Deciding between a will and trust
When I talk with people, they frequently ask do I think they need a trust or a will for their estate planning. It depends on a number of factors.
The first one is their marital situation. If the clients are married, live in Massachusetts, and have over $1 million in assets - then I frequently suggest a living, revocable trust for each person. I say this because it can save estate taxes through an approach that is very commonly used. A Plain English Living Trust can be a highly useful, modern approach to estate planning for Massachusetts residents.
If the person is single, then maybe a will is sufficient. And of course the accompanying documents of a health care proxy and durable power of attorney.
The choice for a single person depends on if the client feels it's important to avoid probate in Massachusetts. Probate is a court process in which a signed will is presented to a court to determine if it is valid. That is, was the person who signed it legally capable of signing a will on the exact day they signed it.
Probate takes time and that time is a major reason why some people want to avoid it. However, avoiding probate shouldn't be the only reason for having an estate plan. It should accomplish other purposes as well.