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Rockville Maryland Estate Litigation Legal Blog

How a downloaded or boilerplate last will leads to problems

Most people know that hiring an attorney isn't a cheap thing to do. However, when someone needs to take legal action to protect themselves or the people they love, focusing on costs instead of effectiveness is a serious potential mistake, and one that could cost more in the long run.

Many people will try to forego getting the legal help they need during certain times in their life, such as when they first create a last will. Instead of speaking with an attorney, learning about their options and creating a specific plan based on their family's needs, some people will choose to just download a template off of the internet and plug in the names of their family members.

Blended families often have an increased risk of a will challenge

Getting remarried when you already have a family can benefit you and your children. They get the support of having a second adult in the household, while you have the comfort that comes from a partnership during a demanding time in your life. If you remarry after your children move out, you have companionship, while they have the peace of mind that comes from knowing you aren't alone.

Unfortunately, remarrying can lead to strain in the family later on, especially when it comes to financial concerns after your death. The later in life you remarry, the more likely it is for your children to resent the inheritance that you leave behind for your spouse or vice versa. In other words, your family may be at increased risk for a challenge of your last will or estate plan if people are unhappy with the terms.

Notice that a will has changed? You may want to contest it

You and your siblings are all standing to inherit a large number of assets when your parents pass away. You know that your mom's or dad's will is going to show what each of you receives, and you don't yet know what they're going to allow for.

You hope that your parents will be fair, but in the last several months, you've noticed one sibling who has been spending a disproportionate time with your parents. They've been negative about you and your other sisters and brothers to your parents. You're worried that the wills are going to be changed, even though your sibling is only trying to manipulate your parents.

Should parents talk to children about an estate plan?

You're not legally obligated to tell your children what is in your estate plan. You could leave them everything or cut them out of the will entirely. You don't have to have a conversation with them about it. They don't have to agree with your plan. What you do is entirely up to you.

But should you have that conversation? It depends on your goals. If your goal is to make things go smoothly for your heirs, it may be wise to talk about it.

When someone with power of attorney engages in financial abuse

Power of attorney documents can extend critical protections to adults who wind up incapacitated because of an illness, injury or accident. One of the most common reasons people give for not including financial power of attorney documents in their estate plan is the concern that the person they named could abuse those documents and impact their financial solvency through mismanagement or theft.

While it is true that anyone with potential access to your financial assets could abuse that authority, power of attorney does not give someone unlimited access to your finances. Instead, it gives them limited access to perform specific actions under certain circumstances.

What taxes apply to estates and inheritances?

Estate planning is one of the best ways that you can help to plan for your loved one's future, but you have a lot of things to think about, such as tax considerations. You have to understand how various factors might impact what your beneficiaries have to cover after you pass away.

Maryland has both an estate tax and an inheritance tax. This can make a difference to some individuals who have a high net worth. However, it might benefit anyone creating an estate plan to understand how the law can impact the outcome of the estate.

Reduce the chance of disputes over your estate plan

Your estate plan is something that you hope will quell any fighting and arguing among your family members after you pass away. There are some ways that you can make it less likely that fighting will happen when you aren't around to try to referee things.

When you create an estate plan, you need to think carefully about how you are going to get everything set up. Once you do that, communication becomes the focal point. Together, being able to have everything in writing and letting everyone know what to expect, you may be able to help your family members move on.

Can you contest a will if the person is still alive?

If your loved one is still alive and has recently changed their will in a way that you are not happy with, you may be finding yourself looking into contesting it. Wait before you put time and effort into that, though, because you can't contest a will if the individual is still alive. Why? They can change their will at any time.

If you are unhappy about changes to the will, you may be able to contest the will after your loved one's death. At that time, you should be able to bring up past wills and other documents that support your claims, so that you have a better chance of the court agreeing and ruling in your favor.

Do you know the potential benefits of a trust for an estate plan?

Trusts are some of the most misunderstood legal documents commonly used by people planning their estates or hoping to protect their access to government insurance programs as they age. Many people think of trusts as a way for wealthy parents to leave money behind for their children or provide for cost of living expenses while their children are young and potentially irresponsible.

However, not only the mega-wealthy can benefit from the creation of a trust. The average family can also utilize them to streamline the handling of an estate. A trust can be something you fund early in life and use to protect your assets if you own a business as well.

How long do you have to challenge a Maryland will?

Losing a loved one often results in a period of depression for close family members and friends. Depression is often accompanied by a sense of emotionlessness or an inability to take action in areas of your life that require attention. How long this emotional response to a loss lasts will vary depending on many factors.

Unfortunately, the depression that often comes with grief could cause legal headaches for you in the future. If you don't take the time to review the estate plan or last will of your loved one, you may not realize if there are mistakes or real issues with those documents until it is too late. Heirs, family members and beneficiaries in Maryland have a limited amount of time in which to challenge estate documents.

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