A Will or a Revocable Living Trust? — Five Questions to Ask Yourself

A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that declares how an estate or property will be managed after your death.  A Revocable Living Trust (RLT), on the other hand, is created as a guideline that determines the manner in which your estate or property is to be handled throughout your lifetime and also upon your death.

For those with minor children, it is crucial to declare how property or money will be used to provide for these children. For those with investments or accumulated savings, it is also essential to state the name of a responsible party who will manage these funds. If you die without estate planning in place, such as a Will or Trust, the state determines who will be your ultimate heirs.

What type of estate planning is right for you and your family? To make an important decision like this one, you should meet with a Certified Elder Law Attorney, such as Evan H. Farr, CELA. Before you do, you can read our FAQs about estate planning here. In addition, if you are looking to decide between a Will and a RLT, these are five questions to ask yourself.

1.   Are you seeking to avoid probate?
You must first open probateto carry out the instructions in a Will. A Trust, however, provides a way to bypass probate because the Trust owns the property the day it is transferred to it. Therefore, upon your death, it does not impact ownership in the property.

2.   Is privacy one of your goals?
If a Will is probated, then all records of the proceedings are publicly available. Therefore, a Will is probably not a viable option if one of your goals is privacy.

3.   Do you have a blended family?
If you have children that are not children of your spouse, then a Will is not be the best option to leave your property. A Trust is much more flexible than a Will and is a much better option for blended families. Read our blog post about blended families. 

4.   Are you looking to protect assets from creditors? Probate is also a process by which creditors of a decedent file claims to collect their debts. A Revocable Living Trust will protect your assets from creditors.

5.   Are you seeking to plan for mental disability or special needs?
If you have special needs or dependents with special needs, a Trust can be customized to meet these needs. A Will, on the other hand, allows you to transfer property but does not allow you to exercise substantial control over your heirs’ use of property.

The choice between a Trust and a Will is actually fairly cut and dry – Wills are virtually useless for most people while Trusts can accomplish the goals of almost everyone.  Which type of trust makes the most sense depends on the specifics of your particular family situation.Call The Fairfax Estate Planning Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. at 703-691-1888 for an appointment for a consultation to discuss these and other strategies to fit your situation.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.