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Last Will vs. Living Trust: What’s the Difference?

Last Wills and Living Trusts are often confused, and it’s easy to see why. Both legal documents ultimately achieve the same thing – they allow you to state how and to whom you want your assets distributed upon your death. But you need to understand; there are some VERY BIG DIFFERENCES!

Difference No. 1: How Assets Transfer to Beneficiaries

The first difference between a Last Will and a Living Trust relates to how assets are transferred to beneficiaries. With a Living Will, usually probate is required. Probate is a court case in which a judge oversees and ultimately authorizes the transfer of your assets to beneficiaries. It requires an attorney to represent the estate, and it can be very expensive and time-consuming.

A Living Trust, on the other hand, allows your assets to be transferred to beneficiaries immediately upon your death. The trust is “living” because it becomes effective right away, during your lifetime, and your assets are placed into or coordinated with the trust while you’re alive. You continue to control your assets as the Trustee, and upon your death, your Successor Trustee can immediately transfer assets to beneficiaries, saving significant time and money.

Difference No. 2: Public vs. Private

Because probate documents are public, anyone can see your affairs… what you owned and who you left it to. Written notice of the probate case must also be published in the newspaper. As a result, probate tends to open the door to disputes and claims against the estate from arguably interested parties. A Living Trust, however, isn’t filed with the Court, and no public notice is required. This privacy discourages disputes and minimizes claims against your estate.

If we can answer any questions you have about the differences between a Last Will and a Living Trust, or if you’re interest in getting your estate documents in place, please contact us at or (813) 244-7758.


Ross Spano

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