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Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning And Administration

For most people, estate planning, estate administration and probate are legal terms that seem overly complex and mysterious. However, these issues are not as complicated as most people think.

At The Law Office of DeCaro & Howell, P.C., we focus on providing our clients with detailed information and clear understanding of their rights and options in the various legal issues they face. Our lawyers have a wealth of experience and an in-depth understanding of the legal nuances involved with estate planning, estate administration, probate and other legal areas. Our attorneys serve clients throughout Maryland, northern Virginia and District of Columbia communities.

Please peruse our answers below to frequently asked questions and let us know how we can help you.

Do I Need An Estate Plan?

Technically, you do not “need” an estate plan, but creating your own estate plan is important for a number of reasons:

  • An estate plan helps you retain control of how your assets are transferred to your family and other loved ones.
  • An estate plan helps you communicate your wishes for your late life care.
  • An estate plan helps you establish agents to handle your financial affairs if you become unable to do so yourself.
  • An estate plan helps reduce confusion and possible disputes among your family after you are gone. This is a great gift for your family.
  • An estate plan helps you leave a legacy to your loved ones.

There are legal instruments available to help you do almost anything you might want in your estate plan. Talk with an experienced lawyer about your estate planning goals.

What Happens When Someone Dies Without A Will?

When someone dies without a will, their estate goes through the probate process. In this process, debts are paid and beneficiaries receive their inheritances. The difference is that, without a will, statutes and judges determine who gets what, rather than the person deciding that and communicating it through the will and other estate planning documents.

What Are Revocable And Irrevocable Trusts?

The obvious difference between a revocable and irrevocable trust is whether or not the trust can be revoked during the giver’s lifetime. A revocable trust can be revoked and an irrevocable trust cannot.

The main benefit of a revocable trust is its flexibility. However, an irrevocable trust, though it lacks the same flexibility, has the benefit of providing a greater shield against creditors.

There are other advantages and disadvantages between these two types of trusts, as well. The best thing to do is talk with our experienced attorneys to find the legal instruments that will best meet your needs.

How Long Does The Estate Administration Process Take?

Unfortunately, there is no single uniform answer to this question. In some cases it can take less than a year. In more complicated or contentious cases, administration or probate can take significantly more than a year.

One thing that is certain is that most estates do not get through the process as quickly as most people would like.

If I Am Named The Executor Of A Will Or Estate Administrator, Do I Need An Attorney?

While you don’t technically need an attorney, it is extremely advisable. Estate administrators and will executors are held to an extremely high legal standard. Making a simple mistake in paying off creditors, paying the estate’s taxes, transferring assets to beneficiaries or making an accounting to the court could result in legal sanctions or even lawsuits against you. And without previous knowledge of the processes or requirements involved, these mistakes are surprisingly easy to make.

The best thing you can do to protect your interests in the process is to work with an experienced attorney you can trust throughout the process.

What Would Make A Will Invalid?

A will can be invalidated on a number of grounds, the most common being:

  • Undue influence: For a person to be seen as legally competent to draft a will, that person (the testator) needs to be free from coercion or other forms of undue influence. Threats and manipulation are common forms of undue influence that could invalidate a will.
  • Lack of capacity: When someone is getting older or is suffering from some form of mental illness, that person could lack the soundness of mind required for a valid will.
  • Lack of clarity: In some cases, the testator is of perfectly sound mind and free of any undue influence, but the will lacks clarity. Perhaps the required form of the document is wrong or confusing, legally inaccurate terminology is used. All of these forms of unclarity can result in the invalidation of the will.

Claims to invalidate a will are common in estate administration and probate. For will executors and potential beneficiaries, the outcomes of these claims have serious consequences.

Contact Us Today

At The Law Office of DeCaro & Howell, P.C., our lawyers help clients throughout Maryland, Virginia and D.C. in all types of estate planning and administration matters. Call us at 301-750-9941 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.