Everyone should have a Last Will and Testament to ensure that their property and estate goes to their chosen beneficiaries upon their death. Unfortunately all too many people do not have one, even though the cost is typically quite small and only a tiny fraction of the property which will change hands upon their death.
Some people will try to create their own Last Will and Testament, or use a kit. Will it work the way they hoped? Unfortunately, they will not be around to know. A Last Will and Testament is not just picking beneficiaries and drafting a document, but understanding how that document will be implemented under Maryland law and the issues that an improperly drafted Last Will and Testament may create.
How do you name a custodian for your children? Who would be an appropriate Personal Representative and who would not? Should I require that the Personal Representative have a bond? Is there a reason you would want to consider a testamentary as opposed to inter vivos trust?
As an alternative to, or as part and parcel of their Last Will and Testament, a trust can perform multiple tasks including preserving assets, providing for the care of others including minor children, grandchildren, disabled individuals or even a surviving spouse. With a trust you can do more than simply provide a gift or bequest, you can control how it is used. In some cases the trust may virtually replace a Last Will and Testament.
When preparing a Last Will and Testament it is usually also a good time to discuss whether you should have a Durable Power of Attorney, Advanced Directive and/or Living Will. With these documents you can among other things:
- Authorize someone to conduct your affairs while you are not able to, including pay your bills, collect your income and deal with a myriad of issues.
- Appoint someone to make medical decisions for you if you are not able to do so.
- In extreme cases, you can relay to your family and doctors how far you want them to go to keep you alive, relieving grieving family members of that difficult decision.
- You decide what you want instead of having decisions made for you.
- If someone becomes disabled or incompetent, or if they are a minor and need someone else to provide for them, it may be necessary to apply through the Courts for the appointment of a guardian, particularly if there is no Power of Attorney or other legal document permitting others to do so.
- Finally, when someone dies, it is again time to see an lawyer. Filing an Estate, obtaining Letters Testamentary, posting a bond, filing an Information Report and Accountings, addressing what tax returns need to be filed and when a creditor is or is not entitled to be paid, are all issues that most people probably never faced before, but with which an attorney will be familiar. In the end the loss of a family member or loved one is tragic, but you do not want it compounded with legal problems or allegations of mismanagement of their estate.
If you have questions about the Last Wills and Testaments, Trusts, Durable Power of Attorney, Advanced Directive and/or Living Will, call Russell & Heffner, LLC, at 301-695-2977 or email RHLaw@comcast.net.