Exploring the Differences Between a Will and a Trust in California

Do I need a will or trust?

Wills and trusts are two common estate planning tools.  With both a will and a trust, you can ensure your family will receive your hard earned assets and be protected after your death.  Each of these estate planning tools, however, have benefits and drawbacks.  Our Irvine, California estate planning attorneys at OC Wills and Trusts explore the primary differences between wills and trusts, and how you can choose between these two estate planning methods below.  


A will is a legal instrument that you can use to name an executor to your estate and gift your assets to your named heirs. A will is used to control all probate assets, including personal property, real property, and financial accounts.  In California, when the decedent’s estate is valued at $150,000 or more, then the will must go through court supervised probate.  Probate is a potentially lengthy process that starts with the will being filed in court.  The named personal representative will inventory and appraise the assets within the will and settle the estate so that assets can be distributed in accordance with the terms of the will.  


A trust is a contract between the settlor or trust creator and the trustee, or individual who holds the trust property for the benefit of named beneficiaries.  A trust must be properly funded to commence.  If the settlor becomes disabled or dies, the new trustee will take over and administer the trust according to its terms.  Trust assets need not go through probate.  

Do I Need a Will or a Trust?

Often, the answer is both.  With just a will, your assets will need to go through probate, which will cost money and time.  A trust can allow for ease of transfer of assets and save heirs from considerable fees.  A trust, however, manages just those assets that you place within it.  This could leave some assets out.  Your will is essential for distributing any assets which were not put in the trust.  Consult with an estate planning attorney for individualized assistance with your estate plan.  


Brian Chew, the managing partner of OC Wills & Trust Attorneys, has extensive experience in the areas of estate planning, asset protection planning, business succession planning, long-term care planning, and veterans’ benefits. By devoting his practice to estate planning matters, he has founded a firm that strives to provide exceptional service to their clients by working closely with individuals and their families to create comprehensive and customized estate plans. For the past twenty five years, Brian has served thousands of clients in the matters of estate planning, wills and trusts. If you have any questions about this article, you can reach Brian Chew here.