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Maryland Wills: Important Terms

The creation of a last will and testament in Maryland is not always an easy process. For an ordinary person who has never dealt with wills before, there will be a lot of terms they will need to learn in order to understand what is going on. While a Maryland wills lawyer is crucial in explaining the intricacies of the legal document to their clients, they become so familiar with using specific terms that they will often forget that other people do not understand them. Stay on top of the game by learning some important terms before getting started with the wills process.

Testator

A testator is the individual that is creating the last will and testament. The term testator is used to describe the individual signing the document which expresses their wishes for burial or cremation and dispersion of their assets.

Codicil

Codicil is an amendment to a last will and testament.  To be valid, a codicil must be executed with the same requirements of an original last will and testament. Generally, that means that a testator must have the requisite testamentary capacity, and the testator’s signature must be witnessed by two witnesses.

Holographic Wills in Maryland

Holographic will is a handwritten will, which is typically solely in the handwriting of the testator. If a holographic will complies with Maryland law, it may be recognized as valid.

Attestation

Attestation clause is the clause that recites how the document was signed by the testator and that the document was witnessed by two independent witnesses. It often appears just above the testator’s signature.

Ademption

Ademption occurs when an asset that is bequeathed or devised no longer exists at the time of the decedent’s death. For example, if a last will and testament devises a piece of real estate, but the real estate has been sold prior to the decedent’s death. This may result in the named beneficiary not inheriting any estate assets.

Abatement

Abatement is a process that occurs when there are insufficient assets to satisfy all of the bequests in the last will and testament. Generally, bequests abate from the bottom of the document up.  This often means that when there are inadequate assets, the beneficiaries of the residuary estate may not inherit anything estate assets. Estate planning can assist with reviewing liquidity in an estate and coordinating beneficiary designations to prepare for the payment of administrative expenses and distributions to beneficiaries.

Maryland Intestacy Laws

Intestacy laws are the default laws that Maryland provides in the event that all or part of a last will and testament are found invalid or in the event that there is no last will and testament. Often the defaults rules are different from what a decedent’s wishes may have been. A comprehensive and up to date last will and testament often avoids triggering the laws of intestacy and allows for estate tax planning, trusts for minor children, and for a decedent’s wishes to be followed. In addition, estate planning may result in fewer administrative expenses and complications.

Personal Representatives

Naming a personal representative is an important part of a last will and testament. It is prudent to hire an experienced Maryland wills attorney to make sure that your last will and testament is up to date and that you review it every few years to ensure that the individuals that you named are still willing and able to act as your personal representative. In the event that none of your named personal representatives are able or willing to serve, there may be multiples heirs that have equal standing to serve or the court may appoint an attorney to serve as the personal representative. The procedure could result in increased opportunities for there to be fighting among your family or for additional administrative costs.