WILLS

Your Last Will and Testament is a legal document that provides for the proper distribution of your property and assets upon your death to those that you intend to receive them. In addition, anyone with minor children should have a will, as in it a person can name a Guardian for a person’s minor children in the event of a parent’s death.  And a will can provide for a Trust so that minor children receive the benefits of an estate at an age that is chosen by the person writing the will, usually their parents or grandparents.  Without a will that provides for the establishment of a trust for a minor child, and unless that trust states that the assets shall be distributed to the child at a later age, minors will receive their share of an estate at age eighteen (18).

A properly written will can greatly reduce family conflict and allows your estate and probate property to be distributed in accordance with your wishes. In addition, you get to choose the person (or persons)  best suited to be your Personal Representative. The Personal Representative of your estate (sometimes known as the Executor) arranges for the administration of your estate, chooses the lawyer to assist with the probate process if necessary,  files to probate your assets that are subject to the probate process with the Register of Wills, handles your business affairs after your death and then, after written approval of the Court, makes the distribution of your assets in accordance with the law and/or the terms written in your will.

Everyone should have a well prepared Last Will and Testament. It should be custom written by a probate attorney or estate planning lawyer to express your particular wishes regarding the disposition of your assets upon your death. Make sure that the law firm that you hire to write your estate planning documents has experience in these matters.

Nancy L. Miller and Mark C. Miller have written thousands of wills, each one of them individually written. We do not use computer programs to write wills and estate planning documents for our clients. We listen carefully to our clients about what they want; we then write the legal documents that suit them and their needs. Our clients then review what we have written and come in to have their wills properly executed in our office. Having written thousands of wills in 34 years, not once has a will or other legal document written by Nancy L. Miller or Mark C. Miller ever been challenged in any Court or overturned by any Judge.

LIVING WILLS

Everyone who does not wish to be kept alive by artificial means after they have been determined by doctors to have a terminal illness or injury from which they cannot recover should have a Living Will.

A Living Will tells a person’s doctors and family that it is their request that they should only receive the necessary medical care to keep them comfortable after their own doctors have determined that they are terminally ill and cannot recover. A good Living Will states a person’s requests about the medical treatment that they wish to receive (and describes in detail the medical treatment that they do not wish to receive) at the time of their last illness and impending death.

A Living Will can reduce conflict for your family about your wishes and allows your family to have peace of mind knowing that you, yourself determined the medical care that you were to receive at the end of your life.

Nancy L. Miller and Mark C. Miller have written many, many hundreds of Living Wills.

We often hear back from the family of our late clients, telling us how relieved the family was to know that their relative made their own decisions in writing, in advance, about the care they wanted at the end of their life.

A living will should be included in your estate planning.

POWERS OF ATTORNEY

A Power of Attorney allows another person to act for you in handling your finances and business matters. A Power of Attorney is effective during a person’s lifetime, and ends upon that person’s death, at which point an estate is opened. Most people wish to have their Power of Attorney be “durable”, that is, it is valid even if after a person becomes disabled and can no longer effectively communicate their wishes.

A similar document, a Medical Power of Attorney, can be prepared to name someone of your choosing to make medical decisions for you in the event that you cannot make them for yourself. A well written Power of Attorney can be a very powerful document so that it will not be necessary for the court to appoint a guardian to handle your finances or to make decisions about your medical care.

Frequently Asked Questions about Wills

Who can make a will?
To create a valid will, the person writing the will, (known as a “Testator”) must be at least 18 year old and must have had testamentary capacity ( been of “sound mind”) at the time the Testator executed or signed the will.

Should I have a will?
 Everyone adult who owns property or who has assets of value should have a will.  The primary reason is that a will permits you to dispose of your property to the persons you wish, in the manner you wish.  A properly executed will is essential in order for you to ensure that your assets are distributed as you intended after your death.

What if I die without a will?
In Maryland, if you die without a will, the assets of your estate will be distributed according to the laws of the State of Maryland, generally to your next-of-kin.  We hear from many people that they believe that the State will take a person’s estate if a person dies without a will. That is not true. If a person dies without a will AND that person has no relatives at all, no parents, no grandparents, no children, no grandchildren, no brothers, no sisters, no nieces, no nephews, and no distant relatives can be located, then, and only then, are the assets of a deceased given to the local county Board of Education until relatives are located. A person dying without a will has deprived themselves of the choice as to who should receive their assets and deprived themselves of the choice as to who is best suited to be in charge of that distribution process.

Can a will be changed?
Since a will is not effective until death of the person that wrote it, the Testator may change and/or revoke their will any time before their death, so long as the Testator is of sound mind.  Once a person is no longer of sound mind, capable of understanding the meaning of legal documents, in most cases, it is then too late for them to make changes to their legal documents.

Where is the best place to keep my will?
You can file your will with the Register of Wills in the county where you reside, or keep it with your other important papers in a fire-proof box in your home.  If you register it with the Register of Wills, the original will  is sealed in an envelope and will not be unsealed until your death, unless you personally request that it be released to you.  The Register of Wills charges a fee of $5.00 to record your will.  Be sure to tell the person you have chosen to be your Personal Representative where your important legal documents can be found after your death.

When we write your will, if you wish, we will record it at the local Office of the Register of Wills for you at no additional charge.