Does My Will’s Beneficiary Have to be a Family Member?

June 4, 2020

Estate planning is about more than just distributing your assets. It’s also about providing for the ones you love and ensuring your property and assets are handled as you wish after your death. It’s your decision to choose who will inherit your assets, but what if you are estranged from your family? What if you want to leave specific assets to friends? To charity? What if the family member to whom you intended to leave property to doesn’t survive you? 

inheritance beneficiary for will in estate planning

Here’s a closer look at how beneficiary designations work in a Maryland Will to help you best understand what to do in these “what if” scenarios.

Who Can Be Named a Beneficiary?

In our state, you have the right to choose any person to be recipient of your property. Legally a “person” can be a:

  • Family Member
  • Friend
  • Stranger
  • Business Partner
  • Organization
  • Charitable Institution

If you are not close with your immediate family, have no living relatives, or simply prefer to not include family members in your Will, you are legally allowed to choose an unrelated individual, or a charitable institution or organization, as a beneficiary. If you are affiliated with, or simply interested in,  specific causes or charities, you may choose to leave some or all of your property to support those causes or charities.

Can I Change a Beneficiary in my Will?

In Maryland, as long as you are of “sound mind” (i.e. are competent to make decisions), you can make changes to your Will, either by a Codicil or by making a new Will.  (You should never just cross out and write in changes—that can invalidate your entire Will.) Drafting your Will can be done at any age throughout adulthood, meaning that for some people, common life events may necessitate revisiting their Will and making changes. These events may include:

  • Birth, adoption, or death of a child or grandchild
  • Marriage or divorce
  • A child reaching the age of 18
  • The death of someone named in your Will
  • Starting a business
  • Buying property
  • Becoming interested in a charitable cause or organization

Get Legal Guidance in Establishing Your Will

These are simply a few of the issues that an experienced estate planning attorney can guide you through, before and during the process of drafting your Will. If you’d like to learn more about estate planning or are ready to start making preparations for the future care of your family and estate, DK Rus Law is your best resource.

With over 25 years of experience, we provide Maryland residents in Baltimore and Carroll Counties with the professional guidance and estate planning services they need to plan for the future. Contact us today to learn more.

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