The documents included in your estate plan are your choice. You can choose those that are appropriate to your situation and leave out those that do not meet your needs.
Most estate plans include either a will or a trust. Some include both. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each can help you decide whether, including a will, a trust or both in your estate plan would serve your purposes.
Characteristics of wills
According to Forbes, a will is a public document, so it might not be a good choice if you would like to keep your affairs private. Being public also makes a will more vulnerable to challenges.
Using a will for the disposition of your estate means that your property has to go through probate, a process of taking stock of what you owned and making sure it goes where you intended it to go. The public nature of probate makes it easy to verify that it proceeds according to your wishes as expressed in your will. However, probate can also take a long time and be expensive.
Characteristics of trusts
The public does not have details about what goes into a trust. This makes a trust more private and therefore less vulnerable to challenge. A trust is not subject to probate. It gives you more control over the disposition of your estate, but you also have to follow the legal formalities associated with it.
Putting assets in a trust requires you to retitle them. In other words, you have to list the trust as the owner and relegate yourself to the status of trustee. This allows you to keep control of the assets for the rest of your life. You have to name a successor trustee to administer the trust following your death.
Because wills and trusts have different strengths and weaknesses, some people include both in their estate plans. When this occurs, one document is usually more important than the other. For example, you may transfer most of your property to a living trust with a pour-over will for the disposition of any assets you did not have time to retitle.