Planning for the future is topic that is both unique and very personal; it can also be overwhelming if you aren’t sure where to start. Everyone has their own needs and goals-- whether it’s making a simple will stating your wishes as to who receives your assets upon death, designating what happens if you can no longer make your own medical decisions, or even structuring your estate in a way to minimize tax consequences and leave as much of your hard-earned money as possible to be distributed after you’re gone.
Good estate planning lawyers can achieve their client’s goals and avoid problems no matter the size of the estate. They can also update plans that have been in place for a long time but are no longer fulfilling their intended purpose. No matter your needs or where you are in the estate planning process, the skilled Maryland estate planning attorneys at The Saint Yves Law Firm are here to provide personalized planning help so you can rest easy.
Wills are legal documents expressing what you want to happen with your assets. It takes effect upon your death, but it’s important to have in place no matter the size of your estate or how old you are. Wills allow you to determine who will care for any minor children you leave behind and who will execute your will on your behalf. You can also name a successor to the executor to control the identity of an executor’s replacement in case they are unwilling or unable to fulfill their duties.
A good alternative to a will that can offer a tax-beneficial method of passing the assets of the estate to desired beneficiaries is a living trust. Living trusts are either revocable or irrevocable, but no matter which type you choose the assets that are put into the trust are kept out of the probate process and provide an extra level of privacy for the beneficiaries.
Revocable vs. Irrevocable Trusts
Revocable trusts are legal constructs where the person transferring assets to the trust maintain both control and ownership over the assets. They can allow the assets to be managed by a trustee for you benefit, may pass to any beneficiaries you name after your death, and keep your estate from moving through probate. Irrevocable trusts, on the other hand, move the assets in the trust out of the individual’s ownership and control – they are no longer a part of your estate for tax calculation purposes and out of reach of creditors or legal judgments. Depending on your situation, there may be additional benefits to creating either a revocable or irrevocable trust.
In addition to general revocable and irrevocable trusts, it’s possible to create other trusts designed for specific purposes. These may include:
Life Insurance Trusts – irrevocable trusts where the life insurance policy on the individual’s life is owned by the trust, keeping the value of the policy payout out of the estate and away from estate taxes.
Charitable Trusts – irrevocable trusts that are created for a charitable purpose; any money left in the trust at the time of death passes to support charitable activities. Both charitable lead and charitable remainder trusts may help individuals avoid certain costly taxes.
Power of Attorney
In the unlikely event an individual is incapacitated and can’t make their own decisions, it is often helpful to create a power of attorney to handle such a situation. A power of attorney is a legal tool that permits an individual designated in the document – known as an agent – the power to make decisions regarding subjects you have specified on your behalf. It prevents the court from needing to choose a guardian without your approval to make these decisions for you.
Advanced Medical Directive
Just as a power of attorney allows you to pick someone to make decisions if you’re unable to, an advanced medical directive allows you to decide ahead of time your preferences and desires when it comes to your medical care if you become unable to make your own medical decisions. These directives can include a broad number of treatments and medical interventions you do or do not wish performed on you, such as:
Some procedures you may want to make decisions about in advance are also included on a Maryland Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment form you can complete and use in conjunction with your directive. The form covers a broad range of treatments including:
A Maryland estate planning attorney can help you decide what you may want to include in your advance medical directive, how best to carry out your wishes, and complete a document meeting the state’s requirements to be effective.
An important part of estate planning is evaluating an estate’s potential tax liability and working to avoid that as much as possible. One tool attorneys may use to maximize the estate’s value and minimize tax consequences is the advising a transfer of assets to beneficiaries – whether it takes the form of a gift, a transfer to a trust, or sale of assets. Estate planning lawyers able to analyze an estate and find a way to complete beneficial transfers while making gift, inheritance, and income tax implications as minimal as possible.
Other options to help reduce or eliminate “Death Taxes” may include:
Other trusts for residences, assets, and life insurance
Contact a Maryland Estate Planning Attorney Today
The topic of estate planning may cause unnecessary stress for people confronting issues related to dividing assets, making decisions related to potential healthcare needs, and thinking about their own mortality. However, these topics can be handled quickly, painlessly, and professionally with help from an experienced Maryland estate planning attorney. We have worked with clients just like you for years to help them develop and maintain comprehensive estate plans that meet their needs, carry out their wishes, and give them peace of mind. Whether you want to create, modify, or simply administer an estate plan, schedule a consultation with our office and let's see how we can help produce the results you want.