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Living Trusts vs Wills: Understanding the Difference

Oct. 15, 2019

One of the most important decisions you can make in life is what will happen to your estate and your loved ones after you are gone. Many people think a will is enough to protect their loved ones from probate, but a living trust has major advantages.

To learn which estate planning document is best for your situation, it is important to speak to an experienced and skilled Oakland estate planning lawyer. An estate planning attorney can help you understand the differences between a living trust and a will.

Differences Between a Living Trust and a Will

A will and a living trust both protect your estate and assets after your death. They are legal documents that allow you to designate beneficiaries and decide how your family receives your assets once you are gone. Both of these documents allow you to maintain control and protect your hard-earned assets, as well as choose who will care for your minor children.

While these documents do have some similarities, there are also many differences. Understanding those differences can help you choose the best estate planning option for you and your family.

Will vs. Living Trust


Living Trust

Describes your property and who inherits it

You must name someone to manage your estate, also known as a trustee

Simple to set up

More time consuming to establish

Less expensive estate planning tool

More expensive process

Creditors can sue you for claims in a will

Creditors are not allowed to bring claims against the property in a living trust

Public disclosure of assets and debts


Expensive probate fees for beneficiaries

No probate

Maximum estate taxes

No unnecessary taxes

Easily contested

No contest clause

Ultimately court controlled

Family controlled

Does not require a notary public

Requires notarization

Does not require a transfer of property

Requires a transfer of property

Can name an executor or guardian for children

Cannot name a guardian for your children

You can change it at any time

You cannot alter some types of living trusts

Takes effect after your death

Takes effect after receiving your signature

How Do You Know Which Estate Planning Option is Best for You?

If you have a valuable estate, a living trust may be your best option. If you have small children, you will need a will to name a guardian who will care for them. However, you may also wish to set up a living trust to establish guidelines when a child is entitled to those assets.

As you can see, without an experienced Oakland estate planning lawyer on your side, it can be difficult to decide which estate planning option is best for you.

Contact Our Oakland Estate Planning Attorneys

Without estate planning, the courts may have the ultimate say over who inherits your estate and how your loved ones are cared for when you are gone. Estate planning puts the decision-making into your hands now, before it is too late.

Contact the Oakland estate planning attorneys at Davidson Estate Law or fill out our confidential contact form. Our main office is in Oakland, but we also have offices in Berkeley, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, San Jose, and San Mateo to better serve you.