The Baltimore family attorneys at Cohen & Dwin have helped hundreds of Maryland residents through the estate planning process. Whether you want to write a simple will or need representation for a more complex estate plan, we can help.

Last Will and Testament

A will is a person's declaration of how he or she desires their property to be disposed of after their death. If a person dies without a will, his or her estate will be distributed not according to their wishes, but in accordance with the order of Intestate adopted by the State.

It should be noted that just because an individual dies without a will it does not necessarily mean that their property will go to the State. The State only receives the property if there are no known surviving relatives. However, to ensure that the correct amount of your property goes to whom you desire, you should execute a will. Additionally, a will can also be used to create trusts, name the trustees and beneficiaries of trusts and to appoint guardians for the decedent's minor children.

Valid Will

In Maryland, for a will to be valid it must have been made by a person who was over the age of 18 and legally competent to make a will. Additionally, the will must be in writing, signed by the testator or testatrix (the maker of the will), and attested and signed by two or more credible witnesses in the presence of the testator or testatrix. In Maryland, a will does not have to be notarized to be valid.


Probate is the proceeding under which the assets of the decedent are administered and distributed pursuant to the decedent's last will and testament (if the decedent had a will) or the laws Intestate (if the decedent died without a will). The probate process is overseen by the Orphans' Court of the county in which the decedent lived at the time of his or her death. The Register of Wills is the official of the Orphan's Court who supervises the required administrative proceedings.

This process is begun by the filing of a Petition for Probate with the Register of Wills or the Orphan's Court and is completed once the Orphan's Court approves the final accounting supplied by the decedent's Personal Representative. This entire process will generally takes at least nine (9) months to complete and for complex estates will often take longer. A Maryland probate lawyer can help you through this complicated process.

Advanced Health Care Directive

Health Care, Durable Power of Attorney and General Power of Attorney are three documents uses for estate planning tools. The advanced care directive (previously known as a Living Will) gives the person the opportunity to declare their wishes with regard to extraordinary medical efforts to prolong their life or not to when the end result will not be changed. In other words, their death will occur anyway.

The health-care durable power of attorney gives the individual the right to choose will make medical decisions for them when they are unable to do so or simply when they unavailable to do so. The general power of attorney allows the person to appoint someone to handle all of their financial, property matters and business matters. The last two documents can take effect upon disability or immediately at the declarants option. The reason a person might want the first two documents is to exercise their discretion and appoint a person or persons of their choice to make the medical decisions instead of the statutory scheme.

The Baltimore family attorneys at Cohen & Dwin are available to help prepare your estate planning documents and assist you through the probate process. Contact Cohen & Dwin at 410-LAW HELP for a free consultation.

Cohen & Dwin, P.A.

9505 Reisterstown Rd.
Suite 1 North
Owings Mills, MD 21117

Office: (410) 653-6000
Toll Free: (800) 692-2500
Fax: (410) 653-6053