Leaving a final will and testament is one of the most financially prudent things you can do for your family’s future. It’s an act that ensures their security and peace of mind long after you’re gone. The process of grieving is difficult enough — the added stress of financial uncertainty when someone dies without a will can make it even more overwhelming.
If you have substantial assets, a last will can help you outline exactly how your estate should be managed in your absence. It’s not just for the wealthy; every adult should consider writing a will to support all the people they care about.
At Parker, Pallett, Slezak & Russell, LLC, our Maryland estate planning attorneys can help you draft a will that accurately reflects how you want your effects to be handled. Call us at (410) LAW-YERS or contact us online to learn more about our estate plan legal services.
Reasons to Create a Will
Safeguard your estate against intestacy laws in Maryland
In Maryland, if a person dies without a will, they are said to have died “intestate.” This means that the probate process and the distribution of their estate — which includes all property, assets, and debts they owned at the time of death — will be handled according to the state’s intestacy laws.
If the deceased is survived by a spouse and children, the inheritance is divided between them. The exact distribution depends on whether the children are also the children of the surviving spouse. If so, the spouse gets the first $40,000 of the estate and half of the remaining bequest, with the rest divided among the children. If the children are not the children of the surviving spouse, the spouse gets half of the estate, and the children split the other half.
If there are no children, but a surviving spouse and parents, the spouse gets the first $40,000 plus half of the remaining estate, and the parents receive the rest. If there are no children or parents, the spouse inherits the entire estate. If you have no surviving spouse, it will all be divided equally among your children; and if you have neither a spouse nor children, your possessions will go to your other relatives in this order: parents, siblings, and then more distant relatives. In case you have no immediate family members, all your holdings will become state property.
As you can see, dying intestate means you have no say in who inherits what. This can result in an outcome that might not align with what you might have wished. For example, a partner you are not married to, a close friend, or a favorite charity would receive nothing.
To appoint a guardian for your minor children
Without a will specifying guardianship, the courts will decide who will care for any minors, which may not be what you want. If you want a specific individual to raise your children after you have passed, you need to name them as a guardian in your will. If you have children with special needs, ask your attorney about special needs estate planning.
If you do not do this, the court make this decision. A judge will select someone based on legal criteria, which might not reflect your personal preferences or the established bonds your children have.
To define specific bequests
A bequest in a will is a directive where you designate particular items of your property to be given to specific people upon your death. This can be jewelry, family heirlooms, artworks, cars, or any personal or sentimental items. By doing this, you can see to it that these items go to the people who will value them most or for whom you intend them. The importance of having a will is that you get to decide who gets what article after you pass. This can help prevent any fiduciary litigation disputes among your heirs.
How to Make a Will in Maryland?
To create an enforceable will, the person making the will (testator) must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. The will must be in writing. While handwritten (holographic) wills can be binding, they are generally more susceptible to challenges.
If you are the one drafting a valid will, you must sign it, but if you cannot for any reason, someone else can sign it in your presence. It should also have the signatures of at least two credible witnesses who are at least 18 years old. Both these witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the testator after observing the testator’s signing or acknowledgment of the signature on the will.
It should be noted that witnesses should not be beneficiaries of your will, as this can create a conflict of interest.
Here is how you can start the estate plans process:
- Begin by listing your assets — Include real estate, bank accounts, investments, personal items, and family heirlooms
- Determine who you want to inherit your assets – Family members, friends, or charitable organizations
- Select a person or an estate planning attorney to carry out the terms of your will — known as the executor, they should be someone you trust to handle your estate
- Decide who will be your children’s guardian — If you have children under the age of 18
- Draft the will — Either by writing it yourself or hiring Maryland wills attorneys
- Sign the will and other essential documents — In the presence of your witnesses, and have your witnesses sign as well
- Keep the will in a safe place — Inform the executor or a trusted person of its location.
- Review and update your will — As circumstances change, such as after a marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or significant changes in assets
Choose Experienced Wills Lawyers Maryland to Protect Your Legacy
A large number of Americans have neither a living will nor financial power of attorney. This leaves too many people without instructions for their families in critical moments. Our proven wills lawyers at Parker, Pallett, Slezak & Russell, LLC can remove the guesswork for your loved ones and alleviate the stress of not knowing your final wishes.
Our elder law attorneys can discuss the most suitable last will according to your needs:
- Simple wills: To direct how your assets are distributed and name guardians for kids
- Testamentary trust wills: To create a trust for estate administration for your beneficiaries
- Joint wills: Made by spouses, to agree on asset distribution after both pass away
- Living wills: To document your medical treatment preferences if you become unable to communicate
- Pour-over wills: To transfer any remaining assets into an existing trust upon death
- Holographic wills: Completely handwritten and signed by you, without formal witnesses
- Nuncupative (oral) wills: Spoken wills, valid only in rare situations, like during a fatal illness or by an active-duty military member
Contact us online or call (410) LAW-YERS for a one-on-one consultation with an experienced estates lawyer or probate attorney for your estate planning in Maryland.