What Are the Differences Between a Will and a Trust?

As an Illinois estate planning attorney, I understand that navigating the complex world of estate planning can be overwhelming for men. Two essential components of any comprehensive estate plan are wills and trusts. In this blog post, we will delve into the differences between these legal instruments, shedding light on their unique benefits and helping you make informed decisions to safeguard your assets and secure the financial future of your loved ones.

Understanding Wills and Trusts

A will is the foundation of any estate plan. A will is a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets after your passing. It allows you to name beneficiaries, designate guardians for minor children, and even specify funeral arrangements. A will takes effect upon your death and is subject to probate, a court-supervised process that ensures your debts are paid and your assets are distributed according to your instructions.

A trust, on the other hand, adds a extra layer of protection and can enhance your estate plan. A trust is a legal entity that holds and manages your assets for the benefit of designated beneficiaries – like your spouse, children, grandchildren, and others. Unlike a will, a trust can be created during your lifetime (living trust) or established through your will (testamentary trust) and can continue to exist beyond your lifetime. By transferring assets to a trust, you effectively remove them from your personal ownership, allowing for efficient management and distribution according to your specified instructions.

Differences Between Wills and Trusts

One significant advantage of a trust is that it bypasses the probate process and eliminates the attorney’s fees and costs associated with probate. Assets held in a trust can be distributed directly to beneficiaries without the need for court intervention, providing a more efficient and private transfer of wealth. In contrast, assets governed by a will typically go through probate, which can be time-consuming, costly, and subject to public scrutiny.

In addition to avoiding probate, trusts are private but the contents of a will become public record during the probate process, potentially exposing sensitive information and family details. A trust, however, offers greater privacy and confidentiality since it does not undergo the probate process. This can be particularly important if you prefer to keep your financial affairs and beneficiaries’ details private.

Next, while both wills and trusts allow you to specify how your assets should be distributed, trusts offer more flexibility and control. Trusts can be structured to distribute assets over time or based on specific conditions, such as when a beneficiary reaches a certain age or achieves certain milestones. Additionally, a trust allows you to designate a successor trustee to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated, providing seamless continuity and avoiding the need for court-appointed guardianship.

Finally, a trust can provide comprehensive incapacity planning, while a will only takes effect after your passing. If you become unable to manage your affairs due to illness or disability, the successor trustee can step in and handle the administration of your assets according to your instructions. This ensures that your financial matters are managed seamlessly without the need for a court-supervised guardianship or conservatorship.


Understanding the differences between wills and trusts is crucial for anyone looking to create a comprehensive estate plan. While wills serve as the foundation, trusts offer added benefits such as probate avoidance, privacy, flexibility, and incapacity planning. Consulting with an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney like Robert Schaller is essential to determine the most suitable approach based on your specific needs and goals.

Remember, estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. By tailoring your plan to your unique circumstances, you can protect your assets, ensure the financial security of your loved ones, and leave a lasting legacy. Contact attorney Robert Schaller today to discuss your options and embark on the journey of securing your family’s future.

Take control of your estate planning journey and make informed decisions to safeguard your assets and protect your loved ones. Start planning today for a worry-free tomorrow.