Maryland Estate Planning Attorney Discusses 4 Misconceptions About Wills

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.

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How will my estate be distributed if I die without a Will in Maryland?

According to the Maryland Register of Wills website, if you die without a Will (intestate), your property will be distributed to your surviving relatives based on Maryland state law.

If you are survived by:

  1. Spouse and your minor children – spouse receives one-half, children share remaining one-half
  2. Spouse and your children (all adult) – spouse receives $15,000 plus one-half of remaining estate-children divide balance (the interest of a predeceased child passes to the children or grandchildren of that child)
  3. Your children only – children (does not include step-children) divide entire estate (the interest of a predeceased child passes to the children or grandchildren of that child)
  4. Spouse and your parents – spouse receives $15,000 plus one-half of remaining estate-both parents divide balance or surviving parent takes balance

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What is probate?

What is probate? Probate is the process by which legal title to property is transferred from the deceased person’s estate to his/her beneficiaries.  The probate process involves the following: proving that the deceased person’s Will is valid; hearing any objections to the Will; identifying and listing the deceased person’s property; appraising the property; paying any … Read more

The Basics of Estate Planning – Part III

In Part II, we discussed Wills and the advantages and disadvantages of having a Will. This issue will focus on the second of four estate planning tools – a Trust, and the advantages and disadvantages of having a Trust as part of your estate plan.

What is a Trust?

A Trust, generally, is a legal entity that can hold title to property. There are three parties to a Trust agreement: the Trustmaker who creates the Trust, the Beneficiary who receives the benefit of the property held in the Trust, and the Trustee who manages the Trust. The property that is transferred to and held by the Trust becomes the Trust principal. If you create a Trust within your Will, it is called a Testamentary Trust. If you create a Trust while you are alive, it is called an inter vivos or Living Trust.

While you are alive, you usually will receive all the income of the Trust and as much of the principal as you request. Upon your death, the Trust assets are distributed to your Beneficiaries in accordance with your directions contained in the Trust agreement, or it can continue for specified purposes for a period of time.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Trust

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