Our Maryland Probate Attorneys Explain Wills
Do you own property? Do you have children? If so, you need to have a mechanism in place to avoid having a court decide who gets your property and who takes care of your minor children. One way to do that is with a Will that names an executor, a guardian for your children, and beneficiaries. That way, YOU make the important decisions affecting your loved ones, not the court.
A Will is a mechanism to advise a probate court about how you want your property distributed. But will your Will do its job as intended? That depends upon how the Will was prepared and executed. When a Will is deemed not valid by a probate court, the court is forced to distribute property according to the laws of the state in which the deceased lived. This often leads to big surprises among the family left behind by the deceased person.
Most people know about Wills and their basic purpose – to ensure that one’s hard earned assets go to the right heirs when an individual passes away. Wills can be used for a lot more than simply dictating who gets what. A Will can serve as a powerful estate planning tool, but it is most effective only when properly drafted. Frame & Frame attorneys can establish a Will in a manner that ensures your situation is considered and that your wishes Will be honored. To get started on a new Will or a Will update, call our experienced Maryland wills attorneys as 410-255-0373.
Blended Families and Wills
When someone divorces and remarries then passes away, it creates a situation with an inherent potential for a family member’s legal interest in the estate to be compromised. Maryland law does not always treat a blended family situation the same as a nuclear family for the purpose of estate distribution. How to be fair to everybody? It’s a dilemma, but one that can be solved. Tara K. Frame can advise you on how to structure your estate plan so no one is left out. For more information about blended families and probate, click here to read our blog post on this topic Blended Families Face Critical Legal Issues.
Keeping Your Will Document Updated is as Import as Creating It
People don’t understand that creating a Will is only the first step. Keeping a Will updated is critical to being able to pass on assets to your loved ones. Life happens and unexpected circumstances can jeopardize your intentions. To set up a Will properly, you need the help of an estate planning lawyer, such as those at Frame & Frame.
A Will Has Many Purposes
Below is a list of some of the valuable things a Will can accomplish:
- Outline who gets what – The most common purpose for a Will is to name which individual or individuals Will receive particular property belonging to a person when he or she passes away.
- Plan the taxes – Wills can be tools for tax planning in order to avoid estate tax, inheritance tax, or capital gains tax. This can sometimes be accomplished by setting up a trust.
- Establish a trust – A person may not want a child or other relative to receive all of the inherited assets at once. A person may want the beneficiary to be able to use the assets for a while, and then for the assets to pass to someone else. A trust holds assets on someone’s behalf. Trusts are commonly established for minor children, so that someone else can manage the children’s money until they reach a certain age when they can manage it themselves. Trusts are used in second marriages. A person may want to allow a spouse access to assets while the spouse is living, but for those assets to ultimately pass to the decedent’s children. There are many other uses for trusts.
- Name guardians for children – Typically, a Will designates someone to raise a person’s children if something happens to the parents, with at least one alternate in the event the first choice cannot serve as the guardian.
- Identify executors and trustees – A Will can state who is to be the executor of an estate to carry out a decedent’s wishes. Also, the trustee of a trust can be established in a Will, that is, the person who Will be in charge of carrying out the instructions of the trust.
The Court Decides if a Will is Valid
Probate courts rule on whether or not a Will is valid based on a few details. Most states require that the person making a Will be at least 18 years old. All states require that the person making the Will be of sound mind, which is defined by the court as a person who is mentally competent and not suffering from a mental illness, clear about creating the Will, aware of what property is owned, and aware of the people related to the Will maker. These requirements apply only to when the Will is drafted. If someone creates a Will and later becomes mentally incompetent, the Will is still valid.