estate planning

What’s the Difference Between a Trust and a Will?

When it comes to estate planning, a will is like the foundation for which you build upon. In many cases, our clients will ask us what the difference is between a trust and a will. Whether it’s prized possessions you wish to distribute equally among family members, guardianship of young children, or who you’d like to carry on the family business – it’s important to know some of the basics of a trust vs a will.


A will is a comprehensive document that you have total control over and can amend at any time that describes in detail your wishes upon death. It can give instructions on how you wish to have your assets divided and homes or vehicles distributed. It can also discuss any charitable contributions, guardianship matters for children under the age of 18 and a pet provision for our beloved furry friends. In addition, a will should include an executor, someone you trust that can responsibly handle all of the details associated with managing it – from paying off debts to distributing assets and so forth. A will can be distributed to family in advance, stored in a safety deposit box or filed away safely in your home where family can find it when the time comes.


Creating a trust can be seen as more time consuming but the benefits are many times worth the extra effort, depending on the nature of why you wish to create one. One of the biggest differences between a trust and a will is that a trust doesn’t need to go through the probate process. A will, on the other hand, may be subject to evaluation by the courts and can cause delays in distributing the assets to those named in the will. This can be due to the complexity of the will or if assets are being requested for transfer. Some other important factors to consider include guardianship of a minor. A trust will not allow you to make these provisions like a will. Trusts can also be viewed as a private way to leave funds to your children, grandchildren or charities.

We encourage individuals to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney when deciding between wills and trusts. No matter your age, wealth, business background or assets, it’s always a good idea to have something in writing so that your family can ensure your wishes are met.

At Wagstaff, our family law experts have a wealth of experience in estate planning. Give us a call today to get started!