Estate Planning

Do I really need a Will?

Did you know you are never without a will, even if you’ve never made one? That is because the State of Maryland, in its infinite wisdom, has decided what should be in the last will and testament for everyone who fails before they die, for whatever reason, to make their own will and plan their estate. The problem is, the will the State makes for its citizens has some surprises that most people, if they knew what they are, would be quite unhappy about.

Your plan for your Family

It is important to plan your estate, well before you imagine the plan would be needed. Why? Because none of us are guaranteed another day. In the early years of one’s adult life, it is essential to choose legal guardians for minor children. If you don’t make this choice yourself, by expressing your choice in a valid will, once again, the government gets to decide who your children’s guardian(s) will be— people you and your kids may not even know! Younger parents also need to select someone (a “trustee”) to invest, protect and disburse their estate’s assets for the benefit of the kids. Once again, your will can appoint such trustees and specify their duties, disbursements and priorities. If you don’t do it, the State– once again– steps in and makes these decisions for you, or appoints the people who will make them. Your will can relieve your personal representative and trustees of the necessity of posting a fidelity bond, insulate them from unexpected liability, and guide your Personal Representative and Trustees in performing your wishes after you’re gone.

Internet Estate Plans

You’ve worked hard to earn your wealth, whatever its level. You love your family more than they can imagine. Your estate plan is the only thing that can speak for you, and protect your cherished family, when you’re gone. It’s worth hiring a competent professional estate planner who can implement your specific plan and answer questions you didn’t even know to ask. We have occasionally administered estates for well meaning souls that thought they would “save money” by creating their own estate plan using downloaded forms. Not only did they miss their goal of saving money, they unintendedly created heartache and confusion for the very ones they sought to benefit, who had to deal with the confusion and controversy that their Internet-sourced “estate plan” created.

Refining the plan later on in life

Later in life, the estate plan may need to become more sophisticated, or maturity may have produced a desire for a more intricate plan. Established families may have blended, with children in the picture on one or both sides who have not been adopted by their parent’s new spouse. There may be beneficiaries under disabilities, real property located in other States, grandchildren, family heirlooms, estranged or dysfunctional family members, disproportionate gifts, special friends, charitable bequests, special funeral wishes– and a host of other situations requiring specialized treatment. All these details can be handled easily by an experienced estate planner. Without proper planning, you may leave your loved ones in a state of jeopardy and frustration, amplifying their grief over your loss.

A Maryland estate planning lawyer that works your plan

We are accustomed to addressing every person’s or couples’ estate planning needs with an individualized, sensible plan. Personal interaction is essential to this process. Besides simple and complex wills, we are equipped to provide testamentary and lifetime (“living”) trusts, family limited liability companies, joint tenancies and lifetime rights in real estate, durable powers of attorney, advance medical directives, living wills and other means to accomplish your giving and planning goals. We tailor the solution to the client’s specific situation using the appropriate estate planning tools, explaining their options, pertinent laws and the probate process generally. We explain the pros—and cons—of “avoiding probate”. Sometimes misinformation is disseminated to the public by people who want to market a particular kind of trust, or to maintain custodianship of assets invested in it, or to market budget-priced “one size fits all” state planning documents. We try to cut through all the buzz and hidden agendas in the marketplace and Internet by advising our clients what they really do—and don’t – need in their estate plan.

Settling and Administration of Decedent’s Estates

If the estate planner has done his or her job, an estate in Maryland should be easy to administer and settle. Of course, that doesn’t always happen. Even when the estate has been properly planned, to someone unfamiliar with the Register of Wills offices and the Probate laws and procedures, even a simple estate administration process can seem overwhelming. We go the second mile to help the personal representative understand and feel comfortable with the process, and we take care of many of the probate administrative details so the PR can focus on the matters of greatest importance to the family. Our relationships with local banks, appraisers, realtors, auctioneers, trust departments, accountants, investigators and other professionals can greatly assist the client who might need, but not be already connected with, these important resources.

It sometimes happens that the estate may require litigation services. For example, there may be disputed creditor claims, issues about the validity of the will or the competency of the testator, family tensions, business disputes, issues with taxing authorities, or other controversies. If such problems come up, our firm is prepared—and experienced—in handling them. We realize that those involved are already stressed by the decedent’s death and the unfamiliarity of the administration process. The last thing they need is a law firm helping with the estate that is ill-prepared to accept and shoulder such challenges. We are prepared to work for you and with you in the estate administration process as your advocate, confidant and compassionate friend.