WILLS & ESTATES FAQ
MARYLAND ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY
Its that subject that many of us don’t want to talk about, let alone think about – what will happen when we pass away?
We are not going to get into the spiritual and metaphysical on this page today, but what we can do is help you understand what happens to your personal property when you pass away. Our great country’s Constitution sets laws and regulations that create the foundation for every state’s specific laws regarding the passage of property following an individual’s passing. Each state will have a slightly different set of laws determining how property will be passed on, and the process of verifying and completing this distribution is called probate. The information below is a great starting point in the process and should be followed up with an in-depth discussion with a Maryland Estate Planning Attorney.
What is Probate?
Probate is defined as the official process of establishing the validity of a will or estate plan. This process is not as simple as it seems, and consists of a multitude of different processes that are completed to ensure that a person’s personal property is properly distributed following their passing. The main processes of probate are:
- Proving the deceased’s will is valid
- Identifying and inventorying all of the deceased’s property
- Appraising the property
- Paying primary lienholders – including debts and taxes
- Distributing the property according to the will, or if there is no will present, according to state law
Will the State Get My Property If I Die Without a Will?
In most cases, the answer is no. The laws that govern how an estate is distributed following a death without a will, are called Intestacy laws. Maryland’s Intestacy Laws state that if a person dies without a will, the property will be distributed as follows:
- To a surviving spouse and children
- If there is no spouse, it will be equally divided among the children
- If there are no spouse or children, then it will be distributed to the parents of the deceased
- If none of the above are present, then it will move on to more distant blood relatives
- If there are no blood relatives, it will move on to stepchildren in equal shares
- If none of the above are present, the estate may be distributed to the Board of Education in the City or County in which the decedent lived
The only way to absolutely ensure that your property makes it into the hand of those that you desire is to have a final will and testament, or larger estate plan.
What Happens If I am Mentally or Physically Incapacitated In My Later Years?
As the human population continues to extend our average lifespan, those of us who are fortunate enough to live long into old age are exposed to a new set of challenges regarding the management of our estates as we lose our mental and physical capacity. One way to combat this problem would be to ensure that if you were to lose your capacity to make medical or financial decisions, you had in place a set of directions outlining what you would like those decisions to be, or who you would like to make those decisions for you. Fortunately for you, this can be done as part of an estate plan and involves setting up either a Living Will or Power of Attorney, and ideally, both.
What is a Living Will?
This document identifies a person’s desires regarding their medical treatment in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express informed consent. Examples include instructions on whether an individual wants to be placed on life support or have a feeding tube, etc.
What is Healthcare Power of Attorney?
This document identifies a person who will have the authority to make medical decisions for you and on your behalf if you are unable to communicate with your doctors or are deemed mentally unfit to make those decisions for yourself.
What is Financial Power of Attorney?
This document identifies a person, or financial institution who will have control over your assets and the authority to make your financial decisions for you if you are unable to do so or are deemed mentally unfit to make those decisions for yourself.
The only way to ensure that your property is passed on according to your own desires is to create an estate plan. The Maryland Estate Planning Attorneys at the Burton Firm are experienced lawyers who can create the perfect estate plan to fit your unique needs. Please give us a call today so we can schedule some time to address your specific estate planning needs.
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