What is it?
Will: Wills are legal documents that state how you want your affairs handled and assets distributed after you die. Generally, wills cost less than trusts to establish.
Trust: Trusts are a fiduciary (trusted, confidence-based) relationship in which you give a person or persons authority to handle your assets on behalf of someone else (your beneficiaries). Also called living trusts, you can change them while you are still alive.
Who's in charge when you're gone?
Will: A will places your decisions in the hands of a judge presiding over the transfer of your estate. The executor you name will sort out the details.
Trust: You maintain ownership while you are alive. The trustee(s) carry out your wishes after you die.
How is the estate transfer handled?
Will: Anything left by a will goes through probate court.* However, a will can make the probate process smoother.
Trust: Trusts allow your property to go directly to your named beneficiaries without going through probate.
What should you consider if you have children?
Will: You can name a guardian for minor children in a will.
Trust: You cannot name a guardian in a trust, but you can appoint someone to manage assets for a minor beneficiary. Execute a will along with a living trust to name a guardian.
What about medical considerations?
Will: Wills do not include provisions in case you become incapacitated. However, you can employ a power of attorney and appoint someone to manage your affairs.
Trust: Trusts allow you to make provisions for your estate if you become incapacitated.