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Simple Wills

The most basic estate plan might consist of a simple will which determines how one’s assets will be distributed upon death. If you do not have a will, the laws of intestate succession will determine how this is done. The end result may not be what you would expect. As an example, in Maine, if you die without a Will and you are married with children, your spouse will receive only part of your estate and your children will receive another part. Many married couples would prefer that their surviving spouse receive all of their assets. If there is a surviving spouse or children of a prior marriage or subsequent marriage, this can complicate matters even more and is yet another reason to make a will.

If you own real estate with another as a joint tenant, the surviving joint tenant or tenants will be vested with title upon the death of the other joint tenant regardless of what the will may direct. This does not necessarily mean that the surviving joint tenant will be free to dispose of the property. It is possible to make a contract which restricts a surviving joint tenant’s ability to dispose of the property. The Supreme Judicial Court of Maine held that a wife was not free to dispose of land which had been held in joint tenancy with her husband, even though the land did not become part of his estate upon death. The wife had executed a joint will and supporting agreement which provided that the property would go to the husband’s daughters of a prior marriage upon the death of the wife. Thus, while the wife had title to the whole property by operation of the deed, the joint will and supporting agreement determined who would ultimately receive the property. On the other hand, if the real estate is owned with others as tenants in common , the surviving tenant(s) will own the property with the heirs or devisees of the deceased tenant. This may not be what you intended.

Even if you have no real property and relatively few other assets, a will can help ensure that your assets will go to the person or persons whom you choose, instead of to persons who might be otherwise entitled under the law of intestate succession.

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