No one likes to think about death, especially their own. However, thinking ahead and creating proper advance planning documents like a Will can legally protect your spouse, children and assets, and avoid some common pitfalls and headaches associated with your unfortunate passing.
What is a Will?
It is common practice to draft Wills after big life events – marriages, the birth of a child, and even after divorces. These legal documents are drafted to express and detail the last wishes of a deceased person with respect to their property and relations, like:
- bank accounts
- real property
- personal property
- who should take care of your minor child(ren) if there is no spouse
- who will be the estate administrator
- and others.
If someone passes away without a Will, their estate – essentially all of the property they had an interest in – goes through a process called “Intestate Succession.” With intestate succession, your property gets divided up among your heirs in accordance with the statutes set forth in the Maryland Estate & Trusts Article. The statutes in Maryland also set out a priority of who inherits property first and the percentage of the deceased person’s property each heir has the right to inherit.
So what are the issues I should consider?
While that might seem simple enough, issues can arise if you wish for different people to take certain items of property or, more importantly, ensure that other people do not receive a share of your property. For example, a step- or foster child does not qualify for an automatic share of the deceased person’s estate under the intestacy statutes of the Maryland Estates & Trusts Article. Additionally, if you wish to gift property to a friend or extended member of your family, they would not be able to inherit such property without you creating a Will.
Another potential issue is if you do not have people that qualify to take under the intestacy statutes. In that case, your property “escheats” – meaning the State of Maryland, finding no suitable person to take the property according to the law, takes possession of your property and gives it to the Maryland Department of Health or to the board of education.
If you are worried about encountering some of the issues mentioned above, are thinking about drafting a Will, revising an old Will, or having additional advance planning documents created, contact an experienced professional at the Law Offices of Thomas Stahl at (410) 696-4326 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your options and gain guidance on how to best proceed with your potential matter.