Wills Vs. Trusts – Which Should You Have?

    A will and a trust are both legal documents used in estate planning, but they serve different purposes. Let’s explore what a will and a trust are, highlighting their similarities and differences within the context of Alabama.

    What is a Will? A will, also known as a last will and testament, is a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets after your death. It allows you to designate beneficiaries, specify how your property should be distributed, and name guardians for minor children. In Alabama, a will must meet certain legal requirements, such as being in writing, signed by the testator (the person creating the will), and witnessed by two individuals who are not beneficiaries.

    What is a Trust? A trust is a legal arrangement in which you transfer your assets to a trustee to hold and manage on behalf of your beneficiaries. The trustee is responsible for following the instructions you outline in the trust document. There are various types of trusts, but the two most common ones are revocable living trusts and irrevocable trusts. In Alabama, trusts are governed by the Alabama Uniform Trust Code.


    1. Estate Distribution: Both a will and a trust allow you to specify how your assets should be distributed upon your death, ensuring your wishes are carried out.
    2. Beneficiary Designation: Both documents allow you to name beneficiaries who will receive your property or assets.
    3. Legal Documents: Both a will and a trust are legally enforceable documents that ensure your instructions are followed.


    1. Probate: A will typically goes through the probate process, a court-supervised process of validating the will and distributing assets. In contrast, assets held in a trust can avoid probate, allowing for a faster and more private distribution of assets.
    2. Privacy: Wills are generally public records once they go through probate, while trusts can provide greater privacy as their contents generally remain confidential.
    3. Taking Effect: A will becomes effective upon your death, while a trust can be effective during your lifetime or upon your death, depending on the type of trust.

    In Alabama, a will and a trust are essential for estate planning. A will is primarily focused on distributing assets after death and naming guardians for minor children, while a trust allows for asset management and potential probate avoidance. Understanding the similarities and differences between a will and a trust can help you determine which option aligns with your goals and needs. Consulting with an estate planning attorney in Alabama is recommended to ensure that your estate plan complies with state laws and reflects your wishes accurately.

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