Which is better, wills or living trusts?

Some attorneys and financial planners prefer living trusts as a primary estate planning vehicle, but each have their usefulness.

Wills can be prepared inexpensively, are familiar and understood by the average person to speak on behalf of a loved one at death. Wills are probated. Probate administration in some states is long and expensive and should be avoided. The probate process in South Carolina was designed so a person of reasonable intelligence could handle the forms, any related transfer paperwork with banks, the DMV, and other institutions, and since it takes about one year to complete they can manage the time and physical requirements of administration. But probate is a public process and many people object to having their post-mortem finances and assets scrutinized.

Living trusts typically bypass most of the probate process and allow accounts and assets to immediately be accessible to loved ones. They are not public documents, so a person’s privacy is protected. They can be utilized for incapacity and death planning. They can shelter assets for descendents. They are considerably more expensive than a simple will, but they save money so not only is probate unnecessary for one spouse, but for both.


Disclaimer:  Information contained in this column is meant to be of general information on frequently asked questions concerning disability, elder law, estate planning and probate law, and does not contain specific legal advice to a client.  No attorney-client relationship is created by reading this column.

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