Advantages of a living trust versus a will

A living trust (as long as it is revocable) is easy to change like a will is and confers several other benefits such as privacy.

In California, many people opt for a living trust instead of a will or even for a living trust and a will. The point is that they choose to not have just a will. Here is a look at a few reasons why.

Privacy

A will is public, meaning that when someone dies and the will is filed at the courthouse, anyone can read it and know what was left to whom. On the other hand, with a living trust, only the people involved in it know how assets have been distributed.

Better planning

A living trust also provides for better planning than a will does. That is, it is an avenue for people to make decisions about what happens if they are incapacitated but still alive. For example, someone who has Alzheimer's running in the family can lay out the parameters by which doctors can determine him or her mentally incompetent, paving the way for a successor trustee to manage the person's affairs.

Flexibility

Wills are fairly easy to update as circumstances change. So are living trusts-that is, revocable trusts, the type that people tend to opt for. With irrevocable trusts, property and assets are put in the trust, and there is no going back.

A living trust enables the probate process to be skipped, which also saves on time and expenses (lawyer's fees and executor payments, for example).

Validity

Perhaps most importantly, some wills in California are found invalid. Perhaps they were handwritten and other material seemed to contradict them, or they were prepared without the help of a lawyer and ran afoul of state law. In any case, some wills do not stand the test of a challenge, while a living trust is more likely to.

The best of both worlds

Of course, as mentioned above, some people opt to have both a living trust and a will. This is because living trusts do not always cover everything, and it is a straightforward matter to draw up a will that designates a certain person (or certain people) to inherit whatever the living trust did not cover.

It is also worth mentioning that a living trust and a will together do not necessarily cover everything that someone has to leave. For example, California is a community property state, so spouses normally get half of any assets gained during the marriage. Policies such as retirement plans and life insurance also have specifically designated beneficiaries (and the beneficiaries can be the trust ).

Estate planning, living trusts and wills are appropriate for people of many ages in California. A lawyer can help draw up documents to meet certain needs.