Why do I need a Will? I am unmarried and most of my assets name my child and my niece as beneficiaries?

First you state that“most” of your assets have beneficiaries designated. The assets for which you have not named an individual or individuals to receive those assets upon your death, must pass through probate. For example, if you own a home titled in your name only, and no one is named in the Deed to receive title to your property upon your death, your home will become a part of your probate assets.

If you do not have a Will, and are unmarried, your probate assets would pass to your child only, under Maryland’s intestacy laws. This would be contrary to your goal of distributing your assets to your child and niece. Whereas if were remarried at the time of your death, and died without having executed a Will, under Maryland’s intestacy laws, your assets would be divided evenly between your husband and minor child, again contrary to your stated distribution goal.  If you executed a Will however, in both instances your Will could state the persons to whom you want your assets distributed to.  However, if you are married at the time of your death, your husband has the right to elect against your Will and claim One-Third (1/3) of your assets, if your Will did not contain provisions for him.

Since your child is a minor, you may also want to execute a Will that contains provisions appointing a guardian for your child, most likely in the event that their natural father is unable or unwilling to serve. In the absence of such a provision, the guardianship of your child would have to be determined through a judicial proceeding.

Your Will could also contain provisions providing for the distribution of your assets to a Trustee, who would hold your assets in trust for your child.  In the absence of such trust provisions or provisions for distribution at age twenty-one under Maryland law, yourestate would be distributed to your child when they reach eighteen. Most eighteen year olds that I know are not equipped to handle large sums of money.

If the above reasons have not convinced you to execute a Will, also consider that in a Will you can appoint the person you want stand in your shoes as your Personal Representative, as well as provisions addressing your funeral, burial, or cremation arrangements, and provisions addressing who pays taxes assessed in your estate as well as provisions minimizing taxes. It is evident that the benefits of executing a Will far outweigh the cost of preparing such a document.

Published in the Fall, 2011 issue of Outlook By The Bay magazine.