1512 Artaius Parkway, Suite 300,
Libertyville, IL 60048

Call for a FREE Phone Consultation


Video Consultations Also Available

Estate Planning: Will vs. Trust

 Posted on February 23, 2024 in Estate Planning

Estate planning is a critical aspect of financial management, ensuring that your assets are managed and distributed per your wishes after your passing. Two primary tools in estate planning are wills and trusts.

Let’s observe the difference between will and trust, their benefits, as well as considerations when choosing between a will and a trust for your estate planning needs.

What Are Wills and Trusts?

Before we explore the distinctions, let's clarify what wills and trusts entail:


A will is a legal document that presents your wishes to distribute your assets after your death. It appoints an executor to oversee the distribution process and can also appoint guardians for underage children.

Wills go through probate, a court-supervised process that validates the document and ensures the distribution of assets as described.


On the other hand, a trust is a legal entity that controls and manages assets for the benefit of certain people or entities called beneficiaries.

Trusts can be revocable (can be altered or revoked during the grantor's lifetime) or irrevocable (cannot be altered or revoked without beneficiary consent).

Trusts often avoid probate, providing more privacy and efficiency in asset transfer.

Key Differences Between Will and Trust

Probate Process Explained

One of the fundamental distinctions between wills and trusts is the probate process. Typically, wills go through probate. The court supervises this procedure, and it can be time-consuming and costly.

During probate, the court validates the will, settles debts and taxes, and distributes assets as per the will's instructions. This process can take several months or even years, causing delays in asset distribution.

In contrast, assets held in a trust often bypass probate, allowing for a faster and more private distribution of assets to beneficiaries. This can be a significant advantage for those who value efficiency and privacy in their estate planning.

Revocable vs. Irrevocable Trust

When considering a trust, it's essential to understand the difference between revocable and irrevocable trusts.

Revocable Trust

A revocable trust, also known as a living trust, lets the grantor control and change the trust while they are alive.

It becomes irrevocable upon the grantor's passing. Revocable trusts are flexible and often used for seamless asset management and transfer.

Irrevocable Trust

An irrevocable trust cannot be changed or revoked without the beneficiaries’ consent. While it offers stronger asset protection and potential tax benefits, it involves relinquishing control over the assets. Irrevocable trusts are commonly used for asset protection and estate tax reduction strategies.

Trustee vs. Executor Roles

Another critical difference lies in the roles associated with wills and trusts:


A will appoints an executor who is responsible for managing the estate's affairs after the testator's passing. The executor's duties include handling debts, taxes, and asset distribution as per the will's instructions.


A trust designates a trustee who manages and administers the trust on behalf of the beneficiaries. The trustee's responsibilities can vary depending on the trust's terms but generally include asset management and distribution according to the trust's provisions.

Benefits of a Living Trust

A living trust, also known as a revocable trust, offers several advantages in estate planning:


Living trusts are typically not subject to public records, providing a higher level of privacy than wills. During probate, a will becomes a part of the public record.


Assets held in a living trust can be distributed to beneficiaries promptly and without the delays associated with probate.


Grantors have control over trust during their lifetime, allowing them to make necessary changes or amendments.

Asset Protection

Certain irrevocable trusts can offer robust asset protection, shielding assets from creditors and potential legal claims.

Probate Avoidance

Living trusts often bypass the probate process, saving time and expenses associated with probate court.

Tax Implications of Wills and Trusts

Estate planning also involves considering the tax implications of wills and trusts:

Estate Tax

Wills and trusts can impact the estate tax liability. Estate tax is a federal tax on the transfer of a deceased person's assets. Properly structured trusts can help minimize estate tax, benefiting your heirs.

Inheritance Tax

Some states impose inheritance tax on beneficiaries. Careful estate planning can help mitigate this tax burden.

Capital Gains Tax

Both wills and trusts can affect capital gains tax, especially when assets are sold or transferred. Understanding the tax implications is essential for optimizing your estate plan.

Legacy Planning Strategies

Effective estate planning goes beyond wills and trusts. It involves considering various strategies to leave a lasting legacy:

Charitable Giving

You can include charitable donations in your estate plan, benefiting both causes you care about and potential tax advantages.

Family Business Succession

If you own a family business, a well-structured estate plan can ensure a smooth transition to the next generation.

Insurance Planning

Life insurance can be vital in providing financial security for your loved ones and covering estate tax liabilities.

The Last Word

Understanding the difference between will and trust is essential to make the right choice. Choosing between the two requires careful consideration of your unique circumstances, objectives, and preferences.

Both options have their advantages, and the optimal choice depends on your specific goals.

For personalized guidance and expert advice on estate planning, wills, trusts, and legacy planning strategies, contact Newland Attorneys.

Our team of experienced estate planning attorneys is ready to assist you in crafting a comprehensive estate plan that aligns with your vision for the future. Call us today for a FREE phone consultation.

Share this post:
  • Top 100
  • AFDA
  • BBB
  • Illinois State Bar Association
  • Illinois Trial Lawyers Asscociation
  • Manta Member
  • North western suburban bar association
  • Top One
  • Expertise
Back to Top