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Wills Vs. Trusts: Which One Is Right for You? 

Sanders & Sanders, Attorneys at Law  May 22, 2024

When it comes to planning for the future, understanding your options is the first step toward safeguarding your family’s well-being.  

At Sanders & Sanders, Attorneys at Law, we help families make informed decisions about their estate planning needs. With a combined experience of over seven decades, we’re here to help you decide between two fundamental tools: wills and trusts. 

Understanding Wills and Trusts

A will is a legal document that outlines how you want your assets distributed after your passing. It's a straightforward way to ensure your wishes are fulfilled, from who inherits your estate to who becomes the guardian of your children. Also known as probate, this is a time-consuming and public process that involves the court overseeing the distribution of your estate. 

A trust, on the other hand, is a legal arrangement where you transfer assets to a trustee for the welfare of your beneficiaries. Trusts can be more complex than wills but offer significant advantages, such as avoiding probate, maintaining privacy, and potentially reducing estate taxes. 

Which One Is Right for You?

Choosing between a will and a trust depends on your specific circumstances, goals, and preferences.  

Here’s how we break it down for our clients: 

Consider a will if:

Your estate is straightforward, and you're comfortable with it going through probate. Wills are essential for naming guardians for minor children. 

Consider making a will if you have specific ideas about how you want certain personal items or family heirlooms distributed. It's also a good choice if you have a relatively small estate and want to keep the planning process simple and cost-effective. Moreover, a will allows you to designate an executor to manage your estate, pay debts or taxes, and distribute your assets in accordance with your wishes. 

This level of control and the ability to make direct bequests to charities, friends, or organizations are compelling reasons to opt for a will in your estate planning

Consider a trust if:

If you seek privacy, want to avoid probate, or have a more complex estate, trusts offer more control over when and how your assets are distributed to your beneficiaries. 

Trusts are a viable option for those wanting to establish a structured distribution schedule for beneficiaries, such as minors or individuals who might not be financially responsible. With a trust, you can specify when and under what conditions beneficiaries can access the assets, providing peace of mind and financial stability fo

r your loved ones. 

Many of our clients have both a will and a trust as part of their comprehensive estate plan. This approach ensures all aspects of your estate are covered, from specifying guardianship wishes to managing complex asset distributions. 

Estate Planning in Maryland and Washington D.C.

In Maryland and Washington D.C., there are specific laws that impact estate planning decisions.  

Maryland, for instance, has the Maryland Probate Code, that governs the administration of estates. This can affect how quickly and smoothly an estate is settled after death. If you’re thinking about establishing a trust, you also need to consider the Maryland Trust Act, which provides the framework for creating and managing trusts within the state. 

In Washington D.C., the local probate process is distinct and requires careful navigation. The District has a simplified process for smaller estates, valued under a specific threshold, allowing for a more expedited settlement. However, for larger estates, probate can become more complex and time-consuming. Also, unlike Maryland, Washington D.C. does not impose its estate tax, but residents should be aware of federal estate tax implications that may affect larger estates.  

As your legal advisors, we stay knowledgeable about local laws to provide you with tailored advice that maximizes the benefits of your estate plan while minimizing potential legal hurdles. 

Take the Next Step With Us

We understand that estate planning is deeply personal. Norm and Lisa, a husband-and-wife team, bring a family-oriented approach to every consultation. We are committed to treating each client like family and work hard to ensure your estate planning serves as a foundation for your family’s future success. 

Choosing between a will and a trust is a significant decision, but you don’t have to make it alone. At Sanders & Sanders, Attorneys at Law, we will guide you through every step of the process. Our familiarity with local laws ensures that your estate plan not only meets your wishes but also complies with local regulations. 

Whether you’re leaning toward a will, a trust, or a combination of both, we’re here to provide the clarity and support you need. If you’re local to Upper Marlboro, Maryland, Clinton, Bowie, Fort Washington, Largo, or Washington D.C., call us to schedule a consultation. 

We will discuss your estate planning needs and work together to create a plan that gives you peace of mind and secures your family’s future. 

At Sanders & Sanders, Attorneys at Law, we’re more than just your attorneys; we’re your partners in planning for a brighter future.