Close this search box.

I have a living trust, do I still need a will?

I have a living trust, do I still need a will? - trust

Navigating estate planning can feel like traversing a complex landscape, with two essential landmarks looming large: the trust and the will. These two instruments, while both integral to crafting a comprehensive estate plan, serve distinct purposes and operate under differing mechanisms.

Enter the will, the time-honored document that delineates your wishes regarding asset distribution after your passing. It’s your roadmap for the journey your assets will take, appointing an executor to navigate the path and ensure your directives are followed. Yet, the will’s journey doesn’t come without obstacles – namely, probate. This legal process, often lengthy and costly, subjects your estate to public scrutiny, potentially compromising the privacy you hold dear.

Now, turn your gaze to the trust, a versatile tool that offers a different route to your estate planning destination. With a trust, you transfer assets to a trustee to hold and manage for the benefit of designated beneficiaries. This strategy bypasses probate entirely, allowing for a smoother transition of assets while maintaining the confidentiality of your estate’s details. Plus, trusts can be flexible – whether revocable or irrevocable – offering options to adapt to your evolving needs and circumstances.

In essence, the will and the trust are complementary guides, each offering its unique advantages in the estate planning journey. The will provides a clear path for asset distribution, while the trust offers a detour around the obstacles of probate. Together, they form a robust framework for safeguarding your legacy and ensuring your wishes are honored, guiding your assets toward their intended destinations with clarity, efficiency, and peace of mind.

If you have a living trust, you may still need a will, but its purpose may be different than if you didn’t have a trust. Here’s why:

Pour-Over Will: A pour-over will is a type of will that complements a living trust. It ensures that any assets not transferred into the trust during your lifetime are “poured over” into the trust upon your death. This helps ensure that all your assets are distributed according to the terms of your trust.

Guardianship Designations: If you have minor children, a will is where you typically designate guardians for them in the event of your death. Even if you have a trust, it’s common to include this provision in your will for clarity and to ensure your wishes are known.

Assets Outside the Trust: Despite having a trust, you may still have assets that are not included in the trust. For example, you might acquire new assets after creating the trust or forget to transfer certain assets into the trust. A will can specify how these assets should be distributed.

Personal Property: Some people use their wills to specify how certain personal property items should be distributed, as it can be more detailed and flexible than provisions in a trust.

Probate Backup: While the goal of a living trust is often to avoid probate, having a will can serve as a backup in case any assets need to go through probate for some reason.

It’s essential to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that your estate plan, including your living trust and will, is properly coordinated to achieve your goals and wishes.



Learn how to protect your home and life savings in these uncertain times.

Find out how easy it can be to protect your assets in this 1-hour free estate planning webinar—hosted by the Estate Law Center.

Join us online every Wednesday as we answer all of your Estate Planning questions. Understand what you need to do to protect yourself and your family.