Seven out of 10 Americans die without a will, according to the University of Maryland’s Maryland Cooperative Extension. Many people believe that wills are unnecessary because they do not have many or valuable assets; however, a will can make life easier for your survivors, even if you only have modest possessions. A legal valid will ensures that your assets will be distributed to your beneficiaries according to your wishes. Although it is legal to write a will yourself, it is less risky to hire a lawyer to prepare it for you.
Choose an executor. The executor of your will carries out the instructions contained in your will after your death. As this role can be very time-consuming and carries many responsibilities, be sure to discuss the job with the person you intend to name to be certain they’re willing to take on the role. Also, select an alternate executor in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to carry out his duties when the time comes.
Read More: How to Write a Will in Maryland
Decide upon your beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are those people who will receive your property. Note that under Maryland law, you cannot disinherit your spouse. According to the Maryland State Bar Association, if you have no children, your spouse is entitled to at least 50 percent of your estate; if you do have children, your spouse may claim 33.3 percent of the net estate. You should also note that if you fail to specifically exclude a child from inheriting and other children are named, the unnamed child will receive his intestate share. Thus, you may disinherit a child, but must do so explicitly.
Assess and divide your assets. You should make a list of your property and possessions including real estate, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, and personal property. After the list is complete, either assign your heirs a percentage of your total assets or bequeath specific assets to specific people.
Record your wishes in written form. You can write your will by having a lawyer prepare it, writing it yourself on a typewriter or computer, or entering your information about your executor, beneficiaries, and assets in an online program that generates will documents in accordance with the laws of Maryland. A handwritten will is legal in Maryland, but only if it is attested and signed by at least two witnesses in your presence.
Obtain appropriate signatures. You must sign your will at its logical conclusion and have two or more witnesses sign as well. Under Maryland law, your witnesses must be over the age of 18 and must sign the will in your presence. The will doesn’t have to be notarized to be considered valid.
Barbara Diggs is a freelance writer living in France. A former corporate lawyer, she has been writing professionally since 2006. She has been published in numerous print and online magazines, specializing in travel, parenting, history and law. Diggs is a graduate of Wesleyan University and Stanford Law School.