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Can a will protect the family home?

On Behalf of | Nov 20, 2023 | Firm News |

Real estate is one of the most substantial assets any person will own in their lifetime. Your family home is real estate, and it carries great importance to you and your family, so it is only natural that you want to protect it. A will can help you protect your family home by allowing you to name who you want to inherit the home upon your death. Without a will, your home will be subject to Maryland’s intestacy laws.

However, a will does not protect your family home from probate because all wills go through the legal court process before the distribution of the estate can commence. Fortunately, effective estate planning can help you and your surviving loved ones bypass probate.

How to protect your family home from probate

Once a person dies with a legally valid will, their named personal representative or executor must file a petition with the Register of Wills. Your executor will then inventory all the assets you own and determine the value of each one before notifying all beneficiaries, heirs and creditors. They will also pay all your debts, which may mean they have to sell certain assets.

During this time, people may try to contest your will or other issues may arise, which prolongs the already lengthy probate process and cause unnecessary financial burdens to your loved ones. To ensure your family home goes to the people you want it to go to, you can bolster your estate plan using the following methods and tools:

  • Living trust: You can create a trust document and name yourself as the trustee, but make sure to appoint a successor trustee to take over the trust after your death. To protect your family home using a living trust, you must transfer ownership to yourself as the trustee. The successor trustee will have the authority to transfer the family home to the trust beneficiaries without it having to go through probate.
  • Joint ownership: You can also jointly own your family home and include the right of survivorship. You will be joint tenants with equal shares to the family home. The surviving owners will automatically own the property when one owner passes, and probate will not be necessary.

A will is the most fundamental estate planning instrument, but because it guarantees probate, it may not protect your family home completely. By incorporating additional estate planning instruments and techniques, you can expedite the distribution of your assets and ensure that specific affairs remain private.