What’s The Difference Between A Will And Living Trust In California?

Will Vs. Living Trust

Will Vs. Living Trust

Estate planning is a critical but often overlooked part of securing one’s future. It involves making decisions today that will profoundly impact how your assets are managed and distributed after your demise.

Among the various estate planning instruments, wills, and living trusts are the most common in California. Understanding the differences between these two can guide you to make more informed decisions about your estate.

Navigating the ins and outs of wills and living trusts California can appear overwhelming at first glance. The legal jargon, myriad considerations, and the gravity of their implications can seem daunting. But rest assured, once you familiarize yourself with the core principles and distinguishing aspects, you can traverse this path more confidently. It’s not just about preparing for the inevitable but ensuring peace of mind knowing that your loved ones will be cared for according to your wishes. As we delve deeper into the maze of estate planning, we’ll illuminate the distinguishing features of wills and living trusts in the Californian context.

Wills in California

A will, or a “Last Will and Testament,” is a legal document detailing how a person’s assets will be distributed upon death. It enables you to name beneficiaries for your property, designate guardians for minor children, and appoint an executor who will carry out your wishes. However, wills in California go through a court process known as probate, which can be time-consuming and costly.

Living Trusts in California

On the other hand, a living trust, also known as a “revocable living trust,” is a legal entity you create to own your assets. You can act as the trustee, maintaining control over your assets during your lifetime. Upon your demise, a successor trustee transfers the assets directly to your designated beneficiaries, skipping the probate process.

Living trusts are more private than wills as they don’t become public records. They also allow for the management of your assets if you become incapacitated. However, creating a living trust can be more complex and costly than drafting a will.

Key Differences between a Will and Living Trust

While both wills and living trusts allow you to control the distribution of your assets after death, they have key differences. The most significant difference lies in their handling of probate. Wills require probate, a legal process in which a court validates the will and oversees the distribution of assets. On the contrary, assets in a living trust bypass the probate process, resulting in a quicker and more private asset distribution.

Additionally, a living trust can include a plan for incapacity, enabling a chosen successor trustee to step in and manage your affairs if you cannot. A will does not include this provision.


When considering wills and living trusts in California, the choice between the two depends on your circumstances, the complexity of your estate, and your long-term planning goals. A living trust might be preferable if you have substantial assets, desire privacy, or wish to avoid probate. A will could be sufficient for smaller estates or those with fewer complexities.