Broker Check

Wills vs Trust

Wills vs Trusts

A recent survey showed that 55% of adult Americans don’t have a will.* How could something so important remain undone? Probably because, for most people, the thought of sitting down with an attorney to discuss the issue ranks just below getting a double root canal.

Nevertheless, planning for the future is important. And it doesn’t have to be painful.

If you die without a will, state laws will dictate how your assets are distributed. But those mandates may not reflect your wishes. For example, if you’re married with children living in Indiana and you die without a will, the assets in your name will be divided as follows:

50% to Surviving Spouse

50% to Children

If you have no children, then they will be divided this way:

75% to Surviving Spouse

25% to Parents of deceased (in-laws)

Love or hate your in-laws, this formula probably isn’t what you had in mind. The need for some sort of estate planning is obvious. But what’s right for you, a will or a trust?


The benefits of wills are twofold. First, they tend to be inexpensive to put in place. And second, they allow you to direct how your estate should be distributed. However, there are three significant negative issues associated with wills:

-Probate expenses – There is a common misconception that by having will you’ll avoid the probate process. This isn’t accurate. If you have a will your estate must go through probate, which can be very expensive (to learn more see “Estate Settlement Costs”).

-Delay in Distribution to Heirs – Due to the legal process involved with probate, it could take 12-18 months or more to settle the estate before assets are distributed to heirs.

-Lack of Privacy – Probate is a public process. So if anyone wants to know what you had and whom you willed it to, they only need to go to the courthouse to find out. It’s all public information and available to anyone who asks for it.


A trust (also known as a living trust) is an estate-planning document that has become more common in recent years. A living trust features several important benefits:

-Lower Costs – As long as it is “funded” (meaning assets are titled properly in the name of the living trust), assets will avoid the probate process and the related costs.

-Prompt Distribution to Heirs – We’ve guided clients through the settlement of dozens of living trusts. And in almost all cases, the estate can be settled and assets distributed within 90 days. All that’s usually required is a brief meeting with the heirs to discuss the steps involved, and within 90 days it’s done!

-Privacy – A living trust is a private document, so outside of the heirs, no one will know what you have, or who received it.

A living trust is a more complex document than a will. It’s usually one of a series of documents packaged to cover many estate planning contingencies (along with a living will, power of attorney documents, and a pour over will – the unique type of will that accompanies a living trust). This standard package costs more to create than a will – usually between $1,500 to $4,000, depending on the attorney you choose.

A common misconception with living trusts is that you somehow lose control of assets once they’re created. This is wrong. If you establish a living trust, you maintain control over your assets. You can buy and sell real estate, change banks, alter your investments, just as you did before. In fact, there are no restrictions.

Funding A Living Trust

Once you establish a living trust, you must fund it. It’s not uncommon to find a living trust that never actually had assets placed into it. When this is the situation, none of the benefits of the trust can be realized. And worse, all the assets that should have been in the trust are now subject to probate (expenses and delay) and public record.

Fortunately, funding a trust isn’t overly complicated. We make the process easy while seeing to it that our clients realize the full array of benefits. If you’re ready to explore if a trust is right for you – or to see to it that your existing trust is funded properly – simply schedule an appointment. Our painless process makes it easy.

Our Painless Process

Our three-step approach to getting your estate planning documents in place is easy and painless. Here’s what to expect:

-Step 1 – We’ll begin with a brief meeting to discuss the things that make your situation unique. (For example, do you have a blended family as a result of a second marriage? Or children with special needs? Or estranged children? Etc.) During this first meeting, we’ll discuss a number of concepts and potential benefits. We’ll also take time to discuss any special concerns or charitable interests you have.

-Step 2 – In conjunction with an elder law attorney in the comfort of our office, we’ll create a blueprint for who will receive your assets and how they will be distributed.

-Step 3 – You will receive your finalized documents. If they meet your approval, they will be signed, witnessed and notarized. At this point, we will also “fund” your living trust.

That’s all there is to it! The document gets put away for safekeeping and you go to bed that night with the confidence that your affairs are in order. In addition, we’ll furnish you with a letter that explains to your heirs what to do upon your passing. It really is a painless process, and it starts when you contact us.

Source: Study conducted by Harris Interactive® for Martindale-Hubbell,

Private Client Services does not provide legal advice.