Most people are concerned about how their loved ones will cope after they pass on. Apart from the emotional grief a family feels, the practical aspects of managing the decedent’s affairs create an additional burden. If the decedent made significant financial contributions to the household, adjusting to reduced income can be challenging.

Fortunately, a thoughtfully drafted will can ease your family members’ struggles in multiple ways. A will ensures your property goes to the specific parties you choose, not the people the law determines should benefit. It also allows you to choose who will manage your affairs after you die. Plus, if you leave behind a substantial estate, a well-drafted will can save your heirs from excess estate and inheritance taxes.

Working closely with an estate planning legal professional to create a will provides you the benefit of their experience and ensures your true intentions will be carried out by the law. An Upper Marlboro wills lawyer is ready to listen to your goals for your property after your death and draft a will that accomplishes them.

Wills Govern Property that Goes Through Probate

A will directs how to transfer property that the person making the will (the testator) owns solely in their name. During the probate process, the estate’s personal representative collects all the testator’s solely-owned property and uses it to pay off their debts. Any balance left after settling debts is distributed to heirs according to the terms of the will.

However, not all property goes through probate. Any property with a named beneficiary—such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts—goes directly to the beneficiaries upon the owner’s death and does not go through probate. Furthermore, real estate and assets owned as joint tenants in the entirety or joint tenants with the right of survivorship belong to the co-tenant(s) upon one tenant’s death.

Working with an Upper Marlboro attorney to create a will could help you keep substantial property out of probate. A legal professional might suggest holding property jointly with a spouse or other family member to ensure they have immediate access to a home or funds without waiting a year or more for probate to close. Putting property into a trust also avoids probate.

A Will Ensures Your Wishes Govern Your Property

When someone dies without a will in place, the law of intestacy determines who will get their property by default. If they have a spouse and minor children, the spouse receives half of the property, and the surviving children share the other half equally. If a decedent leaves a surviving spouse and adult children, a parent, or both, the spouse receives $15,000 plus half of the remaining assets, and the other surviving immediate relatives share the remainder.

This formula does not work for everyone; many people prefer to distribute their property differently. For example, a person might wish their spouse to receive all their property rather than have some of it go to a parent who is already financially secure. People sometimes wish their children to receive different percentages of property, depending on their needs, birth order, and unique financial situation.

A will allows someone to determine what property distribution plan makes the most sense in their specific circumstances. As circumstances change, the will could also change by adding a codicil. An Upper Marlboro attorney can periodically review a will with the testator to respond to changes in the testator’s life and circumstances.

Legal Requirements to Make a Valid Will

Anyone who is at least 18 years old and of sound mind can create a will.  Although a probate court might honor a handwritten will, creating one without professional help is inadvisable. Certain words and phrases have a specific meaning when they appear in a will. Making a will without legal advice could result in a court interpreting it differently than the drafter intended.

According to Maryland Estate and Trusts Code § 4-102, a will must contain the signature of the testator and two witnesses. The witnesses, who must not benefit from the will, must see the testator sign the document, and they must sign it in each other’s presence. When an Upper Marlboro attorney prepares a will for a client, office staff might serve as witnesses to the will.

Family members or others mentioned do not need to know the contents of a will beforehand. The testator may keep the will in a secure location if they choose, but the Register of Wills in Prince George’s County will store a will for a nominal fee. The will is sealed in an envelope, and no one except the testator or someone with the testator’s written authority can access it until the testator dies.

Plan for the Future With an Upper Marlboro Wills Attorney

Some things should not be left to chance. Ensuring your loved ones receive the assets you have worked so hard for is one of those things. Without a will, the law decides who gets what, and the allocation might not be what you would have chosen.

An Upper Marlboro wills lawyer combines a deep knowledge of the law with a practical approach. They can help you clarify your intentions and develop a will that ensures the best for your family. Our family law firm proudly serves Largo, Upper Marlboro, and beyond. Call us today to get started.