Planning Ahead: Understanding the Differences Between a Living Trust and a Last Will


Life is full of unpredictable moments, isn’t it? And one of the greatest gifts we can give our loved ones is to ensure they’re taken care of, even when we’re not around. But how do we do that? Two legal tools often come to mind: the living trust and the last will. Let’s delve into these, shall we?

Understanding Living Trusts

What is a Living Trust?

Have you ever thought of controlling your assets even from beyond the grave? Sounds surreal, right? But that’s exactly what a living trust does. It’s a legal document that holds your assets while you’re alive and can transfer them to your beneficiaries upon your demise without probate.

Advantages of Living Trusts

Living trusts are like the secret agents of estate planning – discreet and efficient. They bypass probate, allowing a swift, private transfer of assets. They also provide for the management of your assets if you become incapacitated, which can be a godsend in difficult times.

Disadvantages of Living Trusts

But even secret agents have their drawbacks, and so do living trusts. They’re generally more complex and expensive to set up than wills. Plus, they require an additional step – transferring ownership of your assets into the trust.

Understanding Last Wills

What is a Last Will?

A last will, or a testament, is like a director’s final cut – it outlines how you want your assets distributed after your death. Unlike a trust, it takes effect only after you pass away.

Advantages of Last Wills

The beauty of a last will lies in its simplicity and flexibility. They’re usually more straightforward to create and amend than a living trust. Plus, they allow you to appoint guardians for your minor children, which trusts can’t do.

Disadvantages of Last Wills

However, the director’s cut isn’t always perfect. Wills have to pass through probate, a potentially lengthy and public process. They also don’t provide any benefit if you become incapacitated.

Comparing Living Trusts and Last Wills

Control and Accessibility

Living trusts and will differ like apples and oranges when it comes to control and accessibility. With a living trust, you retain control of your assets during your lifetime. On the other hand, a will only kicks in after your death.

Privacy and Probate

Remember the secret agent analogy? That’s where living trusts shine. They offer privacy and avoid probate. In contrast, wills are public documents that must pass through probate, potentially turning your affairs into a public spectacle.

Cost and Complexity

It’s like choosing between a sedan and a sports car. Living trusts are generally pricier and more complex to set up but offer superior benefits. On the flip side, wills are cheaper and easier to create, but they might not offer as much functionality.

Deciding What’s Best for You

So, the million-dollar question is: living trust or will? It’s like deciding between tea or coffee – it ultimately boils down to your personal preferences and circumstances. If privacy and avoiding probate are your priorities, a living trust could be your cup of tea. However, if you’re looking for something simpler and more economical, a last will might be your brew.


In conclusion, both living trusts and last wills are legal documents that help ensure that a person’s assets are distributed according to their wishes after they pass away. However, there are important differences between the two, including probate, privacy, control, flexibility, asset protection, incapacity planning, cost, time, distribution, and multi-state use. It’s important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney or advisor to determine which option is best for your specific needs and goals.


1. Q: Can I have both a living trust and a will?

A: Absolutely! Many people use a will to complement their living trust, covering any assets not included in the trust.

2. Q: What happens if I don’t create a living trust or a will?

A: Without a will or living trust, your assets will be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws, which may not align with your wishes.

3. Q: Can I change my living trust or will?

A: Yes, both living trusts and wills can be amended, although the process can be more complex for a living trust.

4. Q: Does a living trust protect my assets from creditors?

A: Generally, a revocable living trust doesn’t protect your assets from creditors. An irrevocable trust, however, might offer some protection.

5. Q: What is probate, and why should I avoid it?

A: Probate is a legal process that verifies a will’s authenticity and ensures the proper distribution of assets. It can be time-consuming, costly, and public, which is why many people prefer to avoid it.

6. Q: Can a living trust avoid probate?

A: Yes, a living trust can help you avoid probate. It’s like having a fast pass at an amusement park, allowing you to bypass the long lines.

Here are some key differences between a living trust and a last will:

  1. Probate: A living trust avoids probate, while a last will go through probate. Probate is a court-supervised process of validating a will and distributing assets.
  2. Privacy:  The terms of a living trust are private, while the probate process is a public record, meaning anyone can access information about the deceased’s assets and beneficiaries.
  3. Control: With a living trust, the grantor maintains control over their assets during their lifetime. With a last will, the executor manages the assets after the grantor’s death.
  4. Flexibility: A living trust can be amended or revoked during the grantor’s lifetime, while a last will cannot be changed once it has been executed.
  5. Asset Protection:  A living trust can protect assets from potential lawsuits, creditors, and other risks, while a last will does not offer this protection.
  6. Incapacity: A living trust can provide for the management of assets in the event of incapacity, while a last will only take effect after death.
  7. Cost:  The cost of creating a living trust is typically higher than that of creating a last will, but the cost savings in probate fees can make it a more affordable option in the long run.
  8. Time:  A living trust can be distributed to beneficiaries immediately after the grantor’s death, while a last will take several months or even years to go through the probate process.
  9. Specificity: A living trust allows for more specific instructions for asset distribution, while a last will is more general and may require interpretation by the courts.
  10. Distribution: A living trust can provide for the ongoing management of assets after death, while a last will only provide for the distribution of assets.
  11. Capacity: A living trust requires the grantor to have the capacity to create and manage the trust, while a last will can be created by anyone over the age of 18 with the required legal capacity.
  12. Multi-State: A living trust can be used in multiple states, while a last will be probated in each state where the deceased owned property.
  13. Complexity: Creating a living trust can be more complex than creating a last will, as it requires the transfer of assets into the trust, but it can also provide more options and flexibility for asset distribution.


At Islamic Wills Trust Services we have a team of experienced attorneys who can help you set up an Islamic living trust tailored to your unique needs and circumstances. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you in protecting your assets for generations to come.

Schedule your free consultation in our offices in Maryland and Virginia or in your house or online. We’re also available to meet on weekends and after working hours. You may schedule your consultation by calling us at 855-559-4557 or emailing us at Appointments are typically scheduled two weeks in advance.

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