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Living Trust vs. Will: Which Is the Right Choice?

If you are planning your estate, you probably have already figured out that wills and trusts are two of the most common tools available, but you may be unsure which one is right for you. Wills and living trusts each have their place, and you shouldn’t rule either one out until you’ve spoken with a qualified estate planning attorney. Depending on your needs, you may in fact benefit from creating both a will and a living trust.

In some states, living trusts are the preferred choice. Here in Texas, wills have been the estate planning vehicle of choice for many years. There are a variety of reasons:

  • Wills are usually less expensive to create.
  • Wills take effect without requiring you to transfer title to any assets, whereas trusts usually require assets to be titled (i.e. owned) by the trust, not by you as an individual.
  • Probate is less expensive in Texas compared to many other states, so using a trust to keep assets out of probate, at least for cost reasons, is not as much of a concern here.
  • A will can comprehensively dispose of your entire estate, whereas a trust can only distribute assets specifically transferred to it.

Yet a living trust still could have a role to play in your estate plan, either as a replacement for a will or as a complement to a will. For example:

  • If you own property in another state, a living trust is helpful because it can eliminate the need for two probate proceedings, one in Texas and one where your property is located.
  • If you have a living trust and become incapacitated, your successor trustee can step in to manage your assets without the need for a court-supervised guardianship proceeding. Guardianships in Texas are known to be expensive and time-consuming, so avoiding it helps you and your family.
  • If privacy is a concern, a trust is preferable. Trusts are administered out of court, whereas a will gets filed in probate court and becomes a matter of public record.
  • Even though Texas probate is relatively quick, it can still be costly. Living trusts are not subject to court costs, legal fees and other potential expenses associated with probate.

As you think about how to transfer your assets to the next generation, consider these factors and discuss them with your estate planning attorney. Share your concerns and goals with your lawyer and work toward a solution that makes sense for your unique needs.

The North Texas lawyers of Hayes, Berry, White & Vanzant, LLP are highly experienced in drafting wills, living trusts and all other estate planning documents. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you, hear about your situation and explain how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please call 940-230-2386 or contact us online. We would be happy to meet with you at our offices in Denton, Flower Mound, Gainesville or Celina.

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