Simply put, no one can predict what the future holds, but it’s preferable to at least plan for likely outcomes. Everyone needs to have a plan for what happens to their assets when they die. Wills and trusts have similar purposes, but each has their own strengths. A skilled estate planning attorney can set up one or both of these documents and have them at the ready something should happen to you or your family.
Benefits of a will:
- Choose Heirs. Preparing a Last Will and Testament ensures that your property passes to your intended beneficiaries. Without a will, the Maryland laws of intestate succession dictate who inherits the property titled in your name alone.
- Choose Fiduciaries. You can decide who your Personal Representative is in charge of handling the distribution of your assets, rather than leaving these decisions to intestacy law.
- Choose Guardians for Minor Children. You may appoint guardians to care for your minor children in your stead, rather than relatives making claims for custody and control of children’s finances.
- Manage Disputes. You can decide how and where you want your remains to be put to rest and choose who serves as your Personal Representative (the person who ensures that your wishes are carried out). Planning ahead reduces disputes among heirs and allows for less stress during traumatic times.
Executing a will with a skilled estate planning attorney gives you peace of mind that everything will be drafted to make the best use of the law to carry out your wishes. After a will is drafted, it must be signed by the testator and witnessed by two individuals to be effective. Assets that pass through an estate are dictated by the terms of your will and handled by the Personal Representative under the supervision of the Orphan’s Court and local Register of Wills.
In some situations, a will does not cover all of your estate planning goals. A trust is a more complex solution that offers extra options. They are more complex to draft but can be tailored to fulfill certain estate planning needs that a will cannot. Most often, the trust that takes the place of your will is called a Revocable Living Trust.
A Trust can provide all the benefits of a will plus:
- Privacy. A trust is not publicly filed with the court. Your heirs and the assets passing to them remain private. The named Trustee distributes assets in accordance with the wishes you left in the trust.
- Avoidance of the time to Probate. The probate process takes at least 6-9 due to statutory timelines. A trust need not wait for court-mandated deadlines.
- More powerful than beneficiaries. Often, folks receive the advice to ‘put children on an account.’ That can work wonders but is extremely inflexible. Often, if a would-be beneficiary dies or experiences a serious health condition, families are left with no good options. A trust mimics the ease of transferring assets but allows for every reasonable contingency to fully explored and planned for.
If you don’t have a will or Revocable Living Trust you should strongly consider creating one. A skilled estate planning attorney can assist you in making sure your estate plan is done in accordance with Maryland law with minimal headaches.
If you need help with your estate plan, get in touch today by calling (410) 848-4444, or to see what others have said about us, please read our client testimonials.