Any Maryland resident that has some assets and some family should have an estate plan. Two important components of estate planning are wills and trusts. Both of these things dictate the way that a deceased person’s assets should be distributed after they die, but they differ in some important ways.
What is a will?
A will is the most basic estate planning document that every person should have. Your will dictates how you would like your assets to be distributed, and it usually appoints an executor who is in charge of making sure that the instructions in your will are carried out. A will may also name a guardian for minor children.
Without a will, your assets would be disbursed through probate court based on intestacy laws. This process may be long and costly for your beneficiaries, and it can sometimes result in your assets being distributed not according to your wishes. If you have a large or complex estate or you want your estate plans to remain private, you may consider setting up a trust.
What is a trust?
Wills and trusts work together in an estate plan. While a will is a legal document, a trust is a legal entity. Your will may direct your executor to pass property and assets to a trust that will hold those things and then distribute them according to your instructions. One of the main benefits of having a trust is that it is private, so your beneficiaries’ inheritances will not be a matter of public record.
Do you need both?
While everyone needs a will, not everyone needs a Trust. However, assets that are in a trust are not subject to what can be lengthy probate proceedings after you pass away.