A Comprehensive Guide to Wills, Trusts, and Probate

Every person, no matter your age, should have a will or trust to ensure that your assets and property are handed down as you see fit. Without a will or a trust, the state of Maryland may end up distributing your assets according to the law versus according to your wishes. Many people believe their needs will be covered by a will, but could better be served by a trust. In addition, one document has significant advantages, when it comes to the probate process. In this article, we provide a brief overview of wills, trusts, and probate as well as how an experienced Maryland estate planning attorney can help.

The Difference Between a Will and a Trust

Everybody needs a Will, which establishes an Executor of your estate and also determines how your assets will be distributed when you pass away. In addition to asset distribution among your heirs, Wills also outline your last wishes, including your funeral or burial wishes, as well as any messages or videos to specific family members. However, a Will is a public process and can sometimes open up the estate to challenges.

A Trust, on the other hand, provides those same benefits and many more. For example, a Trust is private (vs. public) and can help your heirs avoid the probate process. Similar to a Will in one regard, a revocable or “living” trust directs assets to your beneficiaries. However, Wills go into effect only when you die, whereas a trust can take help establish decisions in the event of your incapacitation, and take effect during and after your life. Additionally, the assets in trusts usually do not go through probate—the official court process of transferring a decedent’s assets to their heirs per their Will.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of proving a will and transferring assets from the estate to the decedent’s heirs. Before assets can be passed to heirs, the probate administrator must pay taxes and debts. All assets in a person’s estate must pass through probate, unless those assets are held in a trust. Probate can be expensive, and generally takes months or years. Therefore, many individuals use trusts to avoid probate and allow their assets to pass down to beneficiaries much faster than if the assets had to go through probate.  Learn more about the probate process in Maryland with our Free Guide to Probate.

If an estate is classified as a “small” estate, the estate may be administered quicker than a regular estate and may mean less paperwork. According to the Resisters of Wills, a small estate is an estate valued at:

  • $50,000 or less; or
  • $100,000 or less if the spouse is the sole heir or legatee.

Learn More About Wills, Trusts, and Probate with this Free Guide

free guide to wills & trustsFrame & Frame Attorneys at Law has developed a free comprehensive Guide to Wills, Trusts, and Probate. This guide is a great way to learn the basics of estate planning. We also offer an initial discovery call to help you get started.