Maryland Wills Attorney
A will is the one aspect of an estate plan that no one can go without. Surprisingly, 60 percent of Americans do not have a will (or a living trust, which can be another essential aspect of an estate plan), according to AARP. While only 58 percent of Baby Boomers have wills, 81 percent of senior citizens over the age of 72 have them. Whether you are in your 40s or 80s, a will is a critical legal document that allows for the proper distribution of your property. Without a will, your property is distributed according to Maryland law, which may or may not be how you want your property to be divided. In addition to property distribution, a will accomplishes other important tasks, such as providing instructions for your funeral or burial ceremony, establishing who becomes guardian of your minor children (if the other parent is not alive as well), and ensuring that your last wishes are carried out. For some, a will is just one part of their estate plan, and acts as a necessary complement to living trusts powers of attorney. For others, a will is all they need. Contact our experienced Maryland wills attorneys today, we can help.
What Type of Will Do You Need?
There are essentially three types of wills: a simple will, a joint will, and a living will. A simple will lets you bequeath real and personal property, while a living will defines end-of-life medical care. A joint will is similar to a simple will but is created by and shared between two spouses.
A simple will, also referred to as a traditional will or testamentary will, is the most common type of will. It lays the foundation for how your property should be divided (if at all) and to whom it should be distributed. If you do not have a will, your property (both real and personal) will most likely go to your spouse. Barring being married, your children will get your property, and after that it goes to your parents, siblings, and other relatives in descending order. This may not be what you want. In fact, many people do not want all of their property to be passed down to their spouse. Longtime friends, siblings, children, and charitable organizations are commonly bequeathed property. This gift may only be a few hundred dollars, but it can mean a lot to the person or entity that receives it. The most common types of property that a will can contain include the following:
- Bank accounts;
- 401(k) accounts;
- Stocks and bonds;
- Roth or traditional IRAs;
- Pension plans;
- Personal belongings;
- Real property (such as your house or condominium); and
But property distribution is just one aspect of a traditional will. A simple will can also accomplish the following:
- Determine who becomes legal guardian of your minor children if their other parent is not alive or died in an accident along with you;
- Determine who takes care of your dog, cat, or other pets;
- Determine how you want your remains to be dealt with (burial, cremation, burial at sea, dissolution, etc.);
- Determine what type of funeral, memorial, or other ceremony (such as ash spreading) you want your loved ones to experience;
- Leave directions for how you want specific personal items, such as family heirlooms, to be cared for, and by whom; and
A joint will acts the same as a simple (traditional) will in that it divides and distributes property and leaves behind your last wishes. However, a joint will is used by two more people, usually just two spouses, who want to leave everything to the surviving spouse. When the second spouse or second testator (a person who created the will) dies, the will directs the property to the intended parties that both testators agreed upon. One of the main benefits to a joint will is that the surviving spouse cannot change their mind, or leave the property that you bequeathed to them to a person or organization that you would not have wanted your property to go to.
Also called an advance care directive, a living will establishes how the testator wants certain medical conditions and emergencies to be handled in the event that they are unable to make a decision themselves. An advance care directive is typically used by older people, though younger testators may also benefit from having an advance care directive (such as to allow physicians and direct their loved ones to “unplug” them in the event of a catastrophic injury that leaves them in a vegetative state). Living wills may also include DNR orders (Do Not Resuscitate), what to do if the testator goes into a coma, and other directions for serious medical conditions.
What Can’t a Will Accomplish?
A will cannot create strict rules regarding specific usage of your property or personal belongings, according to Time Money. For example, you cannot leave your granddaughter $40,000 to go towards higher education and enforce that she use it towards this purpose. A trust, on the other hand, can control how money or other property is used. A will can spell out your wishes for uses of the money, but will not legally obligate your granddaughter to use said money on education versus an extravagant car. Wills also have the downside of having to go through probate—an expensive and timely process that can be avoided for much of your property by leaving it in a living trust. However, a will is essential even if you leave behind the majority of your property in trusts.
Reach Out to the Experienced Maryland Wills Attorneys of Frame & Frame Today
A well drafted and thought-out will can be a meaningful, concrete legal document that lets you rest in peace and cares for your loved ones as you see fit. A poorly drafted will can cause contention amongst your family, confusion, and bitter feelings. To find out more about creating a will right for you and your family’s needs, contact the Maryland wills attorneys of Frame & Frame today to get started at once.