Fitzgibbons Law Offices - Casa Grande and Maricopa Lawyers



Ann Schrooten, Casa Grande Estate Planning and Probate Attorney


Fitzgibbons Law Offices
1115 E. Cottonwood Lane
Suite 150
Casa Grande, AZ 85122


Estate Planning

September 2017

A Will Versus a Trust: Key Differences

Privacy, court supervision, and how your assets are distributed are significant factors in deciding whether a Will or a Trust should be the centerpiece of your estate plan.

My estate planning clients often ask, “What is the difference between a Will and a Trust?” It’s a good question, and here are a few of the more important differences.

Distribution of Assets

A Will governs how the assets in your estate will be distributed after you die. “Estate assets” consist of assets that, at the time of your death, are titled only in your name. Prime examples of estate assets are assets that are not held in joint ownership with survivorship rights, or do not pass directly to a beneficiary via a beneficiary designation or by operation of law.

A Trust governs how, after you die, assets that are titled in the name of your Trust will be distributed. When you establish a Trust, you transfer your assets into the trust; in order for property to be a Trust asset, ownership of the asset must be in the name of the Trust.

Effective Date

A Will goes in effect only after you die, while a Trust takes effect as soon as you sign it.


Property passing under the terms of a Will generally must go through the court-supervised “probate” process in order to be transferred to your beneficiaries. The distribution of your property under the terms of your Will is administered by a “Personal Representative” who you nominate in your Will and is appointed by the Court. The Court oversees the administration of your Will.

Property passing under the terms of a Trust avoids probate. The person nominated as “Successor Trustee” of your Trust has the authority to distribute the Trust assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the Trust, without Court appointment or oversight.


A Will becomes a matter of public record when it is submitted to the Court for probate.  The terms of a Trust remain private.

These are just some of the differences between a Will and a Trust. To find out what estate planning documents will best serve your needs, please consult an experienced estate planning attorney.

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