A will is a signed, written statement that serves several important functions. The most obvious function is controlling how your property will be distributed at your death. Certain property does not pass via will: property held in joint tenancy (most couples hold their home this way), property in a trust, life insurance payable to a beneficiary, retirement plans payable to a beneficiary, and pay-on-death accounts all are transferred at your death regardless of what your will says. If you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to default rules called intestacy laws. Check out this article on what happens if you die without a will in Maryland.

If you have minor children, the most important function of a will may be the selection of guardian of your children.

A will also determines the person who administer your estate after your die. In Maryland this position is called the personal representative, in other places this person may be called the executor. The personal representative must collect the property belonging to the decedent, prepare an inventory of property for the court, appraise certain assets, pay debts, and distribute property to those entitled to a share. You should chose a personal representative that you trust to carry out your wishes and is capable of doing so. You should also select one or two alternates in case your first choice is unavailable. (More on how to choose a Personal Representative) If you do not chose a personal representative, or die without a will, the court will select someone to administer your estate. This person may not be the person you would want and is subject to payment out of your estate for the work performed.

If you have minor children, the most important function of a will may be the selection of guardian of your children. If the other parent of your child or children is still alive when you die, the other parent will likely have custody of your minor children. But if you are the sole surviving parent, or both parents die simultaneously, your children will need someone to care for them. You can prepare for this real, if remote, possibility by selecting a guardian in your will. You can select a personal guardian for your children, and a guardian of your children’s property. These roles may be served by the same person, or by different persons, depending on your circumstances. If you die without a will, and a court needs to assign a guardian for your children, it will do so without your input.

Your lawyer should explain your options for a will to you so that you understand the options available to you. You should work with your lawyer to take inventory of your circumstances regarding your property and your family and match them with your wishes when drafting a will. Working with an experienced Maryland estate planning attorney ensure that the technical requirements of executing a will in Maryland are followed precisely so that your will is given full legal effect.

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Montefusco Estate Planning, LLC
8133 Runnymeade Dr Frederick, Maryland 21702
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