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Will, Trust, or Designation?

July 1, 2019 by Richard Letocha

Understanding the differences

This story was first published in the Spring 2019 issue of Planning Matters, a newsletter of the Office of Gift Planning.

A portrait of Richard Letocha, a gift planning advisor in the Johns Hopkins Office of Gift Planning.
Richard Letocha, JD, CFP®
Gift Planning Advisor

If you wish to leave a legacy to Johns Hopkins, like many of our supporters, you may choose to do so through a will, revocable trust, or beneficiary designation. How are they different?

A will is a legal document that governs the collection and disposition of many of your assets after your death, including gifts to a non-profit like Johns Hopkins.

A revocable trust, often called a “living trust,” is an estate planning tool that avoids the costs of probate, preserves privacy, and can simplify the transition of assets from your estate.

A beneficiary designation form is needed to identify recipients of certain financial accounts, such as retirement accounts. Neither a will nor a revocable trust governs the disposition of these accounts. Retirement accounts can be wonderful sources of legacy gifts to Johns Hopkins. They’re often simpler and less expensive to establish than legacy gifts made by a will or revocable trust, and they can offer tax advantages, too.

How the Office of Gift Planning Can Help
The Office of Gift Planning helps donors to Johns Hopkins who are considering a legacy gift. We can also work with you and your advisors to explore which options make the most sense for you and your wishes. To speak with a gift planning advisor, call 410-516-7954 or 800-528-1268 or email

Johns Hopkins does not provide tax, legal, or financial advice. Please consult your own advisors regarding your specific situation.

Topics: Alumni, Faculty and Staff, Friends of Johns Hopkins Medicine