Some believe they have not accumulated enough wealth or assets to warrant an estate plan at the present moment. In light of the fact that many young people are saddled with debt, either from credit cards or student loans, it may seem unnecessary to formulate a plan that transfers wealth if your liabilities exceed your assets. However, a simple will is important for young couples who have children because the will allows the testator, or the person writing the will, to designate a guardian for the minor children, in the event of both parents deaths. To ensure that your intent is carried out should something happen to you, it is best to put your wishes in writing, should a guardian need to be appointed for your children.
Another reason to create your will is to name an executor who will administer your estate upon your death. If you have not created a will, there is an order of priority established by law that determines who will serve as the executor of your estate. The executor must step into the decedent’s life and sort through his or her affairs. Assets must be gathered, inventoried, and appraised, debts must be paid, and in a solvent estate, the balance will be distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries. Because of the personal nature of the responsibility–the executor will become familiar with your assets, who your beneficiaries are, and who gets what–it is in your best interest to proactively designate an executor to administer and settle your estate. Otherwise, this work will be delegated to the person who seeks appointment and in accordance with the statutorily determined order of priority.
Dealing with a death is stressful and emotional for the decedent’s relatives. In addition to mourning the loss of a loved one, the responsible party must take steps to ensure any ongoing expenses or obligations continue to be paid, credit cards and other services are canceled, and access is obtained to any accounts the decedent held. Eventually, the decedent’s assets and personal belongings need to be distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries. A will or trust allows you to designate who will have this responsibility. By taking out the guesswork for your family, you will minimize or eliminate potential conflict concerning who is best suited for this job.
Another reason to address your estate plan is to ensure your assets pass to those whom you want to inherit from your estate. Every family is unique, and there may be a reason you don’t want a particular child to inherit. Creating a will or a trust allows you to explicitly state that someone has been disinherited. Further, most wills and trusts contain a provision that prevents a beneficiary from contesting the terms of the will if he is unsatisfied with his inheritance. By including the provision, should the beneficiary contest the will, he loses his inheritance. Without a will or a trust, your estate will be distributed among your heirs at law. The intestate succession rules in Maryland govern how any probate property will be distributed. This means that a beneficiary may inherit, even if you had intended to disinherit that person or to provide a reduced share of the estate.
An estate planning attorney can help your set up your estate plan if you don’t have one in place already.
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