When it comes to estate planning in Maryland, there are many misconceptions. Over the years, I have noticed some common themes in the way some people think about Wills. In this post, I will discuss 4 common misconceptions I regularly encounter when helping people in Bethesda and Upper Marlboro get their financial affairs in order.
Misconception #1: A Will avoids probate. No. A Will is the primary tool of the probate system. Your Will is like a letter to the Court telling the Court how you want your property distributed. Then you must make sure that you prove to the Court that all your property is collected and appraised, and all your bills and taxes are paid, before your property can be distributed to your heirs.
Misconception #2: Property can be distributed according to the terms of your Will in only a few weeks. The administration can take a few months or years depending on the value and complexity of the estate, the existence of a Will and the location of real property owned by the estate. During this time, the deceased person’s property must be inventoried and appraised. Heirs must be notified. Estate and inheritance taxes, if any, must be paid. Contested claims, if any, must be settled. Creditors must be notified and paid. If all of this is not done before the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries of the estate, the personal representative will be personally responsible for those claims. As a result, most personal representatives won’t distribute property until they are sure all claims have been settled.
Misconception #3: A Will from one state is not legal in another state. Wrong. If the Will is legal in the state where it was prepared, it is legal in all 50 states. However, Wills do not travel well from state to state and should be reviewed by an attorney and very likely changed whenever you move to a new state. This is because the Will’s language may not mean the same in other states as it did in the state where it was signed. In addition, many states require witnesses to the Will signing. If proper procedures are not followed, you may need to produce those witnesses in order to probate the Will.
Misconception #4: A Will helps you when you become physically or mentally incapacitated. No. A Will is totally ineffective until death, and, therefore, does nothing to help you through incapacity and disability. Your family or friends may have to go to Court to start costly guardianship or conservatorship proceedings.
Kinsey Law Group, P.C. was formed to focus on the needs of families. We are dedicated to assisting you in the areas of Estate Planning and Assisted Reproduction/Surrogacy. If you have questions or concerns, you’re invited to call 301-968-1630 or send an e-mail any time, without cost or obligation.
Locations: Montgomery County (Bethesda, Maryland); Prince George’s County (Largo, Maryland) and Washington, D.C.