Wheaton, MD Wills & Estates Attorney

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Planning what happens to your estate after you pass is important.  While the law has some default rules about what happens to your money and assets when you die, these plans usually limit who can get your assets and lead to taxation that you can avoid with better estate planning.

Our attorneys can help you write up a will and set up trusts that can limit the taxes your family will face, give the assets to the particular people you want to receive them, and even set up trusts to provide income and support to family and friends who need it.  In many cases, the tools available today will protect your assets much better than the tools available even only a few years ago, giving benefits to those who update their wills regularly.

For a free evaluation of your situation, call (410) 694-7291 today to speak with Rice, Murtha & Psoras’ wills and estates attorneys today.

Estate Planning Basics in Wheaton, MD

When you die without a will, Maryland’s “intestacy law” dictates who gets your assets.  This passes most of your assets through a process called “probate,” where the court – through an assigned executor – collects your assets and passes them to the people named in the law.  If you want any finer control, if you want assets to avoid probate (and thus avoid taxes), or if your family has special needs to take care of, then you should consider estate planning through a will and other instruments that our will and estate attorneys can help you prepare.

The following are some of the basic concepts and structures involved in estate planning that might help in your case.

Probate vs. Non-Probate Assets

Some assets are jointly owned or otherwise put into an ownership setup that means that they pass directly to someone else when you die.  This means that they do not need to go through the courts through the “probate” system, and they are known as “non-probate assets.”  If you can maximize how many of your assets are treated as non-probate assets, you can avoid having them become part of the public record, and you can pass them to someone else, usually without taxation.

If you are married and own a house with your spouse, that is one of the best examples of a non-probate asset.  If you die, your spouse will own it in full, and there is nothing you need to do or set up to make it transfer that way.  Other assets can be similarly set up, such as jointly owned accounts.

You can also set up different ownership systems such as a trust to avoid the assets passing through your will.


When you own something outright, you have a bundle of different ownership rights and interests in the property.  When you put something into a trust, it splits some of those interests, such that the “trust” has title to the property, the “trustee” has control over the property, and the “beneficiary” gets the benefit of the property.  In a simple example, this could be something like putting your life’s savings into a trust operated by your lawyer to pay an income to your spouse.

Trusts can be set up in a few ways to benefit your estate planning.  For one, you can set up a trust while you are still alive that lists you as the trustee and the beneficiary, maintaining control over your assets.  You then set it up to substitute in a different trustee and beneficiary when you pass so the items stay in the tryst but pass to them without a will.  You can alternatively set up your will to pass items to a trust rather than to an individual.  This allows the assets or money to be managed by someone else, which is common in providing a minor child with ongoing income or providing for a disabled family member, all without necessarily giving them the money outright.


We have mentioned wills a few times, but it is worth going over what exactly a will does and does not do.  Generally, a will explains where their assets are supposed to go upon death.  In most cases, this is going to mean giving everything to their spouse or equally to their children, but you can also set up a will to put money into a trust, to donate it to your college, or to otherwise carry out your wishes.

Wills can be used to include people in your inheritance who might not otherwise get anything, such as an unmarried partner, a close friend, or a charity you care about.  You can also use a will to cut out people that you do not want getting your money, such as an estranged family member.

People usually think of wills as listing off who gets which particular assets, but these specific bequests are often a bit more complex and should always be prepared with the help of a lawyer.

Importance of Working with a Lawyer for Wills in Wheaton

There are a lot of websites out there with forms and questionnaires to help you “write” your own will, but a lot of them are not sophisticated enough to take into account your unique circumstances.  While these forms might work well for some people, it is important to check with a lawyer about what assets you have, how you can cut down on taxes, whether you could benefit from using a trust, and what assets can avoid being included in your will from the outset.

Even if you already have a will in place from one of these forms or from working with a previous attorney, you might benefit from updating your will.  Especially if you have undergone a big life event like getting married, getting divorced, buying a house, having a child, losing a close family member, or having someone in your family acquire a long-term illness/disability, your estate planning and will should change to reflect these changes, too.

Call Our Will and Estate Lawyers in Wheaton, MD Today

Call (410) 694-7291 today for a free case review with our will and estate lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras.