Often clients confuse a will with a trust and use the terms interchangeably. A will is a document which evidences the testator's intent for his or her transfer of wealth and personal wishes to take effect upon their death. A trust is a container for assets that are transferred into it and managed within one's lifetime. A trust becomes effective upon signing. After death, a trust directs the transfer of one's assets. Either, a will or trust, may be amended or revoked during a person's lifetime.
Upon death a will or trust become irrevocable, it's provisions cannot be changed. The most significant difference is that a trust may be administered informally without court involvement. A will requires a more formal process termed probate.
There is a provision for a will that is drafted, dated, and signed by the testator in his or her own hand, called a "holographic will." California recognizes such wills. However, prepared wills require that two disinterested adults witness the testator's execution of a will. The witnesses confirm the identity of the testator, that he or she has apparent mental capacity and intends to sign the document, knowingly and without duress.