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Understanding Estate Planning

Do I need a Will to pass on my estate?

A Last Will and Testament is not mandatory under Maryland law. Maryland Intestacy Laws dictate how your assets will be distributed if you do not have a valid Will. If you have no known blood relatives or stepchildren, your estate may go to the Board of Education or the City or County where you live. Intestate laws are unlikely to match your wishes regarding your legacy, so it is generally a good idea to have a valid Will in place.

Can a Will protect my estate from taxes?

A Will alone is generally insufficient to reduce tax liability. There are methods available that can reduce how much of your property ends up going to pay taxes. The earlier you start planning, the more likely you are to maximize what your loved ones can receive.

What is Orphans’ Court?

In Maryland, Orphans’ Court judges are responsible for supervising estates through the probate process. A Will does not necessarily avoid the probate process, but rather informs it. If you own property in your own name when you pass away, it is likely that your estate will be handled by the Orphans’ Court in your County or City. Orphans’ Courts are also responsible for appointing a Guardian when property is passed to a minor, and in some cases can appoint a Guardian for the minor him- or herself.

Is there any way to avoid probate?

It may be possible to avoid probate. Doing so requires careful planning and experienced guidance. It is important to understand the costs and benefits of any estate plan in order to choose the most efficient path to achieving your goals.

Do I need a Trust?

Trusts can be useful because they allow you a measure of control or security in how your assets and property are used by your beneficiaries. Trusts work together with your Will to ensure that your wishes are followed when it comes to your estate. Trusts are not right or necessary in every case, but many people can benefit from the creation of one or more trusts.

Do I need an estate planning lawyer?

Do-it-yourself guides and forms are increasingly available online for people who want to try their hand at estate planning. While it is not impossible to complete an estate plan on your own, it is important weigh the possible cost savings against the potential for harm if you make a mistake. People with significant assets, minor children, or who would otherwise be unhappy if their estate passed according to Maryland Intestacy Laws should strongly consider working with an experienced attorney to tailor a plan to their circumstances. These guides and forms do not provide the necessary guidance regarding the tax implications of a plan. They do not provide the guidance people need to deal with the future care of minors if something tragic should occur.