It is common practice in Pennsylvania for an estate plan to have a will along with one or more trusts. In most cases, one or the other of the instruments will be more important to the plan, and most of the person’s assets will pass through it on his or her death. One of the major distinctions is that assets that are owned in the person’s name typically pass via the will; in order to pass via a trust, the asset must first be put in the name of the trust.
Another important distinction between wills and trusts is that property held in a trust is typically not subject to the probate process while assets that transfer via a will must go through probate. The disadvantages of probate are that it can be costly in terms of time and money, and it is not a private process. It is not always expensive or costly, but it does allow for public scrutiny.
On the front end, wills are typically less expensive than trusts to establish. A trust requires more setup as the person who makes the trust, also called the settlor, must name a trustee, and the document itself is more complex. Trusts may also be less likely to be updated; people are aware that their wills need periodic reviews and updates, but they may not know when to update their trusts. In either case, periodic review by an attorney can be beneficial.
People in Pennsylvania who have questions about their estate plans might want to schedule a consultation with an attorney. An attorney who practices estate planning law might help by examining the client’s circumstances and goals and suggesting trusts, powers of attorney or other planning instruments. The attorney may also draft a will for the client or establish a living trust to effect the transfer of ownership.