Wills and Trusts are useful estate planning devices which serve different purposes. Both work together to create a complete estate plan.
One main difference between a Will and a Trust is that a Will goes into effect only after you die, while a Revocable Living Trust goes into effect as soon as it is created and funded. A Will directs who will receive your property at your death, and it appoints a legal representative to carry out your wishes. A Revocable Living Trust can be used to distribute property before your death, at your death and afterwards.
A Will covers any property that is titled in your name when you die. It does not cover property which has been titled in a Trust. A Trust covers only property that has been transferred to the Trust. In order for property to be included in a Trust, it must be titled in the name of the Trust.
Another difference between a Will and a Trust is that a Will is sometimes required under Illinois law to be administered through the probate process with the Courts. If the person who died owned real estate titled solely in his name or owned assets valued at over $100,000, probate is required. That means a court oversees the administration of the Will and ensures the Will is valid and the property gets distributed the way the deceased person directed. A Trust passes outside of probate, so a court does not oversee the process. Unlike a Will which becomes part of the public record and can be accessed by anyone, a Trust can remain private.
Contact your estate planning attorney for more information.