Bel Air, MD Trust & Estates Attorney

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Thinking about what happens to your assets and your estate after you die is rarely something that people want to do, but proper estate planning, will drafting, and other services are essential at some point.  Working on this early can help ensure that you have your estate planned, plans for potential injury or incapacitation from illness, and plans for your loved ones.

Our attorneys can work with you on a will that distributes your assets as you want.  We can also set up trusts and other non-probate methods to transfer your assets and provide your loved ones with income after you pass.  Our lawyers can also help if you have been denied an inheritance by an invalid will.

For a free case review, call (410) 694-7291 to speak with the trust and estates attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras.

Estate Planning and Will Drafting in Bel Air, MD

Writing a will is only part of estate planning – and it is not even necessary for everyone.  Our attorneys can help you understand what Maryland law says about what happens when you pass without a will and how you can change those rules by making a will.  We can also help you set up other assets and systems that can transfer upon death without needing to be put through probate with your will.

Intestacy Rules in Maryland

If you pass away without a will, you are considered “intestate,” and Maryland’s rules of intestate succession distribute your assets by the default rules.  Under these rules, your assets and your estate pass to your spouse and children, if you have any.  If you are unmarried and have no children, then they pass to your parents instead, with siblings receiving your inheritance if you have no parents, children, or spouse.

In some situations, this setup might be sufficient for you, but there are other questions and issues that are not covered.  In many cases, you should still have a will in place if you have children so that you can dictate who takes custody if you and your spouse both pass away.  You should also have contingencies set in place for end-of-life care and health directives.

Writing a Will

If you have a will, then you can alter the default inheritance.  For example, if you have a spouse and minor children without a will, Maryland law would give the spouse everything.  If you want to account for a set income paid to your children through a trust or you need your parents to be provided for, then this situation might not work, and you will need a will.

Wills can also help with specific bequests.  These are the classic sort of things you see in movies where specific pieces of property, cars, or collectibles are given to specific family members.  Without a will, it is nearly impossible to affect these kinds of bequests.

It is also important to have a will if you want to leave your money to charity, create an endowment, donate to your alma mater, or otherwise leave money to someone outside your family.

Non-Probate Transfers

Anything transferred through a will is called a “probate” asset.  Non-probate assets are things that pass to someone automatically when you die rather than needing to be transferred through a will.  There are many situations where you can set up these non-probate assets so that your family can continue to access funds or keep possession of a house, for example, without needing to wait for the will to be put through the courts.

The most common types of non-probate assets are shared accounts and shared property ownership.  Shared accounts where both names are on the account often pass to the other owner when one owner passes away.  This allows your spouse to continue accessing bank accounts and assets after you pass without needing power of attorney or permission from the executor.  If you own houses or land with your spouse or as “tenants in common,” then that should pass to the other owner upon your death.  “Joint tenancies,” in contrast, pass your share of the property to your heirs.

Other systems can be put in place, such as a trust.  This could allow income to be paid from the trust to your spouses, children, family members with disabilities, or other people or entities of your choice.  Life insurance is another common way to transfer money to a loved one or a trust at your passing.

Challenging Wills and Defending Will Challenges in Bel Air, MD

If your loved one has passed away and there are questions or complications with their will, you should get a lawyer immediately.  If you stand to inherit either under the terms of the will or under the terms of intestate succession under Maryland law, then you should have standing to either file a claim or challenge a claim for an inheritance.

One common will challenge issue arises when there are multiple purported wills that would each dispose of the estate in different ways.  When this happens, it is important to have a trust and estates attorney represent your interests and fight to get you your inheritance.

In some cases, copies of a will are accidentally signed and put into effect when they were intended to only be drafts or older versions of the will.  Other times, another will turns up during a search of the deceased’s house or another lawyer comes forward with a second will.  Rarer still, a dying relative might draft a “holographic” or hand-written will on their death bed and put it into effect when they are not of sound mind, calling into question whether that will is legally binding or not.

In some cases, the best outcome for one party is to seek to have all of the wills thrown out, leaving the intestacy rules to govern.  This is especially true for someone who has been cut out of inheritance by a strict will.

Call Our Trust and Estates Lawyers in Bel Air, MD, For Help

Call Rice, Murtha & Psoras’ estates attorneys today at (410) 694-7291 for a free review of your potential case.