A Last Will and Testament (commonly referred to as a “Will”) is a legal document that allows you to make your wishes known after your death. By executing a Will, you are able to leave instructions for the distribution of your estate. The consequences of not having a Will can be quite serious.
When someone dies without a Will, also known as “dying intestate,” their assets are distributed according to the laws of the state where they lived at the time of their death. This process is known as probate. Probate is a judicial administration that decides the rightful heirs and the distribution of assets. Going through probate can cost significantly more money than the cost of creating a will.
The probate process can also lead to some less-than-perfect distributions of assets. In Maryland, the probate process divides your estate between your closest living blood relatives, usually your spouse or children. If you do not have a spouse or child, it becomes more complicated.
Additionally, it is important to understand that the Maryland probate statutes do not consider stepparents and stepchildren as relatives unless the child was legally adopted by the stepparent. Accordingly, a stepchild will not inherit from a stepparent.
However, a Will does more than just distribute your assets. If you have minor children, a will names a guardian for those children. Likewise, a will allows you to name someone to watch over assets in trust for a disabled or elderly family member or someone who may not have the financial sophistication to manage those assets. In your will, you can also set forth burial/cremation plans.
The seasoned attorneys at Azrael Franz are skilled in estate planning and administration, and can facilitate the preparation of the documents necessary for protecting your interests and making your wishes known. Contact us today if you have questions regarding your estate plan or to schedule a consultation.