Do You Need a Will?

Do You Still Need a Will if You Have a Trust?

If you are getting ready to plan your estate, you probably have a lot of questions. You may have heard that you have two major options, which are a trust and a will. How does this work? If you have one, do you need the other? Or are these two options compatible? This guide will go over both options and answer all these questions. Keep in mind, however, that it is always incredibly helpful to work with an estate planning attorney.

Trust Vs. Will

Of these options, a will is a much more traditional option. A will is a legal document that provides instructions for one’s belongings, among other things, after their death. When someone dies, a court addresses their will and takes care of all economic and administrative aspects of it, which is a process called probate. An executor is determined, who is a person who will ensure the final wishes of the deceased are met.

A trust, on the other hand, is more like an agreement between two people. The person who creates the trust is called the benefactor. The benefactor transfers a set of their belongings to a trustee and sets a condition on the trust. When this condition is met, the trustee transfers the belongings to whoever the benefactor designated. If the items are transferred to someone other than the benefactor, those people are called beneficiaries. If a trust is used for planning one’s estate, the condition set on the trust will be the death of the benefactor.

Do You Need a Will?

So, if both of these options are valid, then can you only have one? If you have a trust, for example, do you also need a will? Having a trust is not for everyone, but everyone should have a will regardless of whether you also have a trust. This is because a will does more than simply designate belongings to loved ones. A will also:

  • Determines who the guardian of your children will be
  • Specifies final wishes
  • Names your executor

If someone dies without a will, the courts still need to sort out what to do. However, not having a will makes this process much more complicated. The court will need to assign an executor and usually intestate laws will determine how the deceased’s belongings are distributed. Having a will simplifies this process immensely and minimizes how long probate is.