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Just having a will: Is it enough for estate planning in Maryland?

When a person dies, that person's property and assets will need to be distributed to their rightful heirs. However, if one has failed to do proper estate planning preparations the state of Maryland will decide how to divide the decedent's estate. Most people would rather not let the government decide what to do with their belongings after death. This is why it is important to create a last will and testament in order to instruct who should inherit the property in a person's estate.

However, just simply having a will may not be not enough. How one's assets are distributed will also depend upon how each asset is titled. For example, if a piece of real estate is also partially owned by a person's spouse, then the living spouse will retain the real estate property. The will should also name an executor who is the person chosen to be in charge of administering the decedent's assets.

Besides the will, another item which is often overlooked is choosing and updating beneficiaries for retirement accounts, as well as life insurance policies. Paying attention to named beneficiaries is important since this will usually supersede any named heirs which a will specifies. Also, funds in any type of retirement account should have a secondary as well as a primary beneficiary.

Aside from creating a last will and testament, there are various other factors to consider when making an estate plan in Maryland. It is best to have a strong understanding of applicable laws in order to ensure that one's estate plan is clear and concise. This will avoid confusion and will also help one's heirs and beneficiaries avoid a long and expensive process in probate court.

Source: Evening Sun, "Financial Consulate: Planning your estate," Ryan Fox, April 25, 2013

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