As an estate planning attorney, I’m often asked about the difference between a Will and a Trust. This is a good question, because we want you to choose the option that best fulfills your wishes for yourself, your assets, and your heirs.

A Will basically outlines your assets, and designates a person or people to receive that property after your death. You then name one person to serve as the Executor of your estate, and they are tasked with making sure that your wishes are followed.

Before your assets can be distributed according to the wishes stated within your Will, the estate will pass through probate court. During this court process, which can take months or sometimes years to complete, the Will could be contested. A judge will have the final say on how your assets are distributed.

By contrast, a Trust will not pass through probate court, provided it is set up and funded correctly. A Trust is another method of assigning property to heirs after your death, and selecting a Trustee to ensure that your wishes are followed. However, those assets will pass directly to your heirs upon your death, rather than passing through probate court. So, a Trust can save your beneficiaries a lot of time and trouble, and you might view it as more secure.

You can also use a Trust to plan for physical or mental incapacitation. In the event that you can no longer make decisions, who would you want to control your assets? You can use your Trust to provide instructions and guidance to your Trustee in the event that you cannot manage your financial affairs.