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Understanding how and when a will is applied

In drawing up a will, there are a number of things that Maryland residents should consider. First, there are certain requirements that need to be followed in order for a will to be considered valid. But secondly, one should keep in mind that one's last will and testament does not necessarily have the final say in all matters.

If the law and the will clash, then it is the law that wins. As a result, many pieces of property may pass by operation of law despite whatever the will says. This often comes up with real property owned in joint tenancy, meaning that two or more people share ownership of a piece of property. Although there are several more requirements for a joint tenancy to be held valid, any property owned in a joint tenant relationship automatically passes to the surviving owners.

Likewise, contract law may also supersede the language of the will. For example, the named beneficiary of an investment account will inherit that investment account even if the will says otherwise. Indeed, this transfer of ownership takes place immediately upon one's death.

In most cases, one's will controls how their property is distributed upon their death. However, understanding when this happens and when this does not happen is vital to writing a will that withstands the probate process in Maryland and elsewhere. Moreover, there are a number of requirements that a will needs to fulfill or else the court may consider it invalid. By going through the estate planning process, it may be possible to ensure that one's wishes are fully implemented.

Source: Times Herald-Record, "Your Finances: It's important to review your estate plan," Laura Medigovich, March 11, 2012

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