Get Smart With: Wills vs. Trusts

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Do you feel uncertain, confused, or doubtful about your estate plan and what you need to protect yourself and your loved ones? There are common misconceptions about different types of estate planning documents. In this blog, we will highlight some of the differences between a last will and testament and a trust. Knowing the differences will help you in your decisions to best protect your family. Our experienced estate planning attorneys here at Handelin Law can help guide you through the estate planning process so that you know that your estate plan and affairs are in order.

Wills vs. Trusts

Both Wills and Trusts are valuable tools for any estate plan, but there are some key differences.  A last will and testament, or more commonly referred to as “will” – goes into effect after you die. A trust, on the other hand, can take effect immediately when the trust is funded. The will assigns and directs those that will receive your property after your death. A will requires Court direction and review during the probate process in order to take effect and carry out your wishes. A trust allows for pre-death management of assets in the event of incapacity, while also avoiding probate upon your death. This allows your wishes to be carried out immediately, instead of waiting for the lengthy and costly probate process.

Trust Preparation

If you decide to create a trust, our trust attorneys would discuss the importance of selecting the proper trustee(s), or the person, or people, who control the trust assets in the event of your incapacity or death. We will also discuss beneficiaries or those who will benefit from your assets upon your death.  There are several types of potential beneficiaries – outright beneficiaries, income beneficiaries, residual beneficiaries, and remote contingent beneficiaries to name a few. Whether it be real property, accounts, business interests, and what you do not want to fund into the trust, such as retirement accounts, everything can be discussed with our experienced attorneys. Once we have discussed your specific concerns and desires, we will prepare a tailored and individualized trust agreement for you.


One of the biggest differences between a will and a trust is the process of probate. If you create a will, beneficiaries, heirs, and representatives will need to go through the probate process.
“Probate” is the judicially supervised process of gathering assets, ensuring creditors are satisfied, and distributing the assets. This means a court oversees the administration of the will to ensure the will preparation was done correctly and is valid and also monitors your designated representative’s actions. During the probate process, your will also becomes public record, along with the value of your estate. A trust, which avoids probate, remains private. While a trust is still administered in a similar manner, the process remains private and not public record.

Wills and trusts each have their pros and cons, and every estate plan is unique. Schedule a consultation with our experienced estate planning attorneys to see what you need for your estate plan. If you are searching for an estate planning lawyer in Reno, Carson City, or Lake Tahoe, call Handelin Law at (775) 882 8032 and one of our staff would be more than happy to set up a consultation for you and our experienced estate planning attorneys. You also have the option of scheduling a consultation with us online by clicking here.