Understanding Wills vs Revocable Living Trusts In Washington State

On Behalf of | Mar 10, 2024 | Estate Planning, Real Estate |

Estate planning is a crucial process that allows individuals to safeguard their assets, dictate the distribution of their wealth, and ensure the smooth transition of their affairs after death. Two primary instruments in this realm are wills and revocable living trusts, each serving distinct purposes and carrying specific advantages. In this blog, we’ll explore the differences between wills and revocable living trusts, helping individuals make informed decisions based on their unique circumstances and goals.


A will is a legal document that outlines how a person’s assets and possessions should be distributed after their death. It serves as a set of instructions for the probate court, guiding the executor (the person responsible for administering the estate) in executing the deceased’s wishes. Here are some key features of wills:

  1. Probate Process: Wills typically go through probate, a court-supervised process that validates the will, pays outstanding debts, and distributes assets to beneficiaries. Probate can be time-consuming and may involve court fees and legal expenses.
  2. Public Record: Wills become public records during the probate process. This means that the contents of the will, including asset distribution and beneficiaries, are accessible to the public.
  3. Flexibility: Wills offer flexibility in articulating specific wishes, such as appointing guardians for minor children, naming an executor, and designating charitable bequests. However, this flexibility is subject to the constraints of the probate process.
  4. Cost: While wills are generally less expensive to create than trusts, the costs associated with probate, including court fees and legal expenses, can offset the initial savings.

Revocable Living Trusts:

A revocable living trust, on the other hand, is a legal entity that holds and manages assets during an individual’s lifetime and allows for the seamless transfer of these assets upon death. Here are some key features of revocable living trusts:

  1. Avoidance of Probate: One of the primary advantages of a revocable living trust is its ability to bypass the probate process. Assets held in the trust can be distributed directly to beneficiaries without court involvement, saving time and potentially reducing costs.
  2. Privacy: Unlike wills, revocable living trusts offer a higher level of privacy. Since the trust is a private document, the details of asset distribution, beneficiaries, and other provisions remain confidential.
  3. Continuity of Management: A revocable living trust allows for the seamless management of assets during the grantor’s lifetime and in the event of incapacity. The trust appoints a successor trustee who can step in to manage the assets without the need for court intervention.
  4. Flexibility and Control: Revocable living trusts provide flexibility in managing assets, making changes, and adapting to evolving circumstances. The grantor retains control and can modify or revoke the trust as needed.

Choosing Between a Will and a Revocable Living Trust:

The decision between a will and a revocable living trust depends on various factors, including the individual’s preferences, the complexity of the estate, and the desire for privacy and efficiency. Here are some considerations:

  • Complexity of Estate: For straightforward estates with minimal assets and straightforward distribution plans, a will may suffice. However, for more complex estates with diverse assets, a revocable living trust can offer greater flexibility and efficiency.
  • Privacy Concerns: Individuals who value privacy and wish to keep their financial affairs confidential may find a revocable living trust more appealing.
  • Cost Considerations: While revocable living trusts may incur higher upfront costs, the potential savings in probate expenses and the efficiency of asset distribution can make them cost-effective in the long run.
  • Desire for Continuity: Those who prioritize the seamless management of assets during their lifetime and wish to avoid court intervention in case of incapacity may prefer a revocable living trust.

In conclusion, the choice between a will and a revocable living trust hinges on individual preferences, the complexity of the estate, and desired outcomes. Seeking guidance from legal and financial professionals can provide valuable insights and ensure that the chosen estate planning tool aligns with one’s specific needs and objectives. Whether opting for the clarity and tradition of a will or the efficiency and privacy of a revocable living trust, taking proactive steps toward estate planning is a vital aspect of securing one’s legacy and providing for loved ones in the future.

If you need assistance with Wills or Revocable Living Trusts, give our office a call or text at (206) 408-8158. You can also learn more about our Estate planning services by visiting our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@dallawfirm