WILLS & ESTATES
In Maryland, you can sign a Durable Power of Attorney to appoint someone to handle your assets if you become incapacitated. At a minimum, a power of attorney should include the power to:
- Manage and transfer all assets
- Deal with the IRS
- Make gifts on your behalf
- Create and amend any trusts you set up
You don’t need to transfer any assets at the time you sign a power of attorney, but it’s a prudent to keep the person you’ve chosen informed about your ongoing financial matters.
You can also sign a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney to appoint someone to make health care decisions for you when you’re unable to do so yourself. This person can provide informed consent for treatment, or even refuse treatment for you.
Dying Without A Will
If you die without a will (known as dying “intestate”) in Maryland, your assets will be divided amongst your immediate family. If you have minor children, your spouse will receive one-half of your estate. The other one-half of your estate will go to your minor children. If you have children but they are not minors, your spouse will receive the first $15,000 plus one-half of the remainder of your estate. If you do not have children but you have a parent or parents, your spouse will receive the first $15,000 plus one-half of the remainder of your estate. If you do not have children or parents, your spouse will receive your entire estate.
Any part of your estate that does not go to your spouse will go first to your children equally. If you do not have children or grandchildren, your property goes next to your parents, siblings, grandparents and great-grandparents.
Alternatives To A Will
Wills eventually become public after your death, with the details of what you owned and how much it was worth available to anyone curious enough to read the court file. So many people look for more private ways to transfer their assets.
In Maryland, alternatives to making a will include:
- Life insurance policies or trusts
- Gifting cash or other assets before your death
- “Transfer On Death” (“TOD”) or “Payable On Death” (“POD”) bank accounts
- Holding assets by joint tenancy with right of survivorship (“JTROS”), with the assets transferring automatically to the other joint tenant at the time of death
- Holding assets through a tenancy in common, with each tenant having a divided interest in the property which can be independently sold
- Retirement plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (“IRAs”)
- “Revocable living trusts” (sometimes called “grantor trusts”), giving all your assets to a trustee for management before your death
Making A Will
In Maryland, you can make a valid will if you are at least 18 years old and legally competent to make a will. The will must be in writing and signed by you or by some other person for you at your direction and in your presence. Additionally, your will must be attested and signed by two or more credible witnesses in your presence.
A Maryland lawyer who does a lot of estate planning can explain the consequences of some of the most basic choices you must make, such as whether property you want to leave to your minor children should be put into a trust at your death. For that reason, it makes sense to consult with a Maryland estate planning lawyer and have him or her draft your will, so that you don’t make costly mistakes or accidentally not accomplish what you intended.
Providing For Young Children
There are many kinds of trusts, but the most common is one you would set up for your minor children or incapacitated adult relatives for their care after you are gone and until they are old enough or well enough to take care of themselves. A parent can name a trustee to be in control of the finances and decide whether to sell or keep property, and manage assets such as real estate. The trustee, usually a family member or trusted friend, can be paid an hourly rate or a set monthly amount for their services out of the trust assets.
You will probably also want to name a guardian for your children, someone who would have physical custody of and take care of your children on a daily basis should you or your spouse be unable to do so.
“Probate” is the public process of:
- Filing and validating a will in court
- Paying all the debts and taxes of the deceased person
- Dividing up the assets according to the will or Maryland law
If you have no debts and no “titled property” such as real estate or vehicles to pass along to heirs, there may be no need for probate.
Probate lawyers generally charge by the hour, and they make sure everything gets processed according to the law.
Some of our specific areas of experience include:
- Last Will and Testament
- Power of Attorney over Financial Matters
- Living Wills
- Asset Protection Planning
- Simple and Complex Wills
- Trusts (Testamentary, Living Trusts including Irrevocable Trusts and Insurance Trusts, and Charitable Trusts)
- Revocable Trusts
- Power of Attorney
- Contested Estate Litigation
- Estate Planning for Non-Citizens
- Estate and Income Tax Audit and Litigation
To speak with a Wills & Trusts attorney, call Michael Taylor (301)251-2772 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help you every step of the way.