A comprehensive estate plan is a must if you own property, run a business, have children or other dependents, or simply want the peace of mind of making your final wishes known. Whether you are just beginning to get your affairs in order or are in the process of reviewing or updating existing documents, it is important to recognize that each state has its own rules on these matters, and Maryland is no exception.
What Should You Include in Your Will?
A will is perhaps the most well-known part of an estate plan. It includes details about how you want your property to be distributed after your death and how you would like to care and provide for minor children and other dependents. In your will, you can name an executor of your estate—this is the person who will be in charge of the administration of your estate. While the executor does not need to be a legal professional, some people choose to name a trusted person who has some familiarity with estate law.
Can You Avoid Probate?
The process by which an estate is settled is called probate. It can be costly, complex, and very time-consuming, especially if the deceased person did not have a will—this is called dying intestate, and the state gets to decide how to distribute your assets. Many people seek to avoid the hassles of probate, and Maryland law offers some options to do just that. You do not need to go through the probate process for property that is:
- Secured in a trust
- Jointly owned
- Is in an account that includes a “transfer on death” designation
There are also simplified probate procedures for smaller estates.
Do You Need Financial Power of Attorney?
Estate planning is not just about planning for after your death. There may be times in life when you are unable to act or make important choices. You can designate someone to make them on your behalf. A financial power of attorney gives rights to your agent to handle certain financial matters for you when you are unable to do so yourself. You can limit the amount of power he or she has and determine under what circumstances it is allowed.
What About Health Matters and End-of-Life Care?
You can also designate someone to make choices about your health care in the event that you are unable to decide for yourself. Often this is limited to critical care and end-of-life decisions, but drafting such documents ahead of time gives you the power to widen or limit their scope as you see fit. You also have the option of drafting a living will, detailing your preferences in a legally binding document.
Do You Have Additional Estate Planning Needs?
Our lives are complicated. Depending on your circumstances and preferences, your estate plan might also include:
- Funeral arrangements, which often can be pre-paid to ease the burden on your loved ones
- Provisions for your pets
- A comprehensive life insurance plan
- Plans for posthumous charitable donations
Attorneys and other estate-planning professionals can help ensure that nothing is overlooked.
How Can a Maryland Estate Planning Lawyer Help?
While it can be tempting to turn to DIY forms on the Internet, estate planning is not something you want to take risks with, especially since the laws are so nuanced and may change rapidly. Put your trust in a Maryland estate planning lawyer can help you put your best legal foot forward, so you can rest assured that the future of your family and other interests are in good hands.