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Estate Planning in Maryland

 
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Providing peace of mind for families throughout Maryland including Annapolis and Anne Arundel County with estate planning services and establishment of wills, living trusts and other critical documents.

Establishing an estate plan is one of the most important measures you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones.  Proper estate planning puts you in charge of your finances and can also spare your loved ones of the expense, delay and frustration associated with managing your affairs when you pass away or become disabled.
 
Planning for Incapacity in Maryland
If you become incapacitated, you won’t be able to manage your own financial affairs.  Many are under the mistaken impression that their spouse or adult children can step in and manage their affairs in case they become unable to do so for themselves.  In order for others to be able to manage your finances, they must petition a Maryland court to declare you legally incompetent.  This process, known as a guardianship or conservatorship can be time-consuming, expensive and stressful.  Even if the court appoints the person you would have chosen yourself, that person may have to come back to the court each and every year and present how he or she is spending and investing each and every penny on your behalf.  If you want your family to be able to immediately manage your affairs, you must designate a person or persons that you trust in proper Maryland documents so that they will have the authority to withdraw money from your accounts, pay bills, take distributions from your IRAs, sell stocks, and refinance your home.  A will does not take effect until you die and a basic power of attorney may be insufficient.

Maryland Advance Healthcare Directives
In addition to planning for the management of your financial affairs during incapacity, you should create a plan for your medical care.  Maryland law allows you to appoint a person you trust such as a family member or friend to make important decisions about medical treatment options if you lose the ability to decide for yourself.  You can do this by establishing a durable power of attorney for health care, also referred to as a healthcare proxy where you designate the person to make such decisions.  In addition to a power of attorney for heath care, you should also have a living will which informs others of your preferred medical treatments such as the use of extraordinary measures to keep you alive should you become permanently comatose or terminally ill.

Avoiding Probate
If you leave your assets to your loved ones using a will, everything you own will pass through a court managed process known as probate.  The process is costly, time-consuming and open to the public.  The local probate court in Maryland would be in control of the process until your estate has been settled.  If you are married and have children, you need to make certain that your loved ones have immediate access to cash to pay for living expenses while your estate is being distributed.  It is not unusual for assets to become held up for weeks or even months while the probate court tries to determine the proper disposition of the estate. Your surviving spouse may be forced to ask the probate court for cash to utilize for current living expenses.  With proper planning, your assets can pass on to your loved ones without undergoing probate in a manner that is quicker, more efficient and private.
 
Providing for Minor Children
If you have minor children, it is critical for your estate plan to address issues regarding their upbringing.  Depending on their age, consider implementing a plan that will allow your surviving spouse to devote more time and attention to your children, without the burden of work obligations.  You may also want to provide for special counseling and resources for your spouse if you believe they lack the experience or ability to handle financial and legal matters.  You should also plan for the possibility of both you and your spouse dying simultaneously, or within a short span of time.  A contingency plan should set forth the names of a person you would like to manage your assets as well as the guardian you’d like to nominate for the upbringing of your children.  The person, or trustee in charge of the finances need not be the same person as the guardian.  In many situations, designating different persons to maintain a system of checks and balances is ideal.  Otherwise, the decision as to who will manage your finances and raise your children may be left to a court of law. 
 
Other issues to consider in this respect include whether you prefer to have your beneficiaries receive your assets directly, or placed in a trust and distributed based upon a number of factors which you designate, such as age, need and even incentives based on behavior and education.  Sadly, all to often children receive substantial assets before they are mature enough to manage them properly, with devastating results.
 
Give careful thought to your choice of guardian, ensuring that he or she shares the values you want instilled in your children. Some guardians may lack child-rearing skills you feel are necessary.  Also consider the age and financial condition of a potential guardian. 
 
Planning for Death Taxes
The IRS may review your estate at death to ensure you don’t owe them that one final tax: the federal estate tax.  Whether there will be any tax to pay depends on the size of your estate and how your estate plan works.  Maryland has its own separate estate tax that you need to be aware of. There are many effective strategies that can be implemented to reduce or eliminate these death taxes, but you must start the planning process early in order to implement many of these plans.
 
Charitable Bequests – Planned Giving
Are you interested in benefiting a charitable organization?  Your estate plan can provide for such organizations in a variety of ways, either during your lifetime or at your death.  Depending on how your planned giving plan is established, it may also allow you to receive a stream of income for life, earn higher investment yield, or reduce your capital gains or gift and estate taxes.
 
A well-crafted estate plan should provide for your loved ones in an effective and efficient manner by avoiding guardianship during your lifetime, probate at death, estate taxes and unnecessary delays and publicity.  An estate planning attorney at the Duvall Law Firm can review your goals, family and financial situation and explain the various options available to you.   Once your estate plan is in place, you will have peace of mind knowing that you have provided for yourself and your family in case the worst happens.


Attorney Lindsey Warren Duvall assists clients throughout Anne Arundel County and Prince Georges County, including but not limited to Annapolis, Davidsonville, Gambrills, Crofton, Severna Park, Crownsville, South River, Millersville, Waugh Chapel, Odenton, Piney Orchard, Severn, Upper Marlboro, Bowie, Glenndale, Galesville, Gibson Island, Arundel Mills, Columbia, Edgewater, Deale, Harwood, Lothian, Churchton, Shady Side, Cape St. Claire, Broadneck, Arnold, Jessup, Laurel, Linthicum, Mitchellville, Pasadena, and Lake Shore, MD.



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