Wills and trusts are both estate planning documents that allow you to distribute assets to beneficiaries. However, they work in different ways.
Depending on your individual situation, you may want to make a trust the primary document in your estate plan. The Motley Fool describes some distinctions between a trust and a will.
1. A trust does not go through probate
Probate is the process of locating assets and distributing them according to instructions left in a will. It can be costly and time-consuming. Assets that you put in a trust are not probate property. You get to determine the rules by which distribution takes place.
2. A trust is private
A probated will becomes a matter of public record, meaning that anyone can request to look at it. A trust is not a public document, meaning more privacy for you and your beneficiaries.
3. There are different types of trusts
Because there are different types of trusts, you can choose the one that is most appropriate for your situation. One of the most popular types of trust is a revocable living trust, which allows you to keep control of all your assets and make changes as long as you are still alive. Once you die, a successor trustee of your choosing manages the trust on your behalf. At this point, the trust becomes irrevocable, meaning that it is no longer possible to make changes to it.
In many cases, a trust eliminates the need for a will. Even if you still need a will, e.g., you need to name a guardian for minor children, it can be much simpler than it would be without a trust.