Estate planning is a comprehensive area of law that encompasses planning for distribution of assets upon death, avoiding taxation of distributed property to the extent possible, and having a plan for financial and health care matters in the event of incapacity or illness.
Estate planning needs vary depending on your wealth, health, and your family situation. That’s why there’s no one size fits all approach. Below are some of the types of people who can benefit from an estate plan.
- Young Couples: With a new home or child comes the responsibility of having to plan for unforeseen events. The rules for intestate distribution (dying without a will) give a share of your estate to your minor children, an administrative burden on the surviving parent. Estate planning also allows you to nominate a guardian in the event of your death.
- “Blended” Families: Couples with children from previous marriages have a lot to think about when it comes to how to plan for managing and distributing property should a parent die.
- Same-Sex Couples: With the recognition that marriage is for everyone, married same-sex couples in Maryland can now take advantage of all the many protections afforded them. After the happy day make sure to review and revise any previous estate plan.
- Small Business Owners: Because so much of your wealth is tied up in your enterprise, planning is essential to make certain that your family will be taken care of in the event of your death.
- Individuals Nearing Retirement: It’s time to start thinking about issues of estate tax, asset management, and having agents in place to help you.
An estate plan is generally composed of several of the following:
- Wills: A document used to designate what happens to your property when you die. It also allows you to appoint a guardian for your minor children.
- Asset Titling | Property Ownership: The practice of planning for the use of real property, bank account ownership, beneficiary designations, life insurance, and other tools to protect and distribute assets.
- Powers of Attorney: Assigns someone to act for you with respect to financial and business matters if you are unable.
- Advance Directives: Allows you to make enforceable end-of-life decisions and appoint an agent to make health care decisions for you.
- Trusts: Complex agreements that hold property and control its distribution.
- Tax Planning: Minimizing estate, inheritance, and capital gains taxes.
- Business Succession Planning: Transferring ownership and continuing operations of a family business, and the associated business management, tax, retirement and estate planning issues.
- Long-Term Care Planning: Dealing with the expense of a long-term hospitalization or nursing home stay.
Other areas of practice that are estate related:
- Estate Administration | Probate: After death, carrying out the estate plan, or dealing with consequences of a bad plan or no plan.
- Estate Litigation: Using the courts to challenge the actions of a personal representative, the deceased, or of individuals who have mishandled estate property, or committed other kinds of fraud or abuse in the probate process.
- Guardianships of the Person and Property: When an individual has no designated agent to handle their affairs a circuit court action is taken to appoint a relative or friend to act on their behalf.