The word “estate planning” sounds like something from medieval England or colonial South—are you picturing plantation homes, castles and unimaginable wealth? However, the definition of “estate” actually goes like this: “the interest of a particular degree, nature, quality, or extent that one has in land or other property.” Therefore, most people on this planet have some kind of estate, their own collection of assets that they are free to distribute as they wish upon their death. And you will be doing yourself a favor if you hire a Maryland estate planning attorney to help you do this.
Why Plan Your Estate?
So, maybe you don’t own much or don’t have anyone to give it to, why would you need to plan your estate? While you don’t have to do it, estate planning will help you make someone else’s life better. Even if your car is the only thing you own, it can be donated to charity to serve a greater cause. If you do have close relatives, keep in mind that without an estate plan, the State of Maryland will have the right to distribute your estate according to the law, which might not be the way you wished. With an estate plan in place, you won’t be leaving anything to chance.
It’s More Than a Will
While the will is probably the most common estate planning document, it’s only one of the ways you can control how your assets are being disposed of. Here are a few other decisions you should consider when planning the distribution of your estate:
- Consider a living trust that will allow your hires to skip the probate court when claiming their right to your property.
- Select your healthcare agent via an advance directive—this is the person who will be able to make medical decisions for you if you no longer can.
- Make a power of attorney to give a trusted relative or friend the power to manage your finances if you are incapable of handling your own affairs due to a debilitating health condition.
- Choose a guardian for your underage children, and a trustee to handle their inheritance until they come of age.
- Name a beneficiary for your bank accounts, including savings, stocks and bonds. This will allow the money and assets to go to the beneficiary directly and skip the probate court.
- Consider life insurance if you don’t have a large estate to support your family or if you are expecting to leave significant debts.
- Plan for funeral expenses by establishing an account payable on death.
- Protect your business by setting up a buyout agreement to give your portion to your partners or by writing a succession plan.
As you can see, there are quite a few things to consider when planning your estate. For each of the above points (and it’s not nearly half of the planning process), expect to have piles of paperwork that have to be filled out correctly, notarized, delivered to all involved parties and filed in a timely manner. Procrastination is certainly not your friend when it comes to estate planning.
When you are working with a qualified estate planning attorney to put together your Maryland will and the rest of the documents, you are saving yourself time and headache. Your attorney will guide you through the process and ensure everything is done in accordance with the law.
Contact The Law Offices of D. Kathleen Rus to get the legal advice and help you need.