Annapolis, Maryland Estate Planning Attorney
When it comes to your estate plan, you want to be sure that everything is carefully and properly planned, documented, and legally sound to avoid any hiccups down the road. After all, the whole idea of having an estate plan is to ensure your affairs are in order and your wishes are carried out exactly the way you intend after you pass away. Of course, this is not always as easy as it sounds, which makes having an experienced Maryland estate planning attorney a crucial part of the process.
As a seasoned estate planning lawyer in Annapolis, MD, Attorney Raymond E. Brown brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to assist clients in crafting comprehensive estate plans that reflect their unique wishes and protect their assets following their passing or incapacity. When you equip the help of our law firm, you’ll receive unparalleled advice and guidance from estate planning lawyers who are dedicated to safeguarding your legacy and ensuring peace of mind for you and your family. Whether you’re just starting to plan for your estate, looking to update an existing plan, or are simply curious about the ins and outs of estate planning in Maryland, our team at The Law Office of Raymond E. Brown is here for you.
To speak with one of our skilled Annapolis attorneys today, give us a call at (443) 554-9944 or complete our online intake form. We are more than happy to answer your questions and put you on the path to a secure and prosperous future.
What is an Estate Plan?
An estate plan is an important legal and financial strategy designed to manage and distribute an individual’s property, money, and assets after their passing. The main goal of an estate plan is to ensure the well-being and financial security of an individual’s family and loved ones and ensure their wishes are carried out after their death.
There are a number of reasons why people choose to equip themselves with an estate plan. For example, with a comprehensive estate plan in place, individuals can minimize estate taxes, avoid probate, and establish guardianship for minor children, all while providing a clear roadmap for their family to follow, reducing potential conflicts and uncertainty during what is often a very emotionally challenging time.
Overall, having an estate plan in place serves as a crucial tool to safeguard your legacy and provide financial stability for future generations.
Estate Planning Documents
A solid estate plan often involves a variety of legal documents, including things like wills, trusts, advance directives, and a power of attorney. These legal documents work to outline your wishes regarding the division of your assets, including real estate, investments, and personal belongings, as well as your wishes regarding healthcare in the event of incapacity.
We’ll touch on each of these key estate planning documents below.
A will, also known as a last will and testament, is a legal document that allows individuals to outline their wishes regarding the distribution of their assets and the appointment of guardians for minor children after their death.
To create a valid will in Maryland, the following requirements must be met:
- Capacity: The individual creating the will (called the testator) must be of sound mind and at least 18 years old.
- Writing: The will must be in writing, whether typed or handwritten, and signed by the testator.
- Signature: The testator’s signature must be at the end of the will, and it should be done in the presence of two or more credible witnesses who are not beneficiaries of the will.
- Witnessing: Witnesses must also sign the will in the presence of the testator and each other. The witness address and name must be legible.
Upon the testator’s death, the will is submitted to the county Register of Wills, which oversees the distribution of assets according to the terms of the will (provided it meets all legal requirements). If there is no valid will, the state’s intestacy laws dictate how the assets are distributed.
It’s important to periodically review and update your will to reflect changing circumstances and ensure that it accurately reflects your wishes. Working with an experienced Annapolis will attorney like Raymond E. Brown can be extremely beneficial when it comes to ensuring your will is legally sound and accomplishes your desired objectives.
A trust is another important document in the realm of estate planning. A trust allows a person (called the grantor) to transfer the title/ownership of their assets, such as property, investments, or money, to a separate entity (the trust) managed by a trustee for the benefit of specific individuals or entities (the beneficiaries).
Trusts in Maryland generally operate as follows:
- Creation: The grantor creates a trust by drafting a legal document that outlines its terms and conditions. This document should name a trustee, the beneficiaries, and details regarding how the assets within the trust should be managed and distributed.
- Trust Funding: The grantor transfers assets into the trust, which then becomes the legal owner of said assets. Depending on the type of trust in question, the grantor may retain control over certain assets during their lifetime.
- Management: Trustees manage the trust’s assets according to the instructions provided in the document. It is their legal duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and follow the grantor’s wishes.
- Beneficiary Benefits: The trust document must specify when and how the named beneficiaries will receive distributions or benefits from the trust.
- Termination: Trusts can be designed to last for a set period, indefinitely, or until specific conditions are met. When the trust reaches its termination point, the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries as outlined in the trust document.
Trusts in Maryland are governed by state laws, including the Maryland Trust Act, which provides the legal framework for trust creation and trust administration. Different types of trusts, such as revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, charitable trusts, special needs trusts, and even pet trusts in Maryland have specific requirements and tax implications that should be carefully considered when creating an estate plan.
An advance directive is a legal document that allows individuals to express their healthcare preferences and make decisions regarding medical treatment in the event they become unable to communicate their wishes due to incapacitation. In Maryland, an advance directive combines two key components: the living will and the appointment of a healthcare agent, also known as a healthcare proxy.
- Living Will: A living will is a written document that outlines an individual’s preferences regarding specific medical treatments, such as life-sustaining treatments, feeding tubes, or resuscitation, under particular circumstances. (i.e., terminal illness or a persistent vegetative state).
- Healthcare Proxy: In addition to the living will, Maryland allows individuals to appoint a healthcare agent or proxy. This is often a trusted family member or friend who is authorized to make medical decisions on their behalf when they are unable to do so.
To create an advance directive in Maryland, the individual must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. The advance directive must also be written, signed by the individual, and dated in the presence of two adult witnesses.
Maryland law requires healthcare facilities to inquire about the existence of advance directives and to honor them. Healthcare providers are legally obligated to follow the instructions provided in the advance directive, assuming it is valid and applicable to the medical situation. It is important to communicate the existence of an advance directive to healthcare providers and family members and keep copies easily accessible, such as through DocuBank.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) is yet another powerful legal document that grants one person (known as the agent or attorney-in-fact) the authority to make financial, legal, and healthcare decisions on behalf of another person (the principal) under specific circumstances. In Maryland, as in most states, a power of attorney is a valuable tool for individuals who want to ensure that their financial and legal affairs are managed according to their wishes, especially if they become incapacitated or unable to make decisions on their own.
Here’s how a general overview of how power of attorney works in Maryland:
- Creation: To establish a power of attorney in Maryland, the principal must create a written document outlining the powers granted to the agent. This document can be general, giving broad authority, or specific, assigning limited powers for certain tasks. The principal must sign and date the document in front of a notary public or two adult witnesses.
- Agent’s Role: The agent’s authority comes into effect when specific conditions or triggers specified in the POA document are met. For instance, these conditions may include the principal’s incapacitation or a specific date.
- Durable vs. Non-Durable: In Maryland, a power of attorney can be durable, meaning it remains in effect even if the principal becomes incapacitated, or non-durable, terminating if the principal becomes incapacitated. Durable powers of attorney are commonly used for long-term planning to address potential future incapacity.
- Revocation: The principal can revoke or change the power of attorney at any time, as long as they are still mentally competent. They should notify the agent and any relevant institutions (i.e. financial institutions) of the revocation.
It’s essential to consult with a Maryland power of attorney lawyer when creating this document so as to ensure that it complies with state regulations and serves your best interests.
Why is an Estate Plan Important?
Having an estate plan in place is extremely important because it allows individuals to create specific instructions for the management and distribution of their assets upon their passing. This powerful tool works to ensure that their hard-earned money and possessions are distributed according to their wishes, which in many cases, means protecting the financial security of their families. Without an estate plan, assets may be subject to lengthy and costly court proceedings, often resulting in an outcome that doesn’t align with the individual’s intentions.
Not only that, but having an estate plan can give your family peace of mind during emotionally challenging times, as it not only streamlines the probate process but also minimizes potential conflicts among heirs. What’s mroe, it can also help mitigate estate taxes and protect assets from creditors.
What Does an Estate Planning Lawyer Do?
An estate planning lawyer is a legal professional who specializes in providing a range of essential legal services related to the creation and management of trusts, wills, and other estate planning documents. Their primary role is to help clients prepare for the proper transfer of their assets to beneficiaries while minimizing potential conflicts and tax obligations. At The Law Office of Raymond E. Brown, our Maryland estate planning lawyers possess a deep knowledge of state and federal laws governing estates and trusts. We use this knowledge to advise our clients on the most appropriate and beneficial strategies for their unique situations.
Our attorneys work closely with clients to draft legally sound wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and other important legal documents that perfectly align with their intentions. We are also prepared to assist your family in navigating the probate process, guiding beneficiaries through court proceedings when necessary.
Estate planning lawyers like our own must use common sense and a practical approach to develop comprehensive estate plans that protect client’s interests as well as the interests of their loved ones. In cases of trust and estate litigation, we can also represent clients in court to resolve disputes and ensure the rightful distribution of assets.
Do I Need an Estate Plan?
Whether you’re a millennial or a boomer, single or married, have a complex estate or have a relatively simple estate, having an estate plan in place can be absolutely invaluable. It’s important to keep in mind that estate planning isn’t solely about wealth distribution; it’s about ensuring that your wishes are respected and your loved ones are provided for in the event of incapacity or your passing.
A well-crafted estate plan can clarify the management of assets, appoint guardians for minor children, and make healthcare decisions on your behalf. For those with more complex estates or business interests, estate planning becomes even more critical, as it can help minimize tax liabilities, protect business assets, and facilitate a smoother transition of ownership. In essence, estate planning is a proactive measure that offers financial security and peace of mind to individuals of all ages and walks of life.
For Advice and Assistance From an Experienced Annapolis Estate Planning Lawyer, Call The Law Office of Raymond E. Brown Today
If you’re in search of a trusted partner in securing you and your family’s legacy through comprehensive estate planning, look no further than our dedicated team of attorneys at The Law Office of Raymond E. Brown. With a deep understanding of estate planning, trust administration, and related practice areas combined with a commitment to putting the interests of each client first, Raymond E. Brown offers superior estate planning services in Annapolis, MD and the surrounding areas.
Don’t wait to take the crucial steps in safeguarding your assets and ensuring a seamless future for your loved ones. Contact The Law Office of Raymond E. Brown today to embark on your estate planning journey and build a lasting legacy that reflects your values and priorities. Give us a call at (443) 554-9944 or reach out online to get started today. You can also find out more information by watching our online webinar.