Baltimore Wills + Estate Planning Lawyer

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One of the main reasons people go to work and amass assets is to provide for their families and loved ones. In many cases, every decision a person makes is determined by the benefits it offers someone they love. Estate planning should be a part of that process. By taking steps to understand what estate planning entails and the importance of providing enforceable terms for your estate after you die, you can best provide for your family after your death.
At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, our attorneys and staff work directly with our clients to ensure their estate planning wishes are met. No two situations are the same, so our Baltimore wills and estate planning lawyer will thoroughly review your circumstances to help come up with a plan that is tailored to your needs. Call our office at (410) 431-0911 to schedule a consultation today.

The Basics of a Baltimore Will

Most people in Baltimore have an idea of what a will entails. The concept of a “last will and testament” allocating your property after you have died is not a foreign idea. However, a will is a legal document and there are some formalities that you should understand.
First, a will is a written document that is legally enforceable after you have died. By taking to the time to speak with an experienced Baltimore wills and estates attorney, you could help ensure your surviving family and loved ones know your wishes.
The “estate” is the property and debts you leave behind. Your will should give detailed instructions on how your estate should be disbursed after your death. In addition to dealing with your property, a will could also set up guidelines and guardianship for your minor children.
The person who creates the will is known as the “testator.” As part of the instructions included in a will, the testator will appointment an “executor” to see that the terms and provisions of the will are carried out. The executor serves as a manager of the estate. Any persons or entities that receive your property through your will are called “beneficiaries.”

Legal Requirements of a Will in Baltimore

For a will to be legally enforceable, it must adhere to several legal requirements. When you are drafting a will, it is essential to work with a knowledgeable Baltimore will and estates attorney to ensure your wishes will be legally binding.
For a will to be effective, it must be signed and witnessed. Maryland law specifically requires that you sign your will before two witnesses who also sign the will attesting that they saw you affix your signature to the document. Legally, this is known as “executing the will.” While there are no prohibitions to a beneficiary witnessing the signing of your will, our office typically advises that the witnesses have no financial relationship to the terms of your will.
Furthermore, if there was an existing will, it must be formally revoked or destroyed, or your surviving loved ones might encounter difficulties and challenges as to what will should be enforced. This is also important because your circumstances are likely to change. Many people in Baltimore acquire additional property, divorce, remarry, or experienced other changes that would render an existing will either insufficient or include terms that are no longer relevant. If you have an existing will, you should revisit it and revise it as often as necessary. You do not want to die and have an outdated will controlling the distribution of your estate.

Dying Without a Will in Baltimore

If a person dies without an enforceable will, their property will be distributed according to Maryland’s intestate succession laws. Often, these laws will not reflect what a person wanted to be done with their estate. For example, under Maryland law, a surviving spouse will have to share their deceased spouse’s estate with any surviving parents. In situations where a couple lived together for years but were not married, the law provides fewer protections. It is not uncommon for a life partner to be left without any of the deceased’s property if a valid will did not exist. Additionally, the intestate succession laws make no provisions for specific bequests, distant relatives, friends, or charitable gifts.
Another critical concern for parents of minor children, Maryland law leaves caring for your children up to the court and state social service agencies. While a court will have to legally appoint a guardian even in cases where an enforceable will exists, you will need a valid testimonial document to ensure your wishes for your children are fulfilled.

Estate Planning in Baltimore is More Than Just a Will

While a will is the most common tool used by Baltimore residents to provide for their families and loved ones in the event of their death, it is not the only one. By sitting down with an experienced Baltimore estate planning attorney, you could review your available options.
If you own an interest in an ongoing business or have substantial assets, including money, personal possessions, and real estate, a will might be insufficient to address all your needs and concerns.
Revocable or living trusts are other planning tools that people use to manage their estates after their death. These instruments are more complex than a simple will but allow much more flexibility for the drafter. In many cases, your estate could avoid certain taxes if your trust is structured properly. Another benefit is a trust allows your surviving family and loved ones to avoid the probate process – saving time and money while keeping your affairs outside the public record.

Call Our Baltimore Wills + Estate Planning Lawyer for a Free Consultation

It is not uncommon to think you are too young to have a will or begin worrying about estate planning. In some cases, that is true. However, if you own property, have a young spouse and children, or are in a committed relationship, then you should probably be considering the future. Additionally, if you went through the process years ago and have experienced any changes in your life or lifestyle, you should revisit your original plan. The Baltimore wills and estate planning lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras are dedicated to helping people obtain their estate planning goals. Call our Maryland estate planning lawyers at (410) 431-0911 to schedule a free appointment.