Skip to main content

Navigating the world of estate planning can often feel overwhelming, especially when it comes to understanding the differences between wills and trusts. Both are essential tools in managing and distributing your assets, but they operate in distinctly different ways and offer unique advantages and disadvantages.

For small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners, the topic of wills vs. trusts is particularly crucial, as business assets and interests must be carefully considered in the estate planning process. In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at what wills and trusts are, how they differ and their relevance to SMBs.

What is a Will?

Life is uncertain, and having a will in place ensures that your assets and property are distributed according to your wishes after your passing. A will is a legal document that outlines how you want your assets to be managed and distributed, who should inherit them, and who will be responsible for carrying out these tasks (known as the executor).

Wills are essential for individuals of all ages and income levels because they provide a clear plan for the distribution of assets, minimize confusion and disputes among heirs and beneficiaries, and protect minor children by appointing guardians.


  • Simplicity: Easy to understand and create.
  • Control: You decide exactly how your assets are distributed.
  • Guardianship Provisions: Essential for those with minor children.


  • Probate Process: Wills must go through probate, which can be a public, lengthy, and potentially costly process.
  • Limited Scope: Only takes effect after death and doesn’t provide for management of your affairs in case of incapacity.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal entity that holds assets on behalf of an individual or organization. It allows you to transfer your property into the ownership of the trust, which then manages it according to your instructions. Unlike wills, trusts can be effective during your lifetime (living trusts).

A trust allows you to control how your assets are managed and distributed, even after your death. It also offers a level of privacy as it does not go through the probate process. For SMB owners, a trust can manage business assets, offering continuity and discretion.


  • Avoiding Probate: Trusts typically bypass the probate process, allowing for privacy and potentially faster distribution of assets.
  • Flexibility: Can be structured in many ways to suit complex financial situations.
  • Protection Against Incapacity: Allows for management of your affairs if you become unable to do so yourself.


  • Complexity and Cost: Setting up a trust can be more complicated and expensive than a will.
  • Ongoing Maintenance: Requires active management and can be more time-consuming to administer.

Comparing Wills and Trusts

The choice between a will and a trust depends on individual circumstances, including the complexity of your estate, your privacy preferences, and concerns about potential incapacity. In simple terms, wills are typically best for straightforward estates, while trusts offer more flexibility and control, especially for complex or larger estates.

Wills vs. Trusts: The SMB Perspective

For small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners, the decision between a will and trust is particularly important. Not only do they need to consider their personal assets, but also their business interests. Business ownership can complicate matters because it involves multiple parties and potential issues such as succession planning and tax implications.

From an SMB standpoint, the choice between a will or a trust depends on the nature and size of the business, the desire for privacy, and the need for operational continuity.

Wills are simpler but less versatile, best for sole member limited liability companies and sole proprietorships. Trusts, while more complex, offer greater control and continuity, crucial for businesses with significant assets or multiple partners.

Ultimately, SMB owners should consult with a trusted financial planner or lawyer to determine the best estate planning strategy for their specific circumstances.

In Conclusion

Wills and trusts are both crucial tools in estate planning, each with its advantages and disadvantages. For SMB owners, the decision between the two is even more critical as it involves business assets and interests. Whether you are a business owner or an individual planning for your estate, it's important to carefully consider the options and make informed decisions that align with your specific needs and goals.