As you begin the estate planning process, you may be unsure whether your family would be best served by a will or a trust. Generally, a will and a trust serve different purposes, but both can be extremely beneficial. Many Pennsylvania residents discover that they need both a will and multiple trusts to protect their assets and ensure that their family is well taken care of after their death.
The main difference between a will and a trust is that any assets in a trust will avoid probate, while assets listed in a will go through the probate process. While probate can be expensive and cause long delays when it comes to property distribution, this is not the case in every state. Also, when the will is filed in court and goes through probate, it can be accessed by the public. However, this isn’t always a bad thing, as public scrutiny can force people to act appropriately. Trusts are not public, making them more difficult to challenge than wills.
If you want to easily transfer assets in your name, a will may be the way to go. Any assets that you own when you die will be considered part of your estate. Upon your death, your property will go from you to the estate and finally to your beneficiaries, with the probate court’s supervision throughout.
Trusts have stricter rules, requiring you to name a trustee and have deeds/titles reissued in the trust’s name. Upon your death, the trustee will take control of the property and distribute the assets in accordance with the terms of the trust, without court supervision.
Both wills and trusts have their own advantages and disadvantages, but many experts advise having a will and a minimum of one trust. An estate planning attorney can review your assets and help you determine what is best for you and your family.