How is a Revocable Living Trust Different From a Will?

by | Mar 7, 2022 | Estate Planning

A Revocable Living Trust and a Will are similar in that they both spell out who is to inherit assets from people after they are deceased, and they work well together to ensure people’s estate plans meets their needs, but they are different in a few important ways. For example:

  1. A Will must be probated, meaning it must be brought to the probate court by the executor/executrix of the estate, for a judge to determine its validity, inventory the assets in the estate, ensure creditors are identified, and give its approval for the distribution of assets. Probate attorneys are generally hired to work through this process with the estate manager. There are fees paid to the attorney and to the court. Therefore, a Will without a Revocable Living Trust is more expensive for the estate in the end, takes longer to settle, and takes more work to complete.
  2. A Revocable Living Trust holds the assets in the name of the Trust before and after the Trustor(s) and Trustee(s) die, which means that there is no need to re-title the asset when it is passed on after death. It makes inheritance of assets more convenient, quicker, and less expensive.
  3. A Will designates guardians for children left without parents upon the death or incapacity of the Grantor(s). A Revocable Living Trust can designate funds for use for the benefit of the child and a Trustee to manage those funds, but it cannot spell out by itself how guardianship of the person or the child should be managed. A Will works well in concert with a Minor’s Trust or a Revocable Living Trust to handle the guardianship of the Minor person and the Minor’s estate.
  4. A Will does not handle situations where a Trustor becomes incapacitated physically or mentally. A Will only “activates” when the Grantor dies. A well-drafted Revocable Living Trust and other attached documents like a Durable Power of Attorney can ensure that times of incapacity or illness do not interfere with the use and management of the assets.
  5. A Revocable Living Will can have tax benefits and savings that a Will does not. 
  6. The assets held in a Revocable Living Trust are kept private. They rarely become part of the public record unless someone files suit against a Trustor, Trustee, or Beneficiary regarding the assets in the Trust. However, the contents of a Will become part of the public record when they are probated, upon the death of the Grantor.
  7. A Will can essentially terminate or become invalid in some States when a Grantor marries or divorces. A Grantor who doesn’t know the law could end up dying “intestate” or without a will or a plan for the inheritance of assets. That cannot happen with a Revocable Living Will, as marriage or divorce does not affect the validity of the document. Changes in living circumstances can signal a need for changes to the Trust document itself, of course, but a good attorney will check in with you annually to ensure your estate plan is up to date.

Planning for all of the circumstances that might arise in your life that would affect how your assets are managed and any children cared for is essential for peace of mind. If you’d like to learn more about whether a Revocable Living Trust is right for you, please complete our INTAKE FORM and we will get with you within 24 hours, Monday-Friday.