As a parent, one of your greatest priorities is ensuring your children are provided for, even after you’re gone. Proper estate planning is crucial for protecting your assets and making sure they are efficiently transferred to your intended beneficiaries according to your wishes.

Two of the most common estate planning tools are wills and trusts. While both allow you to distribute your possessions and assets to your children and other heirs, there are distinct differences between them in terms of how they work, the protection they offer your assets, when your assets are distributed, and more.

Understanding the advantages and limitations of wills versus trusts is essential for choosing the best option to preserve and pass on your child’s inheritance. Here are the key considerations to keep in mind when choosing between these two estate planning methods.

Wills: A Traditional Approach

A will is a legal document that outlines your wishes for how your assets will be distributed after you pass away. It’s a crucial part of estate planning, especially when you have children.

Wills name beneficiaries who will inherit your belongings, like your house, savings, and personal items. This ensures your children receive what you intend. If your children are under 18, you can name a trusted adult to care for them in your absence. You can also designate an executor to handle the legal, financial, and administration aspects of settling your estate, ensuring your wishes are carried out smoothly.

Pros and Cons of a Will for Distributing Inheritance

When thinking about distributing inheritance and your child’s future after you’re gone, a will offers clarity and peace of mind. Without a will, your assets would be subject to the state’s intestate succession laws, which may not align with your wishes or provide adequately for your children. Having a will clearly lays out what your children (and other beneficiaries) will receive, minimizing the chance of arguments or legal battles over inheritance amongst family members.

One downside to consider is that many wills must go through probate, a court process during which the deceased person’s will is proven valid, their assets are identified and valued, debts and taxes are paid, and remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will.

While probate can be time-consuming and incur fees, having a will is often the most straightforward and cost-effective way to ensure that your children receive inheritance as you intend.

Trusts: Retaining More Control and Security

In contrast to a will, a trust is a legal arrangement where you transfer ownership of assets (money, property, etc.) to a trustee for the benefit of someone else, known as the beneficiary (often your child). Trusts offer more control and flexibility compared to a traditional will when it comes to inheritance and providing for your children. Similar to an executor, you can appoint a trustee to manage the trust assets and ensure responsible distribution for your child’s long-term benefit.

Pros and Cons of Trusts for Distributing Inheritance

Trusts allow assets to avoid the costly and time-consuming probate process while also providing enhanced asset protection from creditors. Trusts also have the unique advantage of allowing precise control over when and how assets are distributed to children or other beneficiaries based on conditions set by you. For example, you can allow your child access to a portion at a certain age or upon completing their education.

Common trust types used for inheritance include:

  • Revocable living trusts that are flexible during your lifetime
  • Irrevocable trusts with stronger protection but less flexibility during your lifetime
  • Testamentary trusts established in your will that take effect upon your death

Creating and maintaining a trust is often more expensive than a will, and they are more difficult to change after they’re formed. But while trusts involve more upfront costs and complexity to establish compared to a simple will, they offer valuable benefits for managing and protecting a child’s inheritance over the long term.

Factors When Choosing Between a Will or Trust

Choosing between a will and a trust depends on your specific family situation and estate planning goals. Here are some key factors to consider:

Size and Complexity of Your Estate

Wills are suitable for smaller estates with straightforward assets. They’re also easier and cheaper to create.

Trusts are ideal for larger, complex estates with various assets (real estate, investments) or if you own property in multiple states.

Age of Your Beneficiaries

If your children are adults and you want a simple solution for inheritance distribution, a will might suffice. If you have minor children, a trust might be more suitable since you can set up a distribution plan that releases funds at a specific age or upon meeting certain milestones.

Desired Control Over Inheritance

Since wills take effect upon your death, they offer less control over how and when your children receive their inheritance. In contrast, trusts provide much greater control since you can dictate the timing and conditions for distribution, and appoint a trustee to oversee the funds for your child’s benefit.

Overall, if simple transfer of assets is the goal, a basic will can often suffice. Comparatively, trusts provide more robust asset protection, and distribution control, making them better for larger estates, younger beneficiaries, and special circumstances.

Make an Informed Decision: Call Charlotte Estate Planning Today

When deciding whether a will or trust is right for your estate, consulting with an estate planning attorney is crucial. At Charlotte Estate Planning, we can assess your specific situation, discuss the pros and cons of wills and trusts, and help you choose the option that best meets your needs. This way, we can ensure your children’s inheritance is handled according to your wishes.

Call 704-766-8836 today or contact us for a free consultation.

View All Blogs