What is a Will, and How Does it Differ from a Trust in Massachusetts?

Estate planning is often surrounded by confusion and misconceptions. Many residents find themselves pondering whether they should draft a will or establish a trust, as they are unsure of the differences, and which might suit their individual circumstances best. In the realm of ensuring that one’s assets and wishes are honored upon their passing, understanding these two fundamental tools – a will and a trust – is crucial. Join us as we delve into the nuances of each, shedding light on their distinct roles and helping you make informed decisions for your future.


What is a Will?

When it comes to planning for the future, a will is often the first tool that comes to mind. In essence, a will is a legal document that outlines how you would like your assets distributed upon your passing. This can include real estate, personal possessions, financial accounts, and even instructions for the care of minor children. It provides a clear map for the distribution of your estate, reducing potential conflicts among beneficiaries.


Trusts Explained

A trust, often seen as a more complex estate planning tool, holds assets on behalf of beneficiaries. It is managed by a trustee who follows the terms of the trust. Trusts are particularly beneficial because they can offer tax advantages, help avoid probate, and provide more detailed control over when and how assets are distributed. For instance, instead of providing a lump sum inheritance to a young beneficiary, a trust could distribute funds over time or when certain milestones are reached.


The Main Differences Between a Will and a Trust

Deciding between wills and trusts can be daunting. The following provides a concise breakdown to help guide your choice:

  1. Timing of Effect: Wills only become operative after one’s demise, determining how assets will be divided. Trusts, however, can start working right after they are established, granting more immediate control over assets and potential distributions during one’s lifetime.
  2. Control and Conditions: Wills provide a straightforward distribution of assets upon death. In contrast, trusts offer granular control, permitting the creator to dictate terms like releasing funds when a beneficiary achieves certain milestones or reaches a specific age.
  3. Privacy vs. Public Record: Trusts maintain discretion, keeping the details of asset distribution hidden from public view. Wills, once processed through probate, become transparent, potentially opening up the estate’s details to public scrutiny.
  4. Probate Proceedings: While wills are subjected to probate — a sometimes lengthy legal oversight of asset distribution — trusts, particularly the revocable kind, are designed to sidestep this process, ensuring beneficiaries receive assets more promptly and with fewer legal formalities.
  5. Flexibility and Amendments: Amending a will usually demands a new draft or an addendum called a codicil. Trusts, especially if revocable, can be tweaked with relative ease. However, it is worth noting that once set, irrevocable trusts offer very limited latitude for changes.

The choice between a will and a trust will greatly depend on the level of control, privacy, and flexibility you desire in managing and distributing your assets.


Which One is Right for You

Deciding between a will and a trust can often feel like navigating a maze. Determining which is suitable for your scenario hinges on your tailored objectives and your estate’s intricacies. A will might be the best route if your estate is uncomplicated, and your primary aim is to ascertain assets are allocated as per your directives. Conversely, a trust emerges as a viable option if you are contending with multifaceted requirements. These might include catering to a special needs child, evading the potentially protracted probate process, ensuring your estate’s details remain confidential, or maintaining a continuous income stream for certain beneficiaries even as they reach specific life milestones.


Work with the Compassionate Attorneys at Casey Lundregan Burns P.C.

The decisions that you will make in your estate planning require careful consideration. With over 80 years of experience helping families find their best way forward, the Casey Lundregan Burns P.C. team guides you through your decision to prepare a will or trust that is designed to ensure your wishes are followed. To learn more, talk to us today. We can help you every step of the way, so please get in touch to schedule your case evaluation online or contact us at (978) 878-3519.