1. To save on estate taxes: With proper estate planning, you can reduce or eliminate the amount of taxes that your estate will owe at your death.
2. To avoid probate: A comprehensive estate plan can avoid the time and expense of the court probate process, and ensure that assets transfer directly to beneficiaries.
3. To choose a personal guardian for your children: A will is the only instrument that you can use to designate a personal guardian for your children upon your death. If you do not do so, the court will select the guardian of your children for you.
4. To name a property guardian for your children: If you have not prepared a will or living trust which provides for adult supervision over a minor beneficiary’s property, the court will appoint a property guardian to oversee this property until the age of 18. If you create a trust, you can dictate both the ages and the circumstances that you think are appropriate for the trustee to distribute income and principal of the trust to the beneficiary.
5. To select your executor: If you do not name an executor in your will, the court will choose someone to administer your estate. In addition, your executor will be required to post a fiduciary bond unless you waive such requirement in your will.
6. To make specific bequests to individuals: Written or oral instructions that do not satisfy the requirements of a will are not legally enforceable. If you do not have a will, the state of Maryland provides a method of distribution that may not be consistent with how you want to distribute your property.
7. To prevent family feuds: Although a will does not guarantee family harmony after your death, it decreases the possibility that heirs will fight over your intent regarding decisions such as distribution of your possessions, your funeral and burial arrangements, or guardianship of your children. You can include a “no contest” clause in your will which prohibits anyone who challenges the provisions of your will from receiving an inheritance.
8. To protect individuals with disabilities: You can create a special needs trust to hold funds for the benefit of a disabled individual without disqualifying that individual from receiving government benefits.
9. To direct under what circumstances life-sustaining treatment is given to or withheld from you: You can create a living will through which you direct whether life-sustaining treatments, artificial nutrition and hydration, and comfort care are given or withheld from you in the event that you are in a persistent vegetative state or your death from a terminal or end-stage condition is imminent. A living will spares your loved ones from making such agonizing decisions, and prevents the possibility of disagreement about your treatment amongst family members.
10. To designate a trusted person to make medical and financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated: You can prepare a Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Financial Power of Attorney whereby you name people that you trust to make medical and financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated. In the absence of these documents, someone must petition the court to be designated as your guardian act on your behalf.