Estate Planning Attorney
in Dunkirk, Maryland
To protect your loved ones and assets, you should have several documents in place should you become incapacitated or should you die? We recommend three documents for all estate plans. Depending on your situation, we may also recommend trusts, deeds, or other documents.
The three documents recommended for all estate plans are the Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney, and Advance Directive.We serve families in the areas throughout Prince Frederick, Lothian, Upper Marlboro, and Owings, Maryland
Last Will and Testament
The Will tells us how to distribute your assets after you die. You name a personal representative (sometimes called an executor in other states) to manage your estate after you die.
Power of Attorney
The Durable Power of Attorney is used should you become incapacitated and cannot make financial decisions on your own. You name an agent to then manage your financial affairs. The Power of Attorney is an inexpensive way to avoid a costly guardianship proceeding. Guardianship proceedings involve court oversight of your assets, and are an expensive way to manage your financial affairs if you are incapacitated.
An Advance Directive names an Agent to make your health care decisions should you become incapacitated. This document includes a Living Will, which informs us as to what kinds of treatment you would like should you be terminally ill, in a persistent vegetative state, or an end-stage condition. This document can help to alleviate the burden that your family may feel in making these decisions on your behalf because they can know that this is the treatment that you would want. You can also specify in the Advance Directive if you would like to donate organs and who will make your funeral arrangements.
Trusts can be used if you want a trustee to control the assets that a person would inherit from your estate, rather than allow the person to own the assets outright. For example, if you have minor children, you can name a trustee to manage their inheritance until the child is age 25, 30, or any age you choose. If you have a relative who is abusing drugs, someone with creditor problems, or who is a spendthrift, we can keep their funds in a trust for their benefit.
Trusts avoid probate and for the most part, trusts are private. Revocable Living Trusts (RLT) can be used to avoid probate. You would serve as the initial trustee and upon your demise, your assets can be distributed to your beneficiaries without going through the probate process. Also, the RLT serves almost like a power of attorney, because you’ll name a successor trustee who can manage the trust assets should you become incapacitated. If you own real estate in a state outside Maryland, you can transfer the property into the name of the RLT to avoid probate in that jurisdiction as well, saving on probate costs.
Special Needs Trusts
If you have a special needs child, you should establish a Special Needs Trust (SNT) to ensure that their inheritance is used for their life care. An SNT also keeps the funds separate from government funds that the special needs child may be receiving, such as Medicaid or SSI. These public programs have a limit on the number of assets that the person can own. An inheritance would likely increase their assets to a level that would disqualify them from Medicaid or SSI. Making sure that their funds are placed in an SNT ensures that your special needs child can continue to benefit from those public programs and still have funds available for needs not covered by the programs.
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Small Business Planning
If you own a business, you should have in place a plan to continue the business should you become disabled or die. If your partner is going to continue the business, we should have a buy/sell agreement to allow your family to be paid for your ownership of the business.
Tax Planning and Asset Protection
Persons of a certain wealth may need to incorporate tax planning in their estate plan to minimize estate taxes. If you are giving property to someone who is not a parent, sibling, child, or lineal descendent of yours, there will be a 10% inheritance tax on the amount inherited.
You may want to consider steps to protect your assets in case you or your spouse needs full-time nursing care. There are some easy steps we can take; the younger you are the more likely we can protect your wealth.
If you are unmarried and name your domestic partner in your Will to inherit your estate, your partner will pay a 10% inheritance tax on the property inherited, unless you put certain measures in place.
LGBTQ families have unique circumstances that should be addressed to protect their loved ones. It is important to have your documents in place to make sure your family is protected.
Children can be accidentally disinherited when parents re-marry. Make sure to meet with me to protect your children from disinheritance.