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Title: Do you have a will? You should!

County sealGrace G. Connolly
Register of Wills Baltimore County

A will may be the most important document that you will ever write.  It allows you to choose the persons who receive what you own when you die.  If you should die without a will the State of Maryland will determine how your property is divided - not you. Writing a will is important for everyone, whether you are married, single, a parent or childless, and whether your health is good or poor.

To emphasize the importance of a will, I would like to provide an example of someone who dies without a will and the consequences.

A man dies who is single, never married and has no children. He has one living sibling and two deceased siblings. She had become his caretaker in his later years. The only remaining asset is a bank account in his name only. Since there is no will, state law will determine who receives the assets from the estate.  This includes the children of the deceased brother and sister who had little or no contact with their uncle.  If there had been a will in place, only the people he named in the will would benefit after all the debts were satisfied.

A will is a legal document that dictates how you want your assets to be distributed after you die.  Here’s everything you need to know:

You may change your will at any time but it must comply with several requirements.  It must be written, either typed or handwritten and witnessed by two people.  A person shall be named to serve as the Personal Representative, (Executor) who will stand in the shoes of the deceased person (decedent). This should be someone who is younger than you are, for obvious reasons, trustworthy and capable.   You need to include an attestation clause shall be included to prove that the witnesses signed in the presence of the testator.  It should be signed by you in their presence.

The will should have specific directions on how you want your estate to be distributed upon your death, including provisions for tangible personal property that you may own like jewelry, furniture etc. If you have minor children, your will should name the guardians you have selected.  The Executor will be responsible for the settlement of your estate. This includes any estate taxes, probate fees and debts incurred by the estate.

You should review your will every five years to ensure that it is current and in agreement with your wishes.

For your sake and the people in your life that are important to you, don’t postpone getting your will drafted properly.  Should changes need to be made, do not cross out any change in the will but have a codicil (document that amends the will) drawn up and be witnessed by two people.  If the changes are significant a new will should be made.

None of us want to deal with preparing a will, but no one is guaranteed a long lifetime.  Be good to your family, friends and yourself and do the planning now if you have not already done so.

If you have questions, feel free to contact the Office of the Register of Wills at 410-887-6680.


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