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Wills versus trusts: an endless estate planning topic/debate

Wills in the estate planning world are proven tools. They unquestionably stand as paramount documents in that universe, having demonstrated their utility over time in scores of millions of instances. A recent article spotlighting wills duly notes that they “were invented centuries ago.”

The author of that piece stresses that the seemingly timeless pedigree of wills convinces many individuals and families that they are default go-to planning conveyance in every instance. Many persons across California and the rest of the country automatically fixate on wills alone when they turn to thoughts of estate planning.

That is an understandable mindset, and one that – when followed through on via thoughtfully tailored will crafting and execution – renders perfectly fine results in legions of cases.

But not always, notes estate planning commentator Bonnie Kraham. She states that quick recourse to a will without due consideration of alternatives (or augmenting and complementary tools) “runs the risk of unanticipated cost, delay and complications.”

Kraham goes into some detail spotlighting unforeseen issues that can arise with wills in given cases. Her representative underscoring of potential concerns includes these bullet points linked with the so-called probate process:

  • Automatic court oversight, often over a prolonged period
  • Potential propelling of matters intended to be private into the public sphere
  • Emergence of complicating family/beneficiary issues, with resulting challenges (will contests)
  • Delayed asset distribution while probate-linked issues are being addressed and resolved

Kraham reasonably enough suggests that many planners concerned with such possibilities duly consider trust creation as an alternative to will execution. She notes that trusts “save time and money as opposed to wills and are private documents out of public view.”

That is true. It is also worth noting, though, that wills and trusts do not operate in distinct opposition to each other. In fact, it is often the case that individuals and families can employ both tools in a meaningful way that optimally promotes planning objectives.

We have noted the often seamless integration between wills and trusts on our website at the proven Bay Area estate planning Law Offices of Connie Yi. We noted in a recent blog piece, for example, that the two tools, “while different, are complementary rather than opposed.” (Please see our September 10 blog entry.)

We welcome contacts to the firm from readers interested in learning more about estate planning strategies and opportunities.

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