What is a Will & Why is It Important?

A Last Will and Testament (“will”) is always a written document, which among other things directs the disposition of your assets after death.

However, a will only affects probate property. This is anything owned solely by the decedent that also does not have a named beneficiary.

Anyone who is at least 18 years of age and of sound mind can, and should make a will.

The final document must be signed in the presence of two witnesses who are at least 18 years of age, and in Maryland, a will does not need to be notarized.

One of the most important decisions made when writing a will is naming the Personal Representative to an estate.

This is the individual or institution named to handle the administration of the estate. This person should be one trusted enough to administer financial matters, maintain detailed records, and file paperwork with the court. They will be responsible for paying taxes, settling debts, filing paperwork with the court, and overseeing the distribution of assets.

Many people also include several other declarations in their wills. It is popular to leave instructions on burial, funerals, and if necessary, care for minor children.

The terms of a will are not automatically altered by life changes such as a second marriage.

The will must be it is updated and signed a new version or codicil must be signed. A will can be changed at any time under the same conditions required to draft the original will. If a person is competent they can change their will at any time by signing a document called a “codicil” or by having a new will prepared.

Wills valid in the state of their execution will be valid in Maryland, but due to differences in law between states wills should be reviewed by an attorney licensed to practice in a new state after moving.

A properly executed will ensure all legal requirements are met, assets are passed on to the correct recipients, can minimize death taxes, and can help avoid contentious issues of succession within a family.

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Planning ahead is a gift to your loved ones!