Germantown, Silver Spring and throughout Montgomery County, Maryland Will Attorneys Serving Clients Looking to Write or Update Their Wills
A will is a foundational estate planning document that allows you to record your wishes for what should happen after you die. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand how important it is to have a will, even if they are not of advanced age or don’t have a high net worth. Our attorneys explain how wills work in Maryland and the steps you should take to write yours and safeguard your legacy.
What Is a Will and Why Is It Important?
A will is a written, legally-binding document that contains details about how you would like your estate to be handled after you pass away. You can record who your beneficiaries are and how your assets should be split up among them. If you have any minor children, a will allows you to define who should care for them if you were to pass away unexpectedly.
Because a will is a formal document, it should be properly written, signed by witnesses, and should probably be notarized. Your will also contains an executor (or personal representative) designation, appointing a person you trust (such as a spouse, relative, or a friend) to handle the process of taking your estate through probate and distributing your assets. In Maryland, assets named on a will usually require probate before they can be passed on to heirs, so it’s important to understand that in most cases, a decedent’s assets may not be transferred right away – at least not until the probate process is done.
For some, it may feel unpleasant to think about what will happen once they pass away, while others may think they do not need a will because they are young or don’t have a lot of assets. However, without a will, a long list of important decisions may be left entirely up to a judge, and you may not have any control over what can happen to your property and your family after you die.
What Should I Include in My Will?
Besides essential information such as your name, date of birth, addresses, and the names and contact information of your immediate relatives and beneficiaries, a will should include a list of all the things you own solely in your name. Assets that are in a trust or have a named beneficiary do not usually require probate and do not need to be part of your will. You may include a variety of assets – from personal items, family heirlooms, jewelry, your sports cards collection, and your golf equipment to real estate properties, vehicles, and bank accounts, to name a few. You will also need to name a personal representative (or executor) to administer your estate on your behalf.
It is worth mentioning that you may also include your pets in your will, but the pets cannot be a beneficiary and inherit anything. Instead, you can record your wishes for who should be your pets’ new owner if you were to pass away. Along with a list of all your assets, you may include beneficiary designations for each one of them if you wish for the assets to be divided in a specific way. Remember that for your will to be valid, you will need to sign the will yourself and obtain the signatures of witnesses (in most cases).
What Happens if I Die Without a Will in Maryland?
When someone dies without a will in Maryland, the person (the decedent) is said to have died intestate, and it will be up to Maryland intestacy laws to decide how the decedent’s property will be divided. The court will appoint a personal representative for the estate, and that person may have to take care of the laborious tasks of identifying who the rightful heirs are and making an inventory of all the decedent’s assets. This step alone can take a long time, depending on the complexity of the estate and how many heirs the decedent has.
Once the assets and beneficiaries have been identified, the probate court will use Maryland intestacy laws to divide the estate among heirs. If the decedent had children but no spouse, the children may likely inherit everything. If the decedent left no children and had no living parents but was married, the spouse may inherit everything. Stepchildren and foster children may not automatically get an inheritance, but adoptive children have the same rights to inherit as biological children. If the decedent left any minor children, the court might also need to appoint a guardian to those children. As you can see, taking the time to write your will may save your surviving relatives from a long process and a lot of headaches.
Why Should I Hire an Attorney to Help Write My Will?
While there may be several resources that allow you to download a template from the internet and write your will, there is no guarantee that those do-it-yourself solutions will work for you when you need them to. Only an attorney can help you write a customized will that addresses all your wishes for asset division and more. Working with an attorney can be beneficial even if you don’t have a complex estate but becomes fundamental if you have several assets or real estate in more than one state.
For many years, the attorneys at Paré & Associates, LLC have been helping clients navigate the process of creating their wills and other basic estate planning documents. We know the task may seem overwhelming at times, and that is why our clients can leverage our legal knowledge to confidently have the right estate plans in place to protect their family’s future. If you want to write or update your will, reach out to our Germantown office to see how we can help. Call Paré & Associates, LLC today at (301) 962-2492 to schedule a free consultation.