In Maryland and elsewhere, a person is able to express his or her intent with regard to what should happen to personal property, savings and other items of value in the event of his or her death. A recent article discussed the importance of protecting one's assets so that the value of one's estate does not dwindle away by the time it reaches the hands of beneficiaries. Taking steps to preserve one's estate is an important part of careful estate administration.
While a person is alive and in possession of a sound mind, he or she might choose to document desires and plans for the distribution of his or her assets to be carried out after death, or at a specified time should he or she become mentally incapacitated and no longer able to make financial or other pertinent decisions concerning a personal estate. Unfortunately, sometimes those involved in estate administration become entangled by disputes regarding various portions of an inheritance slated to be distributed among more than one beneficiary. In a recent case in a state near Maryland, a lawsuit has been filed pitting two siblings against another concerning the estate of their father, who was a successful business man.
Many individuals here in Maryland and elsewhere think that whoever their will names as beneficiaries will receive their assets. This is a common misconception. Beneficiary designations are included with retirement plans, life insurance policies and other financial accounts. These assets typically go to whoever is named as beneficiary on those documents despite whatever the will says. It is important to keep these documents updated; otherwise, these assets may end up in probate.
Many people in Annapolis have been told that is important to have a will, but it is hard to fully understand why you need one until you know exactly what will happen to your estate if you do not.