Should you have a Will or a Revocable Living Trust?

When we’re helping our clients with their estate planning, one of the initially questions we sometimes receive is:

“Should I have a will or a revocable living trust?”

Now this will vary from person to person, as some clients come in having already decided which option they want for their estate planning. The decision between having a will or a revocable living trust depends on various factors, including your individual circumstances and objectives. Here’s some information to help you understand the key differences and considerations:

  1. Will (Last Will and Testament): A will is a legal document that outlines how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. It allows you to name beneficiaries, designate guardians for minor children, and appoint an executor to manage the distribution process. A will only takes effect upon your death and must go through probate (unless you qualify for a small estate affidavit, discussed here:
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  • This is a court-supervised process to validate the will and distribute assets. Generally speaking, the probate process takes about one year from start to finish, although it can take longer depending on the specifics of the decedent’s estate.
  • Revocable Living Trust: A revocable living trust is an estate planning tool that allows you to transfer ownership of your assets into the trust while retaining control over them during your lifetime. You can act as the trustee and manage the assets, and you have the flexibility to modify or revoke the trust as long as you’re mentally competent. Upon your death or incapacity, a successor trustee steps in to manage and distribute the assets according to your wishes, avoiding probate. A living trust can provide privacy, flexibility, and potentially save time and costs associated with probate.

Factors to consider when deciding between a will or a revocable living trust:

  • Complexity: If your estate is relatively simple, a will may suffice. A revocable living trust becomes more beneficial for avoiding probate, estates that have real estate in more than one state (to avoid an ancillary probate), and for privacy (Wills are filed with the court and they, along with the probate, are public record. Trusts are not).
  • Probate avoidance: If avoiding probate is a priority, a revocable living trust can help streamline the asset transfer process, as assets held in the trust generally bypass probate.
  • Costs: Establishing a revocable living trust typically involves higher upfront costs compared to drafting a will. However, it may help minimize expenses associated with probate in the long run.

It’s important to consult with an estate planning attorney who can assess your specific circumstances and help you determine the most suitable option based on your goals and needs. If you need assistance with your estate planning, reach out to our office at (206) 408-8158 or visit us online at and we would be happy to assist you. We’re conveniently located in Normandy Park and offer consultations virtually or in person.

Contact us:

19803 1st Avenue S.
Suite 200
Normandy Park, WA 98148

T (206) 408-8158
F (206) 374-2810

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