A Maryland Last Will and Testament often serves, at the very least, to clarify who has priority to serve as Personal Representative, who is nominated to serve, and how a decedent or testator would like their assets to be distributed.
There is not a bad time to speak with a skilled Maryland Wills attorney about the creation of a complete estate plan. Last Wills and Testaments are usually one part of a comprehensive plan that typically involves powers of attorney and medical powers of attorney.
Disadvantages of Dying without a Will
If an individual dies without a Last Will and Testament, the Maryland laws of intestacy are applicable, meaning that the default set of Maryland laws would be applied to an individual’s estate. The disadvantage of dying without a Maryland Will means that an individual has lost an opportunity to express their wishes for the division of assets at death. Often that means that families are not left provided for, that loved ones are not left provided for, and that an individual’s estate has lost the opportunity to minimize taxes.
Rather than preserving the Will for the next generation of loved ones, those assets are paid and taxes are paid in the administrative expenses. Many times Maryland laws of intestacy are not what an individual would have chosen. For example, if a gentleman without children and a spouse passes away and he was pre-deceased by his mom but estranged from his father, his father may become the sole heir of his estate, which is likely not what the individual would have wished for if he was still alive and had the opportunity to write a Last Will and Testament.
Probate Proceeding for Holographic Wills
In the event that a Maryland holographic Will is determined to be a valid Last Will and Testament, the probate proceeding is the same as a more traditionally executed Last Will and Testament. The difference is that often individuals who are not familiar with the provisions in the estate planning may have confusion or even difficulty administering provisions in a holographic Will because they have not benefited from working with an estate and trust attorney.
While the process is the same, often the administration of holographic Wills are more difficult because an individual not familiar with those concepts has drafted the Last Will and Testament.
If having a holographic Will is accepted as valid by Maryland law by the probate court, it would be treated the same as the traditional Last Will and Testament. An estate and trust attorney can assist with attempting to administer or probate the holographic will. If a holographic Will includes the nomination of a Personal Representative and the Will has been accepted as valid, it will be the equivalent of a traditional Last Will and Testament. The attorney can also advise as to whether or not the Will meets with Maryland law to determine whether it would be accepted. In the event that it is not accepted, the estate and trust attorney can also assist with the administration of the estate under the laws of intestacy.
Help from an Estate Attorney
Commonly misunderstood is that individuals need to have a certain threshold of wealth to benefit from the writing of a Last Will and Testament, but the reality is that most individuals benefit from the creation of a Last Will and Testament regardless of whether they are married, have children, or have a significant amount of assets.
An estate and trust attorney cannot force or make an individual sign a Last Will and Testament, but an estate and trust attorney can advise the individual about what would happen if the individual dies without a Last Will and Testament. The attorney can also assist with drafting a Last Will and Testament.
It could be helpful to speak with an estate planning attorney to assist an individual with understanding what a Will can do, the Maryland laws regarding a Last Will and Testament, and the Maryland laws with regard to taxes. Often an estate and trust attorney can assist with all of these matters.