Legal Blog

The Weekly Scenario: Does A Will Substitute For A Trust?

Question: I understand what a Will does and that it is more likely than not, a good idea to have a Will. My Will should designate the person responsible for executing my instructions (an “executor” or many states a “personal representative”).   Of course, a Will, to become valid upon death, must be accepted by a Court (i.e., probated).

So if I have a Will, why do I hear so much about the need for a trust and will that substitute for a Will?

Answer: By way of background, trusts have a different historical background than Wills.  In past days, the law needed a device whereby a person who was not competent to own property (and historically this could have been certain immigrant classes or even women) could have property owned for their benefit by a person called a trustee who was prohibited from benefiting himself (this was also historically a he). Such device, known as a trust, was invented over the years by British lawyers but has proven to be very practical and adaptable throughout history, up to and including today.

Trusts have many uses and no question are a valuable tool for both estate planners and business advisors. Like Wills, they will contain detailed instructions on what happens to the property after death—but without the need to probate the document and/or go to court. So much so, many planners often refer to a revocable trust as a “Will substitute”.



As always, if you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact Steve Shane at or 301.575.0313.


Steve Shane Casual | 301.575.0313

Steve Shane provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts, and charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.





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