Blog for John Sweeney - Elder, Wills, Estates, Trusts, Special Needs, Business, & Tax Lawyer in CT and NY

Do I use a Trust or a Will to Settle My Estate

Posted by John Sweeney | Apr 09, 2014 | 3 Comments

Wills vs Trusts

In general, Wills are usually easy and cheaper up front, but more effort and expense later on, while Trusts (also know as Revocable Living Trusts or RLT) are more work up front, more expense up front, and more administrative work along the way,  but usually less work and expense when you die.Wills are back-loaded, with the heirs assuming the burdens while living trusts are front-loaded, with the effort and expense up front, leaving fewer burdens on a surviving spouse, children or other heirs later.

Oh and by the way, just because you have a Trust, doesn't mean you don't have a Will and you may have a probate proceeding too.    If you leave an asset outside the Trust, you'll need a probate proceeding to transfer it.

How Does this All Work?

With a Trust, you put all your assets into a Trust before you die.  Then when you die, it has all the assets, pays all the debts, and the Trustee handles everything.With a Will, the Will is presented to the local probate court and the court appoints your designated Executor.  Then the Executor, collects all the assets, pays all the debts and handles everything.

End Result is the Same

The end result whether through Probate with a Will or through a Trust is almost always the same. Bills and taxes are paid, and the assets are distributed to those who are supposed to receive them.  Both accomplish the same thing, wrapping up your affairs when you die.  They are just two different paths.The real question is at what cost and administrative burden and is one better than the other?

So What do I Recommend?

I recommend Wills to my younger clients since dealing with the hassles of a trust for 40 years is problematic.  Once my clients hit retirement, or have complicated problems with disability or are having problems handling their affairs, I recommend they rotate into a Trust.

More Information

If you want more information and a more in-depth discussion, see my website.

About the Author

John Sweeney

John is an experienced lawyer who helps you solve your problems. He practices Elder, Wills, Estates, Trusts, Special Needs, Business, & Tax Law in Fairfield County CT and Westchester County New York. He brings a wealth of experience in law, business, tax, insurance, and finance to arrive at practical solutions with compassion and care. Honest, direct and practical, he is focused on you and your problems. He also brings a wealth of personal experience from his own large family and aging parents.


Peter Sweeney Reply

Posted Jun 02, 2014 at 14:33:10

Thank you for the concise summary. I had always wondered what the difference was and when to use what.

Simon Reply

Posted Mar 14, 2015 at 11:21:00

Hello,My Mom is living off a trust fund from her fhetar. She is spending interest as well as the body. The trust is closely kept by the bank and dribbled out to her for her rent etc. This and SS is all she has. Can she shelter this trust allowing her to get some government benefits?

John Sweeney Reply

Posted Mar 14, 2015 at 11:35:53

Simon, the general answer is no, she is not eligible for government benefits no matter what you do. However, if she declines and needs to go into a nursing home, the trust may shelter those assets and permit Medicaid to pay for the cost of the nursing home. However, in that case, her Social Security and the income of the trust would still be used to pay for costs, but you could protect the principle. This is a complex area of the law and an Elder Lawyer might be able to give you some advice that saves a lot of money.

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Elder, Wills, Estates, Trusts, Special Needs Tax & Business Law; Attorney John Sweeney

Sweeney Legal, LLC, provides legal, practical, and business counsel to Seniors, families, and businesses in the Fairfield, Connecticut area, including the communities of Bridgeport, Bethel, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, New Canaan, Newtown, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Stamford, Weston, Westport and Wilton. John is also licensed in New York serving Westchester County including the towns of Bedford, Lewisboro, Mount Kisco, North Salem, Pound Ridge, and Somers.