Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Planning for Accident or Illness

MP900314367It is impossible to know whether you will ever have an accident or have an illness that will leave you incapacitated.  However, you can easily plan for dealing with it should it happen.

Most people generally understand that the older they get, the more likely they are to suffer from cognitive decline because of Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia. As people get older, they often begin to prepare for what will happen if their time comes and they become incapacitated.

What people do not think about is that elder dementia is not the only way people can become incapacitated. There are no age requirements for disabling accidents or illnesses. Everyone, no matter their age, should plan for what would happen if they are incapacitated. It is not difficult to do, as TC Palm discusses in "Be as prepared as you can by planning for incapacity."

To get started, schedule an appointment with an estate planning attorney. The attorney can prepare the necessary documents for incapacity.

You will need a general durable power of attorney, so someone else has the authority to handle your day-to-day finances. A health care power of attorney will allow someone else to make your health care decisions. A living will lets you decide ahead of time what medical means can be taken to prolong your life.

Consider taking another step at the attorney’s office and get an estate plan, just in case an accident or illness does more than incapacitate you.  A thorough estate plan prepares you and your loved ones for illness and death.

Reference: TC Palm (Feb. 20, 2018) "Be as prepared as you can by planning for incapacity."


Duke’s Will to Be Unsealed

image from commons.wikimedia.orgThe Duke of Windsor's will has been sealed since his death in 1972. The will of the man once known as King Edward VIII has been ordered unsealed, so copyrights can be determined for a television show.

It is considered one of the biggest acts of romantic love in modern history. King Edward VIII of England abdicated the throne in 1936, so he could marry a divorced American woman named Wallis Simpson.

His title changed from the king to the Duke of Windsor. He passed away in 1972.

The contents of his will were quickly sealed by the court and have never been made public, despite great public and historical interest in them. People are curious whether the will might shed any light on the man's decision to abdicate.

A court in the U.K. has now ruled that the will is to be unsealed as the Daily Mail reports in "Duke of Windsor's will to be unsealed at last… but only so The Crown's writers can get their facts straight."

The Duke's will is only to be unsealed for a limited purpose.

The writers of the Netflix show The Crown would like to use the duke's letters in their show. However, they first need to know who owns the copyrights to those letters, so they can get the necessary permissions to use them.

It is not likely the will's other details will be made public.

For a former king's will to be sealed, is probably a simple matter.

For other people, it is much more difficult since wills are generally a matter of public knowledge.

People who would like to keep their estates private, should see an estate planning attorney for more information about how to do that.

Reference: Daily Mail (Nov. 15, 2017) "Duke of Windsor's will to be unsealed at last… but only so The Crown's writers can get their facts straight."


Trusts Are Cheaper Than Wills

If you are looking to save money on your estate plan, then you might think that you should get a will  since they are cheaper to get than a trust. However, trusts are actually cheaper overall. MP900403058[1]

Estate planning can be expensive for some people. Estate planning attorneys do not always come cheap and not everyone thinks they can afford to hire one.

In most cases, a will is less expensive to get than a trust.  This is because trusts normally require more of the attorney's time to draft. This leads many people to get wills to save time and money.

The problem with is that a will is more expensive overall than a trust, as the Times Herald-Record explained in "Trusts will cost you less at settlement time."

When someone passes away, someone must then administer either the will or the trust to make sure that property is distributed as the deceased directed.

Using a will requires going to probate court and having an executor, who can charge for the service, go through the process of administering the estate.

On the other hand, using a trust means that a trustee, who can also charge for the service, is required to distribute everything.

The trustee normally does not have to go to court, which makes it a much faster process. The speed means that the trustee may charge much less overall.

In the end, the trustee may be a lot cheaper than any money that might have been saved by getting a will instead of a trust.

When getting an estate plan created, it is important to use the instruments that work best for your situation. Do not be afraid to get a trust because of the initial expense.

It just may be cheaper in the long run.

Reference: Times Herald-Record (August 2, 2017) "Trusts will cost you less at settlement time."


Online Wills Are Dangerous

MP900411753[2]You can create a will by purchasing a form online and filing it out.  However, it makes no sense to do so.

One of the biggest questions people have about estate planning today, is whether they should use one of the several online legal document services.

These services allow people to purchase forms they can download and fill out for themselves that purport to be legal documents. Many people have made their own wills this way.

The problem is that there is no actual advantage to creating a will this way, as MoneySense pointed out in "Danger of DIY Wills."

The one advantage people think these online wills have is that they are cheaper than going to an estate planning attorney. However, that is not really the case.

 It is true that you might be able to save a few hundred dollars now by doing things yourself. If there are any problems with the documents you purchased after you pass away, then your estate is going to pay thousands of dollars, a lot more money, to attorneys to sort out the problems.  This will dwarf any "savings" you might have had from drafting the document yourself.  

There are almost always problems with form wills.

The source of the problems is always the same.

You are not an expert.

You might think you know what the best legal options are for your estate, but you are almost certainly wrong.

Do not be offended by that.

Unless you happen to be a surgeon, you do not know how to take out your own appendix either. Estate planning requires expertise every bit as much as surgery.

Reference: MoneySense (July 14, 2017) "Danger of DIY Wills."


Why Trusts Are Better Than Wills

Wills-trusts-and-estates-covered[1]Most estate planning attorneys believe that trusts are generally a better way to distribute an estate than wills. It is important to know the reasons why that is.

If you spend any time at all talking to estate planning attorneys or researching estate planning online, it will not be long before you hear that trusts are usually better than wills for estates. This has become such a truism, that even many non-attorneys instinctively suggest a trust when a friend asks them about estate plans.

While it should be noted that trusts are not always better, it is true that they almost always are. Particularly, in Maryland and the District of Columbia, which have Maryland estate taxes and DC estate taxes, which are lower than  federal estate taxes, trusts are especially helpful.

Recently, Wicked Local Norwood listed some reasons why that is the case in “Five Ways in which a trust is better than a will,” including:

  • With a trust you can avoid probate, which can be expensive and time-consuming. Most wills have to go through probate court.
  • A trust can be drafted that protects your beneficiaries from creditors. If you give heirs money outright in a will, then any creditors they have can go after that money. Trusts avoid this problem.
  • Special needs trusts can be used to give assets to people with disabilities without making them ineligible for government benefits.
  • Trusts can be used to reduce estate taxes in ways that are impossible to do with wills.
  • With a trust, you can leave assets for minor children that are managed by a third-party without the unnecessary intervention of probate courts.

All that noted, wills have the benefit of a neutral judge overseeing the process and “testamentary trusts” can be created under wills that accomplish the same ends as those available through a revocable living trust that avoids probate.

Regardless, consult with a qualified estate planning attorney to evaluate the best approach for your unique circumstances.

Reference: Wicked Local Norwood (May 14, 2017) “Five Ways in which a trust is better than a will.”


The Core of Estate Planning

MP900178564[1]If you feel overwhelmed about planning your estate, it might be helpful to remember what is at the core of estate planning. It is a way to transfer assets.

Estate planning can be and do many different things. It can provide for the care of minor children. It can be a way to let people know that you love them. It can create a charitable legacy.

In fact, there are so many things estate planning can be and do that may people get overwhelmed thinking about all of them. As a result, they do not create estate plans.

At its core, however, estate planning is not that complicated. Estate planning can be as simple as transferring your assets after death.

As the Times Herald-Record explains in "Transferring assets upon death," there are four main ways to do that, including:

  • Wills – In a will you state who should get your assets and appoint someone to be in charge of making sure that your wishes are carried out. Wills have to be approved by a probate court.
  • Joint Ownership – If you have assets in joint ownership with another person, then by law when you pass away the joint owner becomes the sole owner of the asset.
  • Beneficiary Designations – For life insurance policies, retirement accounts and savings accounts, you name a specific beneficiary to receive the assets after you pass away. A court does not need to approve the designation.
  • Trusts – With a trust, you state how your assets should be handled, appoint someone to handle them and name the people for whose benefit the assets will be handled.

How do you know which approach or approaches are best for your circumstances? Contact an experienced estate planning attorney.

Reference: Times Herald-Record (March 15, 2017) "Transferring assets upon death."


Using a Pour Over Will to Fund a Trust

Bigstock-Beautiful-woman-looking-throug-20311445[1]When you get a living trust from an estate planning attorney you will likely also get a pour over will that is designed to bequeath any assets you have when you pass away into your trust. It is important not to rely on that will as the sole means of funding your trust.

Getting a trust to avoid having your estate go through probate is only effective if you fund the trust. That means your assets need to be transferred into the trust. Any assets held in the trust when you pass away will then be used and distributed according to the terms of the trust instead of having to go through probate.

At the same time, you will also likely get a pour over will.

These are simple wills that dictate that any assets you had at the time of death that are not in the trust should be placed into it via probate.

Do not let that fool you into thinking you do not need to transfer assets to the trust now and just rely on your will as the Green Bay Press-Gazette points out in "Estate Planner: Importance of funding your trust."

While the exact rules vary from state to state, it does not take a lot of assets to require an estate to go through probate.

If all of your assets remain outside of your trust, then your executor has to probate your pour over will. By relying on the will you would have essentially defeated the purpose of getting the living trust in the first place.

If you do not know how to transfer assets into your trust or need assistance doing so, then talk to your estate planning attorney to get more information about what you need to do.  We help clients, who want Maryland living trust fund at Profit Law Firm.

Reference: Green Bay Press Gazette (Oct. 31, 2016) "Estate Planner: Importance of funding your trust."


One Document Parents Must Have

MP900289365[1]Parents with small children want nothing more than to make sure their children are taken care of no matter what happens. A will is an essential document to do that.

There is something about bringing a new life into the world that changes most people. A new child causes most of us to change from being mostly concerned about our own well-being to being mostly concerned about the well-being of someone else.

This change has been much remarked on and studied. It appears to be almost universal for humans.

People who would not have previously sacrificed their own desires become willing to sacrifice for their children. However, what many young parents do not do is to make plans for how to take care of their children should something happen to the parents.

This is a mistake as Nerdwallet explains in "Protect Your Family by Writing a Will."

Parents who want to make sure their children are taken care of, if the parents pass away, need a will. Two important things can be done with a will. First, in a will parents can make sure their children are taken care of financially. Second, and most importantly, a will is the proper legal document for parents to express their wishes about who should act as guardians for their minor children.

The guardian is the person tasked with taking care of the day-to-day needs of the child. Parents who want to have a say in who rears their children need to have a will.

There are other estate planning documents that can be helpful for parents with young children. Accordingly, every parent needs a will and every parent should talk to an estate planning attorney about other important legal documents that might be useful given their own unique family circumstances.

Reference: Nerdwallet (Sept. 19, 2016) "Protect Your Family by Writing a Will."


Avoiding Estate Mistakes

Bigstock-Elder-Couple-With-Bills-3557267[1]If you do not have an Maryland estate plan or have a bad plan, then it is likely that your loved ones will have a more difficult time than necessary inheriting your wealth. Fortunately, for most people getting a good Maryland estate plan is easier than they often think.

One of the many reasons people in Maryland put off planning for their estates is that they imagine it is much more difficult to do than it really is. For most people a good Maryland estate plan follows a simple formula. They need to decide who they want to inherit their property, hire an experienced Maryland estate planning attorney and have the appropriate documents drawn up.

Recently, Kiplinger wrote about four steps to take in “4 Strategies to Avoid an Estate-Planning Mishap.”

They include:

  • Get a basic will that details who you want to have your property and what they should have.
  • Create a living trust and put your most important assets in it. With a trust in place most of your estate will not need to go through probate after you pass away, which makes things much easier on your family.
  • Make sure all of your financial accounts are properly titled. Some you might want to put in your new trust. For others you can make them payable on death so they will automatically go to a person of your designation after you pass away.
  • Consider getting a life insurance policy. If your family is in need of cash after you pass away, they will have access to it through the life insurance benefit. This is a good way to make sure that your family has what it needs while waiting for your estate to be legally settled.

A qualified Maryland estate planning attorney can help you design – and implement –  a Maryland estate plan appropriate for your unique circumstances.

Reference: Kiplinger (Aug. 2016) “4 Strategies to Avoid an Estate-Planning Mishap.”


Estate Planning Documents You Need

Attractive Mixed Race Couple SmilingEveryone needs an estate plan, and every estate plan will contain a mix of different documents depending on the complexity of the estate assets and individual preferences. However, there are a few documents that everyone needs.

Estate plans come in all shapes and sizes. Some are extraordinarily complex and contain thousands of pages of legal documents. Other estate plans contain only a few basic documents. One of the interesting things about estate plans is the documents that make up the simplest estate plans are also part of the most advanced plans. These documents are the basic framework of estate plans. The Chicago Tribune recently discussed what these basic documents are in “Documents you need before you die or become incapacitated.” They include:

  • Will – At its core a will is simply a legal document that declares how a deceased person’s property that is not disposed of by any other legal means should be handled.
  • General Durable Power of Attorney – A standard document that allows a person to determine who should handle his or her finances in case of incapacity.
  • Health Care Power of Attorney – Similar to the other power of attorney, but it allows for someone else to make medical decisions for an incapacitated person.
  • Living Will – Gives prior instructions to medical personnel about what means should be used to prolong a person’s life in the event that the person is terminally ill with no chance of recovery and unable to give instructions at the time.

Meet with an estate planning attorney at Profit Law Firm, PLLC to determine what additional documents you may need.

Reference: Chicago Tribune (July 25, 2016) “Documents you need before you die or become incapacitated