Estate Planning

If Your Will Was Remotely Witnessed During The Pandemic, Your Will May Be Deemed Invalid Upon Your Death!

In Maryland, any individual over the age of 18 who is legally competent can make a Last Will and Testament (“Will”). In order for a Will to be considered valid under Maryland law, it must be (i) in writing, (ii) signed by the person making the Will (the “testator”), and (ii) attested to and signed by two credible witnesses in the physical presence of the testator. Covid-19 resulted in many changes to how things were done.  On April 10, 2020, Governor Hogan signed an emergency order that temporarily suspended the requirement that a Will must be signed by the testator and...

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The Revocable Trust: The Will-Substitute

Most people understand the importance of having a Will to handle the distribution of their assets upon death.  As described in our prior post (Trust Basics), when you use a Will as your primary estate planning tool, some of your assets have to pass through the formal court process (called probate) before they can be distributed to your designated beneficiaries.  The good news is that there is an estate planning tool that, when used correctly, completely cuts out the need for probate:  the revocable trust. A revocable trust is commonly referred to as a “Will substitute” because the trust can be...

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Trust Basics

Trusts can be an extremely useful and important part of your estate plan depending on your circumstances and needs. There are three parties to any trust.  First, the Grantor is the person who creates the trust and transfers property to the trust (also commonly referred to as settlor, trustor or trust maker). Second, the Beneficiaries are those individuals who will receive the benefits (i.e. income and principal) of the trust. Finally, the Trustee is the person who holds and administers the trust property for the benefit of the beneficiaries. The trustee has a lot of responsibilities and must comply with a...

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Wills Part 2: What Assets are Controlled by Your Will?

Last week we introduced the Will, identified what it is and why every adult should have one.  This week we will discuss what assets are controlled by a Will and the importance of asset titling.  A common misconception about Wills is that your Will controls the disposition of all of your assets upon death regardless of how those assets are titled when, in fact, it is the titling of those assets that actually controls their disposition. When it comes to understanding how assets are distributed upon death, it helps to group assets into two main categories: “Probate” assets and “Non-Probate” assets.  Probate...

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Wills Part 1: What is a Will and who needs one?

A Will, formally called a “Last Will and Testament”, is probably the most well-known estate planning document.  Most people know that a Will is the document where you designate in writing your wishes for how your assets should be distributed upon your death.  Your wishes can include specific gifts of tangible personal property to individuals, monetary gifts to people or charities, all the way down to a specific bequest of your beloved pet to a trusted friend or family member.  In addition to controlling the disposition of assets, a Will serves a few other important functions. In the Will, you get...

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What is a Power of Attorney? Why Do You Need One?

Most of us have heard the term “power of attorney” and understand generally what that means. Put simply, a power of attorney is a legal document where you can choose the people you want to have the authority to make financial related decisions for you when you no longer have the mental capacity to do so. A power of attorney can be established in many forms (e.g., limited, general or statutory). This blog post is about the general power of attorney (GPOA) because it is a critical component of your overall estate plan. The people you designate to make financial related...

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The Advance Directive: What is it? Why Do You Need It?

What exactly is an advance directive?  In the simplest of terms, an advance directive is your way of retaining some control over decisions about your health care even after you no longer have the mental or physical capacity to do so.  This is accomplished by designating in writing who you want to act on your behalf as your health care agents and designating in writing your wishes with regard to the use of specific treatment if you are diagnosed with certain medical conditions. That is the purpose of the Advance Directive.      An Advance Directive typically contains three parts.  Part A...

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Top Ten Reasons to Re-Visit Your Estate Plan

Having an estate plan is one of the most important pieces of insurance you can put in place during your lifetime, but you will be doing yourself and your family a disservice if you simply “set it and forget it.”  It is a good practice to review your estate plan every 2 years or so to ensure it still adequately addresses all your concerns and goals.  Certain circumstances may require a change to your estate plan.  Here are the top 10 reasons why you may need to make a change to your current plan.  The marital status of you and/or your...

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Letters of Guidance to Guardians of Minor Children– An invaluable, but often overlooked, component of an estate plan that costs you nothing to prepare.

Imagine that you have just laid your beloved sister to rest.  While mourning the loss, the realization hits you that you are now entrusted with raising her two young children in her absence.  From a legal standpoint, your sister’s Will allows you to obtain the court authority required for you to be able to make decisions on behalf of your niece and nephew. But what about their specific needs?  What type of education should they receive? How should you raise them from a religious standpoint?  These are specific details that would be extremely helpful for you, as your niece and...

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Sweetheart Wills- a sweet sentiment that may leave a bitter aftertaste

              Whether you’ve professed the words yourself or heard them on TV, most of us are familiar with the time-honored traditional marriage vows of "to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”  Marriage is considered a lifelong commitment where each spouse vows to provide and care for one another.  Contradictory to the vows, by signing sweetheart wills, you can continue to provide for your spouse even after you are “parted by death.”               Sweetheart wills are, simply put, nearly identically written wills...

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