A will is one type of estate plan. With a will, however, you guarantee that there will be a probate proceeding because that is how a will is administered. Probate is the proceeding to validate a decedent’s will and transfer the estate to beneficiaries or heirs with the court’s supervision.
Generally, wills are not recommended for individuals with estates of more than $100,000. There are very limited circumstances where a will may be preferable over a trust. One situation might be where there is not time to have a trust drafted. If that is the case, an individual can download a statutory will from the State Bar website. The will is pre-printed and the language cannot be changed.
Another form of will is a holographic will, i.e. where you write out a will wholly in your own handwriting. These are easy to contest and they are strictly scrutinized to be sure that it is in the decedent’s own handwriting and that the document shows testamentary intent. Statutory and holographic are better than no estate plan but the preferable estate plan is a revocable living trust.
A revocable living trust is more flexible, private, and avoids the cost of probate. A revocable living trust will have with it a“pour over” will. The “pour over” will is a will that is used with a trust to allow assets inadvertently left out of the trust at the time of death to be probated and then “poured over” into the trust to be distributed with the rest of the trust assets.