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Estate planning brings up many difficult questions and most people are not sure where to begin. At Sessa & Dorsey, we regularly answer questions about estate planning in the state of Maryland. We put together this list of frequently asked questions in hopes of demystifying the estate planning process.
Here are our 6 FAQs about estate planning:
- What exactly is a Will and why do I need one?
A Will is a legal document that specifies how you would like your assets distributed after you pass. In your Will, you can dictate who you want to receive your property, who will handle the distribution of your assets (i.e. your Personal Representative/Executor), if you want to make charitable donations, and who you would like to be the guardian of any minor children. If you create testamentary trusts in your Will, you also appoint the Trustee of the trusts.
A Will is one of the most powerful estate planning tools because it allows you to plan the distribution of your assets. A Will gives you the power to dictate your wishes so you do not have to worry that your legacy will fall into the wrong hands.
- What happens if I die without a Will?
If you die without a Last Will and Testament, you are giving up the power to control who receives your probate assets, which are the assets you own in your sole name where you have not designated a payable on death beneficiary. The Maryland laws of intestacy determine both who receives these assets and who settles your affairs after your death. What happens depends specifically on your situation and circumstances, which we cover in another blog post here.
- Can’t I write my own Will or use a template I find online?
One of the biggest estate planning mistakes a person can make is to try and write their Will on their own. We have encountered many faulty do-it-yourself Wills over the years. In most cases, do-it-yourself Wills cause problems and leave lasting consequences.
Wills are living documents that should be updated regularly throughout your life as you reach certain milestones and experience life changes (i.e. getting married, divorced, and having children). The problem with do-it-yourself estate planning is that it does not take into account the nuances of which an experienced estate planning attorney is aware. Each individual and their respective families require different estate planning tools to ensure their wishes are heard and their loved ones are protected. Additionally, minor missteps in the do-it-yourself Will can create significant unintended results.
- I’m not wealthy and/or I don’t have children. Do I still need a Will?
Regardless of whether you have children, a spouse, or living relatives, we recommend that you execute a Will. A Will allows you to decide how your estate is distributed. You will know that your estate will be handled according to your wishes. Your Will also includes other aspects of estate planning that can be beneficial for you and your loved ones. For example, you can decide who will oversee administering your Will and distributing your property after you die. If you have minor children, your Will can appoint the guardian of your minor children. A Will also typically includes certain administrative provisions that can help reduce costs and difficulties in managing your estate after your death.
- What is recommended for a basic estate plan?
If you are looking for a “basic” estate plan, you should at least have a Will in place. In addition to a Will, we highly recommend every adult has an Advance Directive that provides for a designated Health Care Agent, and a Financial Power of Attorney.
- What is the process of working with you?
We realize that many feelings are evoked when you start thinking about your death or the death of a loved one. For many people, there is sadness and worry, and it may seem easier to avoid the estate planning process altogether. At Sessa & Dorsey, we walk with you through the estate planning process so that you are not overwhelmed. Ultimately, our goal is that you have a sense of relief and peace of mind when the process is complete.
The first step in the estate planning process is an initial, no-obligation, call, or meeting (virtual, if necessary) to discuss your situation and goals. We discuss the details of your financial picture, and we also review your family tree and the relationship dynamics. We discuss who and what matters to you, and the legacy which you wish to leave behind. Sometimes, this involves leaving a mark on the world through charitable wishes or creating trusts for children and grandchildren. If your family owns a business, diving into the plans for the future of the business is also vitally important.
Learn more about what to expect at the initial meeting and how it all comes together here.
At Sessa & Dorsey, we consider the bigger picture at hand and advise our clients on the best estate planning tools for their specific needs and desires. If you have questions about estates and trusts, please contact us at (443) 589-5600.
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