A Will is a legal document that describes how your assets should be distributed in the event of death. The actual distribution, however, is controlled by a judge in a legal process called probate.
Upon your death, the Will becomes a public document available for inspection by all comers. Once your Will enters the probate process, it’s no longer controlled by your family, it is now controlled by the court and probate attorneys. Probate can be cumbersome, time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally traumatic during a family’s time of grief and vulnerability. Con artists and others with less-than-pure
financial motives have been known to use their knowledge about the contents of a Will to prey on survivors.
A “Living Will” is a document that describes your wishes regarding life support if you are ever in a terminal condition or irreversible coma (think Terri Schiavo).
A Living Trust “replaces” a Will and avoids probate because your property is owned by the trust, so technically there’s nothing for the probate courts to administer. Whomever you name as your “successor trustee” manages your assets and will distribute them exactly according to your instructions. A Living Trust can help you preserve and increase your estate while you’re alive, and offers protection should you become incapacitated. A Living Trust can assure that your final wishes are honored. It is valid in all states and the government cannot control or close-down your Trust.