|With No Will||With A Will||With A Living Trust|
|At Incapacity (unable to handle your financial affairs)||Court Control: Court appointee oversees your care, must keep detailed records, reports to court, and usually posts bond (even if appointee is your spouse). Court approves all expenses, oversees financial affairs.||Court Control: Same as no will.||No Court Control: Your successor trustee manages your financial affairs according to instructions in your trust for as long as necessary.|
|At Death||Probate: Court orders your debts paid and assets distributed according to state law.||Probate: Same as no will, except assets distributed per your will. (If valid and any contests are unsuccessful.)||No Probate: Debts paid and assets distributed by successor trustee according to instructions in your trust.|
|Court Costs and Legal Fees||Death: Often estimated at 3-8% of estate’s value. Incapacity: impossible to estimate.||Same as no will. Costs can increase if will is contested at your death.||Minimal or no court costs. Reduce legal fees (minimal for small estates, large more complex estates require more.)|
|Time||Death: Usually 9 months to 2 years or longer before heirs inherit. Incapacity: Court involved until recovery or death.||Same as no will.||Death: Often just a few weeks. Larger/ complex estates take longer for tax returns and division of assets. Incapacity: No delay.|
|Flexibility and Control||None: Court processes, not your family, have control at incapacity and death. When you die assets are distributed according to state law.||Limited: Same as no will, except when you die, assets are distributed according to your will (if valid and any contests are unsuccessful.) You can change your will at any time.||Maximum: You can change/discontinue your trust at any time. Assets stay under control of your trust, even if incapacitated and at death. More difficult than a will to contest.|
|Privacy||None: Court proceedings are public.||None: Same as no will.||Maximum: Living trusts are private documents.|
*This post is meant for informational purposes only. Please recognize that nothing in this article constitutes legal advice. If you have any questions, comments, or seek legal assistance, please call one of the attorneys at Wakefield, Sutherland and Lubera, P.L.C.