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Do I Really Need a Will?

by: K. Lynn Carter

February 4, 2017





The short answer is YES, if you want to be the one who determines how your assets are distributed after you die. I get it. Death is an uncomfortable subject for most people; so estate planning is often put on the back burner. But what happens if you never get it done?  Well, then, the state will decide how your assets are distributed. Consider the following questions:


  • Who’s in the best position to identify your assets?
  • Who should determine who takes ownership of your assets? 
  •  Who should decide how your assets are distributed?


The answer to these questions is you, and only you. Your assets are the fruits of your labor. Do you really want the state deciding who gets what and how much? Of course not! When the time comes, imagine the emotional state that your loved ones will already be facing. Don't allow an incomplete estate plan to cause confusion during a time of grief.  Instead, plan accordingly. Besides, the benefits really are endless. Creating a will allows you to exercise your power and control how your assets are distributed, instead of giving your power to the state. And more importantly, you can have peace of mind knowing that you’ve created a plan to provide for those you love.  Take control; write your will.


If you're still uncertain, consider the life changing events below and the impact they have on your decision to not write a will, or failure to update your will.

Life Events:


Marriage/Divorce/Children/ Re-marriage

The happenings of any one of these events will likely alter whom you wish to share in your estate. In Maryland, marriage and the subsequent birth, adoption, or legitimization of a child automatically revokes an earlier written will. If you divorce after writing your will, any provisions to your former spouse are also automatically revoked, unless you specify otherwise within your will.   

Children

What happens to your child if they lose both parents before reaching the age of majority? Without a will, the state will determine who serves as guardian to your young child.  You can, however, make this decision yourself by incorporating a guardianship clause into your will.

And what if your baby is all grown up with babies of their own? Think about it, in most circumstances the needs of your adult child differs greatly from their adolescent years. If you have grandchildren, you may desire for them to share in your estate too.

Real Estate


Home, or other land purchases, can significantly increase the value of your estate. Again, you have the power to make determinations as to how your assets will be distributed. Furthermore, these types of acquisitions give rise to additional tax implications. Consider talking to your estate planning attorney about ways to potentially decrease your estate taxes, and increase the benefits to your beneficiaries.


**Beware that not all property can be distributed by simply writing a will. Real property, for instance, owned by multiple parties can only be distributed if you own the property as "tenants in common." Any other manner of joint ownership will prevent you from making a disposition as to your interest. Definitely contact an estate planning attorney to assist you in this area.

Lastly, below are some suggestions as to when you may need to update your will.

1. It was executed in another state.  Each state/jurisdiction has its own laws, particularly as to probate and death taxes. If you relocate to another state, have a local estate planning attorney review your will so they can inform you of any changes that may be beneficial.
2. You’ve transferred or acquired land or other valuable assets. Make sure your will reflects any changes of your assets and properly disposes of them.
3. There are changes in your beneficiaries. If a beneficiary passes away, or becomes incapacitated, update your will to reflect these changes. Similarly, if you have new additions to your family and want to provide for them, adjust your will  accordingly.  

Note: In Maryland, special exceptions apply to those serving in the military, such as the ability to execute a holographic will (handwritten will), and the time restraints on the will’s validity after discharge.

Contact Carter Law and schedule an appointment to discuss your estate planning needs: (443) 205-1432.