My thoughts on a full estate plan vs. a simple will are these:
First, there are all kinds of different trust vehicles that have different features that allow for estate tax shelters, etc. The one I focus on here is a simple probate-avoidance trust.
Most of us think of a trust as being for the uber-wealthy who are trying to keep that wealth from ending up in the government's hands. However, a trust is really a vehicle to keep what might otherwise be a probate estate asset out of probate court. Probate is simply the process of having the court determine who gets control over the probate assets - i.e. a personal representative/executor. The problem is, that before the court will allow the PR/Executor to do anything with any of the probate assets, the executor has to petition the court, be appointed by the court, then publish notice to creditors (and creditors have 4 months to respond). The whole process - in a simple case - will take approximately 6 months. All the while, the assets are essentially in a frozen state. With a trust, those assets that may otherwise be considered "probate assets" are actually titled in the name of the trust - not the deceased person - and so their use and disposition are controlled by the terms of the trust. And the trust doesn't have to go through any type of court proceeding, so the trust beneficiaries are not subject to having assets "frozen" or tied up in a probate court proceeding. Additionally, if your probate assets - your home, your cars, personal property, bank accounts, etc. - total more than $50k, then your estate is subject to probate.
It may be that most of the assets that would pass from you to your spouse or other family are currently in the form of life insurance, 401k, IRA's, or other similar vehicles. Typically these are non-probate assets. However, if you have other property it would still be tied up in probate and create additional expense in terms of lawyers fees (I hate those guys:), court costs, etc.
With all of that said, just having a will is better than nothing at all. But, a will - in the long run - can be more expensive than a trust because of the backend probate costs. Also, as long as you are alive you can buy, consume, or dispose of trust assets in the same manner you would if there wasn't a trust. The trust agreement just kicks in when either you or your spouse pass away.
So, I recommend a full estate plan - because even though there may not be a lot in the trust to begin with, it is established and as your wealth/portfolio grows all you need to do is title additional assets in the name of the trust.
Hopefully this answers some of the questions and clarifies the will vs. trust question.
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