There are many advantages to a living trust. These instruments can help avoid Probate proceedings and allow for money and assets to be distributed sooner and more privately. Living trusts are also flexible, and can be amended more easily than a will. Once you’ve created your living trust document you may ask, do I still need a will?
Most likely, the answer is yes. Consider the examples of two celebrities who unexpectedly passed, but were well protected by careful, tactful estate planning. Both Michael Jackson and Joan Rivers had executed what’s referred to as a “pour-over will.” As the name implies, this is a relatively simple will which literally “pours over” any remaining assets into the trust. Even with careful planning, some assets may not make it into the trust before you pass. The pour-over will ensures these assets become part of the trust after death, avoiding the heavy financial and emotional burden of Probate proceedings. Additionally, having a will to accompany your living trust can ensure any assets left behind will be handled in accordance with your wishes. If you pass without a will, any assets left out of your trust will be distributed according to statutory law as if you had no estate planning at all.
In the cases of Mr. Jackson and Ms. Rivers, despite the prying eyes of the media relatively few details about their estates surfaced publicly. Because of their trusts, and complementary pour-over wills, their lists of assets and inheritance instructions remained private. While most of us don’t spend our time dodging the paparazzi, there’s still a lesson to be learned. Even with a living trust, you may still need a will to ensure your estate administration is simple, cost effective, and as private as possible for the benefit of your loved ones.
Additionally, a will is also the most common instrument used to name the guardians of minor children. Even if you think your family and loved ones will intuit your choice of guardian, you should still put it in writing to ensure a smooth and conflict-free transition for your child or children. You may even consider naming a contingent guardian should your primary choice be unable to serve as guardian or need to decline. In our celebrity example, Michael Jackson named his mother, Katherine Jackson, as his first choice of guardian. His choice of contingent guardian was a bit less predictable. He selected fellow singer, Diana Ross.
Only through a discussion with your attorney can you determine what estate planning steps are right for you. Each individual, and therefore each estate plan, has unique needs. The experienced Maryland wills and estates attorneys at Altman and Associates draft custom documents for every client after developing a comprehensive understanding of your needs and desires. Our offices are conveniently located in the Rockville, Bethesda area and in Columbia, Maryland. Learn more about your options. Call us at 301-468-3220 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. We will be happy to provide you with legal advice conveyed with Integrity, Honesty, Experience, and Professionalism.