Will & Estate Planning
Planning your estate and making sure that the estate of a loved one is properly settled are matters of the utmost importance to you and your family.
In order to ensure that your needs are met, dedicated and personal attention is provided in all phases of estate planning and administration. With over 30 years of experience you can expect to receive hand-tailored guidance and documentation built specifically to meet your individual goals.
A will or testament is a legal document by which a person, the testator, expresses his or her wishes as to how his or her property is to be distributed at death, and names one or more persons, the executor, to manage the estate until its final distribution.
An advance medical directive is a legal document in which you are authorizing another individual to act as decision maker for situations where the client is unable to consent to treatment due to incompetency, disability or unconsciousness. This document is broken down into two parts. Part A has to do with simply consenting to treatment when a client is expected to survive. Part B has to do with end of life decision making processes when there’s no expectation of survival, such as whether you want life support, nutrition or pain medicine that may shorten your expected date of death.
A financial power of attorney is a legal document in which you are authorizing another individual to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf. Anything from opening/closing accounts, buying/selling property, filing lawsuits, withdrawing funds, etc. This document usually is used when a person is later deemed incompetent or disabled, but may also be used while the client is alive and well. You should be very careful with who you select to act as your power of attorney because of the potential for financial abuse.
An interest in land that lasts only for the life of the holder. Thus, the holder of a life estate cannot leave the land to anyone in their will, because their interest in the land does not survive the person. The holder of a life estate has a full right to possess the land or transfer their interest during their lifetime, but must refrain from engaging in waste activity which would prevent the next person in line from putting the property to full use.
A life estate is created by a deed that gives the land to the person “for life” and identifies what should happen to it after that person dies. For example, a deed stating that land would go “to John Doe for life, then to Jane Doe” gives John a valid life estate, and Jane a remainder. John could use the land during his lifetime, and even sell his interest to a third party, but that third party would have to surrender the property to Jane upon John’s death.
Administration of estates refers to management and settlement of estates of an intestate. Intestate is a person who dies without a legal will. Administration of estates is usually done under court supervision by appointing a person duly qualified and legally appointed. The person so appointed is called an administrator. The administrator is responsible for administering and settling the estate pursuant to the state statutory rules of descent and distribution. The responsibilities of an administrator include:
1. the collection of decedents’ assets;
2. payment of debts and claims against the estate;
3. payment of estate taxes;
4. distribution of remainder of the estate among those entitled thereto.
Alternatives, such as powers of attorney for handling money and property and advance directives for health care decisions are better ways to deal with these issues. However, if the disabled person has not made those plans and documents before becoming disabled, there may be no choice except a petition for appointment of a guardian. Even if you do not make an Advance Directive for Health Care decisions, Maryland law provides for medical decisions to be made by family members or close friends in some situations without appointment of a guardian.
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