Do I Need a Trust or a Will in Maryland?

Estate planning, or planning for what happens to your worldly possessions after you pass away, is an important process that can be done at any age, regardless of whether you expect to live for a long time into the future or not. Without estate planning, you have no say over what happens to your things after you pass away, and instead, they are distributed by the government through legal processes. The two main ways of planning what happens to your estate after you pass away are through a will or a trust.

In Maryland, whether you need a will or a trust will depend on your unique circumstances. This is because wills and trusts do different things. A will simply determines where your things are going to go after you pass away. Trusts determine what is allowed to be done with those things. Therefore, if you simply want to choose where your things go, a will is sufficient, but a trust may allow for more fine control.

For a free analysis of your situation, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras’s Maryland estate and trusts lawyers at (410) 694-7291.

Should I Have a Will, a Trust, or Both in Maryland?

Many people going through the estate planning process in Maryland may be wondering whether a will or a trust better suits their needs or whether they need either of these documents at all. The answer is that whether you need a will or a trust depends on your situation. However, our Baltimore estate and trusts lawyers recommend that you at least have a will in order to make sure your things go where you want them to. Whether you also need a trust will be specific to your circumstances.

Reasons to Have a Will in Maryland

There are a lot of reasons to have a will in Maryland. First, you can have a lot of control over where your assets go after you pass away. Without a will, your worldly possessions are distributed through a process called “intestacy,” which will be detailed later in this article. You do not have control over where your things go in intestacy proceedings, but with a will, you can control where your assets are distributed.

Reasons to Have a Trust in Maryland

Trusts are a way to make sure that assets are used in a certain way to help someone else. In the context of estate planning, a trust can set aside certain things to be given to a loved one later. For example, if you want to set aside money specifically to pay for a loved one’s college tuition, you can create a trust to do just that.

What is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust in Maryland?

Wills and trusts do different things and have different purposes. Many individuals conflate the two things because they are so closely linked – to the point that the area of law that deals with them is called “estates and trusts.” We’ll break down the differences and purposes of wills and trusts in Maryland in this section below.

Wills in Maryland

A will is a document that has instructions on what happens to your worldly possessions after you pass away. The way that wills work in Maryland is outlined in Md. Code, Ests. & Trs. Art., § 4-102. There are some basic requirements for a will to be valid. The person making the will must be at least 18 years old, of sound mind, and witnessed signing off on the will by at least two other parties, among other requirements.

As long as a will is valid, it gives people a great deal of control over how their assets are distributed after they pass on. For example, if you want to leave certain things to a friend instead of having them go to family members, you can do that in a will.

Trusts in Maryland

Trusts, on the other hand, do not necessarily involve the death of somebody. A trust is an agreement, almost always in writing, where you put someone in charge of certain assets with instructions to do things with those assets that benefit a third party. The rules for trusts in Maryland are outlined in Md. Code, Ests. & Trs. Art., § 14-404.

Trusts can be made for a lot of different reasons. For example, if you want to leave money for a relative but do not want to give it to them right away or want it to increase in value, you can put it in a trust.

Intestacy in Maryland

If you do not have a will, a process called “intestacy” begins after you pass away.

To explain intestacy, some terminology needs to be known. A will is more formally known as a “last will and testament.” Thus, the person who makes the will is called the “testator.” When a person who has a will passes away, they are said to die “testate.” This means that there is a plan they have made about what happens to their worldly possessions, and that plan will be followed.

When someone passes away without a will, they are said to die “intestate” because they have not made a last will and testament. When someone dies intestate, they do not have a say in how their worldly things are distributed after they pass away. Instead, a predetermined legal process called “intestacy” is followed.

During intestacy, a deceased person’s worldly possessions are distributed according to Md. Code, Ests. & Trs. Art., § 3-101. Ultimately, it means that there is little to no control over what happens to your stuff after you pass away intestate, so obtaining a will is very important.

Talk to Our Maryland Estate and Trusts Lawyers Today

Rice, Murtha & Posras’s Silver Spring, MD estate and trusts lawyers can help you with your estate planning needs when you call us at (410) 694-7291.