WILLS AND ESTATES
Having a will is arguably one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family. A will can distribute your assets and legally protect your spouse, children, and loved ones all while protecting your wishes after you pass. Without a will, the state can and will make these very important decisions for you.
At the Mulinazzi Law Office, one of our will lawyers will sit down with you to talk about your objectives. We’ll go over common questions then talk about your specific circumstances. After you receive the first draft of your will, we’ll go back and forth tweaking the documents to reflect exactly what you’d like. Throughout the process, our will lawyers will give you advice and suggestions on ideas and language that we’ve used in similar situations so that you can better think of how you want to frame your wishes in the best way possible.
At the Mulinazzi Law Office, we will work with you to make sure that your ideas are exactly reflected in your will and we’ll talk about:
1) How your estate will be distributed. A will is a legally binding document that lets you determine how your estate will be distributed after you pass. If you die without a will, there is no guarantee that your intended desires will be carried out. In fact, when you die without a will or other estate plan, state laws known as “intestate succession laws” decide which family members will inherit your estate and in what proportion. In Maryland, your spouse, children, or parents take priority under intestate succession. Our will lawyers will discuss the best way to distribute your assets so that your wishes take precedence.
2) Who will take care of your minor children. A will allows you to choose a guardian to take care of your children. Without a will, the court will choose among family members or a state-appointed guardian if a family member is not willing or able to care for your children. Having a will allows you to appoint the person you want to raise your children or, better, make sure it is not someone you do not want to raise your children. This is a difficult decision for many people and our will lawyers can help you analyze that decision process from a legal standpoint.
3) Avoiding a lengthy probate process. All estates must go through the probate process, with or without a will. Having a will, however, speeds up the probate process and informs the court how you’d like your estate divided. Probate courts serve the purpose of administering your estate, and when you die without a will (known as dying “intestate”), the court will decide how to divide the estate without your input. In this case, intestate succession laws will be used to distribute your assets and people who you may not want to inherit your assets, may very well do so. Our will lawyers can talk to you about the best way to divide your assets so that only the friends and family members that you want included in your will shall be included.
4) Minimizing estate taxes. The value of what you give away to friends or family members or charity will reduce the value of your estate when it’s time to pay estate taxes and having a will can minimize these taxes. Our will lawyers will help you minimize estate taxes to the greatest extent possible.
5) Deciding your Personal Representative (aka Executor). Personal representatives make sure all your affairs are in order, including paying off bills, canceling your credit cards, and notifying the bank and other business establishments of your passing to access assets in your estate. Because personal representatives play the biggest role in the administration and distribution of your estate, you’ll want to be sure to appoint someone who is honest, trustworthy, and organized (which may or may not always be a family member). Our will attorneys will discuss the duties of the personal representative with you so that you can best talk to your friends and family members about taking on this role.
6) Disinheriting individuals who would otherwise stand to inherit. You may wish to disinherit individuals who may otherwise inherit your estate if you die without a will. Because wills specifically outline how you would like your estate distributed, absent a will your estate may end up on the wrong hands or in the hands of someone you did not intend (such as an ex-spouse). Something to note though, if you’re still married at the time of signing your will, your ex-spouse, even if you’re separated, will receive half of your estate if there are no surviving children or one third of your estate if there are surviving children. The will lawyers at the Mulinazzi Law Office can discuss this in detail with you and if necessary, come up with a plan if there is a spousal separation.
7) Making gifts and donations. The ability to make gifts is a good reason to have a will because it allows your legacy to live on and reflect your personal values and interests. In addition, gifts up to $15,000 are excluded from the estate tax, so you’re also increasing the value of your estate for your heirs and beneficiaries to enjoy. Our will lawyers can talk to you about maximizing your charitable contributions while making sure that your family members are financially supported.
8) Changing your mind if your life circumstances change. A good reason for having a will is that you can change it at any time while you’re still alive. Life changes, such as births, deaths, and divorce, can create situations where changing your will are necessary. At the Mulinazzi Law Office, our will lawyers can talk to you about these changes and make provisions in your will if you know that you will have these changes in the future.
A will is something that is often brushed under the rug because people don’t want to think about death, but since death is inevitable, it’s best to have documents in place to protect your family members and friends so that it’s one less thing that have to worry about when you do pass. At the Mulinazzi Law Office, our will lawyers are adept at listening to your estate planning ideas and wishes and making them conform with Maryland law all while giving you ideas on how to frame those decisions.