will and Trust:

One of the significant differences between a will and a trust is that the latter can be used to transfer assets and property both before and after death. A trust is a legal agreement between an individual (the grantor) and a trustee who manages assets and property on behalf of beneficiaries. A trust can be created while an individual is still alive, and it can be modified or revoked as long as the grantor is still alive and competent.

Another major difference between a will and a trust is the level of privacy involved. Wills are filed with the court during the probate process, making them public records that anyone can access. This means that anyone can see the details of your last will, including the value of your assets and the identities of your beneficiaries. A trust, on the other hand, can be kept private because it does not need to be filed with the court.

In terms of the level of control that each document provides, a trust offers more control than a will. With a trust, the grantor can set specific instructions for how their assets should be managed and distributed, and they can oversee those instructions while they are still alive. In contrast, once a will goes into effect, it is up to the executor and the court to carry out the instructions outlined in the document.

The flexibility of a trust is one of its most significant advantages over a will. A trust can be used to manage assets and property in a variety of ways, including providing for beneficiaries with special needs, funding education or healthcare expenses, and managing assets for minors. A trust can also be designed to protect assets from creditors, lawsuits, and even divorce settlements.

Another significant difference between a will and a trust is the length of time it takes for the assets to be distributed after the individual’s death. With a trust, the assets can be distributed quickly and efficiently because they are not subject to probate. This means that beneficiaries can receive their inheritance without having to go through a lengthy court process, which can take anywhere from several months to several years. With a will, the probate process can be lengthy and expensive, and it can tie up assets for a significant amount of time, especially if there are disputes among beneficiaries or creditors.

It is worth noting that both wills and trusts have their advantages and disadvantages, and the decision to use one or the other will depend on an individual’s unique circumstances. For example, individuals with significant and complex assets may benefit from establishing a trust to ensure that their assets are managed and distributed according to their wishes. In contrast, individuals with fewer assets and a straightforward estate may find that a will is sufficient for their needs.


The main differences between a will and a trust in the aspect of law are the level of control and privacy they provide, the flexibility and efficiency of asset distribution, and the timing and costs of the legal process. While both documents aim to ensure that an individual’s assets are distributed according to their wishes, they differ significantly in how they achieve that goal. Individuals should consult with an attorney to determine which option is best suited for their particular financial[1] and legal circumstances.

Also Read:
Guide To Understanding The Difference Between A Will And A Trust

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