Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Avoiding Probate

MP900442275[1]One of the most common questions that people have about estate planning, is how to avoid probate. You probably cannot do so entirely, but you can make it quick and painless.

For most people, the word “probate” conjures up nightmare scenarios of protracted estate battles that cost lots of money and tear families apart. It is an ugly word for most people.

As a result, most people generally want to avoid having their estates go through probate.

In fact, one of the most frequently asked questions of estate planning attorneys is how to avoid probate, as Forbes points out in “Probate, Wills, Executors: Your Estate Planning Questions Answered.”

It is important to understand that probate is merely the type of court that a will or an estate without a will has to go through.

Most of the time, it is a relatively simple process, especially with the assistance of an estate attorney. However, there are times when it can be long and expensive, so the desire to want to avoid it are not unjustified.

The key is to have an estate plan that utilizes instruments that do not have to go through probate. The most typical of these are trusts, but there are other more complex legal instruments that can also be used. Find out more about the basics of trust and wills, click here.

However, even the most airtight probate avoidance estate plan might have to go through the probate process briefly.

All estate plans should have at least a simple pour-over will that directs any unaccounted for assets into a previously created trust.

If there are enough unaccounted for assets, they will need to go through probate.  However, the process should be quick and easy.

Reference: Forbes (April 7, 2017) “Probate, Wills, Executors: Your Estate Planning Questions Answered.”


What You Might Have Wrong About Wills and Trusts

Bigstock-Financial-consultant-presents--14508974[1]Although wills and trusts have been standard legal documents for a long time, many people still have misconceptions about them.

Estate planning can be complicated by the fact that many people have misconceptions about the basics of wills and trusts and what having either one of them means. This problem is compounded by the Internet as people who are wrong, often share their misconceptions with other people online. The result is more confusion.

Recently, TCPalm discussed common misconceptions in "Common misconceptions about wills and trusts," including:

  • Having a will means that your estate does not have to go through probate. This is completely false. In most cases, wills have to be submitted to a probate court for administration in both Maryland and the District of Columbia.
  • If your estate is not large enough to pay the estate tax, then you do not need to have a will or trust. This is another falsehood since there are many other reasons to have a will or trust. The most important is that if you do not, then all of your property will be distributed according to statutory rules instead of how you might have preferred it to be distributed.
  • By putting your assets in a revocable trust, you lose the ability to have any control over the assets. This is not true. If you are the trustee of your trust and the trust is drafted properly, then you will still be able to do whatever you want with your assets during your lifetime.
  • You have to file a separate tax return for your revocable trust. This is also not true. As long as your trust is properly drafted, a revocable trust will not be considered a separate legal entity during your lifetime and you will not need to file a separate tax return for it.
  • Another misconception about revocable trusts is that they reduce your tax burden.  They do not.  Some irrevocable trusts do that. Call Profit Law Firm for a consultation and advice on using revocable trusts and  irrevocable trusts.

Talk to a qualified estate planning attorney who will be more than happy to educate you on the realities of estate planning.

Reference: TCPalm (Dec. 2, 2016) "Common misconceptions about wills and trusts."


Trusts – What Different Types of Trusts Exist?

Business_meeting[1]Learning about trusts can sometimes be difficult as there are several different types of trusts that you can get that are designed to do different things.

When attorneys talk about trusts they often end up confusing laypersons with all of the legal jargon. There are many different types of trusts out there and each type has its own terminology. This legalese can be difficult for the uninitiated to understand.

This is a problem for people who would like to set up a trust. They need to know what it is their attorneys are talking about so they can choose the right type of trust.

Recently, the Motley Fool discussed some common trust types in "Navigating the World of Trust Funds: Your Quick Guide," including:

  • Revocable Living Trusts – These are trusts the settlor (the person who creates the trust) can easily dissolve. If circumstances change, assets in the trust can be removed and a different trust can be created. These trusts avoid probate.  They do not reduce taxes.
  • Irrevocable Trusts – These trusts cannot be revoked. They often have estate tax benefits, while revocable trusts don't.
  • Credit Shelter Trusts – While not as useful as they used to be, these trusts still offer a good way to avoid some estate taxes. They are particularly useful in Maryland and DC, which currently have state estate taxes for estates greater than $2million and $1 million. Assets in the trust are held for the benefit of children normally, but a spouse can still use those assets while he or she is alive. The assets are not counted as part of the spouse's estate for tax purposes.
  • Generation-skipping Trusts – These trusts are created for the benefit of grandchildren instead of children. This is normally done for estate tax purposes, but the trusts need to be set up by experts to avoid other tax issues.
  • Qualified Personal Residence Trusts – These very specific trusts are a way to pass a home on to heirs while minimizing estate and gift taxes on the home.

When it comes to deciding which trust “flavor,” if any, is appropriate for you, be sure to contact a qualified estate planning attorney.

Reference: Motley Fool (Sept. 18, 2016) "Navigating the World of Trust Funds: Your Quick Guide."

Suggested Key Words: Estate Planning, Trusts

Do You Need a Revocable Living Trust in Maryland?

Bigstock-Financial-consultant-presents--14508974[1]Contrary to popular belief estate planning is not one-size fits all and not everyone needs a revocable living trust. However, they are a good option for many people.

When you start asking around for estate planning advice, you will probably find the first thing many non-experts say about it is that you need to get a revocable living trust. They are extremely popular instruments and articles abound on the Internet extolling their virtues. They are so popular that a common belief is that everyone should get one.

That noted, they do have drawbacks and these drawbacks might make some people decide to go another route. Contrary to popular belief, revocable living trusts do not offer tax protection.  Different trust and estate planning tools can be used to reduce tax liability.  Another drawback, is that revocable living trust give take assets out of probate, and sometimes you lose valuable benefits found in probate.  For example, in Maryland, creditos can only come after assets in the estate for six months after death, versus the usual three year period.  Placing assets in revocable trusts take them out of probate and give them longer exposure to unwarranted creditor claims.

Specifically, the Motley Fool looked at the benefits and drawbacks of revocable living trusts in "Is a Revocable Living Trust Right for You?"

The biggest benefit of a revocable living trust is that your primary assets, as long as they are transferred into the trust, do not have to go through probate when you pass away. As probate can be an expensive and time-consuming experience, this can make handling your estate much easier for your heirs.  In Maryland, probate is relatively inexpensive and less lenghty, so some people may find it to their benefit to be in probate.  Probate is also normally a public process, but if you have a trust you can keep your estate details private. Probate is public in Maryland and DC.  Finally, should you become incapacitated a successor trustee can take over your finances instead of having to go through court to get a guardian.

On the other hand, trusts can be more expensive to set up than other estate planning instruments, but they might save your estate money in the long run depending on probate costs. Transferring assets into your trust can also be very time-consuming depending on what you own. Having a revocable living trust also does not mean you do not need a will. You will still need a simple will to deal with anything left out of the trust.  If you want a consultation on whether  revocable living trust is right for you, contact the Profit Law Firm.

Reference: Motley Fool (Sept. 10, 2016) "Is a Revocable Living Trust Right for You?"