Wills vs. Trusts: A Guide for High Net-Worth Individuals

Written by:
Justin Guilder
Devesh Aggarwal

Creating a solid estate plan is a monumental step towards ensuring your wealth is transferred or managed according to your wishes. The core of such planning often revolves around Wills and Trusts. Though they aim to fulfill a similar purpose, the route they take is quite different. Let’s unravel the complexities and nuances to assist you in making an informed decision.

To read our comprehensive guide on Estate Planning click here.

What are Wills and Trusts?

Wills and Trusts are legal instruments used to manage and distribute your assets:

  • Will: A legal document that outlines how your assets should be distributed after your death.
  • Trust: A legal entity that holds and manages assets for the benefit of specific individuals or entities, effective during your lifetime and beyond.

Wills vs Trusts: The Main Differences

Understanding the contrasts between Wills and Trusts can better inform your estate planning:

1. Initiation:
  • Will: Takes effect only after your death.
  • Trust: Becomes effective as soon as it’s created, during your lifetime.
2. Property Coverage:
  • Will: Covers any property that is only in your name when you die.
  • Trust: Only covers property that has been transferred to the trust.
3. Probate:
  • Will: Requires probate, a legal process to validate the will and distribute assets.
  • Trust: Avoids probate, allowing for a quicker distribution of assets.
4. Privacy:
  • Will: Probate proceedings are public record.
  • Trust: Remains private, keeping the details of your estate confidential.
5. Cost:
  • Will: Generally less expensive to create but may incur higher probate costs.
  • Trust: More expensive to create but can save money in the long run by avoiding probate.
6. Management During Incapacity:
  • Will: Does not provide any provisions if you become incapacitated.
  • Trust: Allows for management of your assets if you are unable to do so.
"The choice between a Will and a Trust is not mutually exclusive; many estate plans include both."

Factors to Consider

When weighing a Will against a Trust, consider:

  • Your Age and Health: Younger individuals or those in good health may initially find a Will to be sufficient.
  • Size of Your Estate: Larger estates may benefit more from a Trust to avoid probate and minimize estate taxes.
  • Privacy Concerns: If privacy is paramount, a Trust is a preferable choice.
  • Cost Sensitivity: Initial lower costs may make a Will attractive, but consider the long-term probate costs.

Tailoring to Younger Generations’ Values

Millennials and Gen Z exhibit certain preferences which could influence your choice:

  • Philanthropic Aspirations: Trusts can be structured to support charitable causes over time.
  • Entrepreneurial Ventures: Trusts can provide the financial backing for entrepreneurial endeavors.
  • Marital Considerations: Protecting assets in the face of later marriages or divorce can be better managed through Trusts.

Engaging Professional Guidance

Estate planning is a nuanced field. Engaging with seasoned estate planning attorneys can provide invaluable insights tailored to your unique situation.


The intricacies of Wills and Trusts necessitate a thorough understanding and professional guidance.Reflecting on your current circumstances, future aspirations, and the values of the younger generation will aid in making an estate planning choice that stands the test of time, ensuring a lasting legacy.

It is essential to consult an experienced advisor to help you build an estate plan that works for your family.

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