Estate planning in Maryland and the District of Columbia is not just for those in mid-life or for seniors. One important reason for this is that estate planning is not just about creating and executing a Last Will & Testament. There are several other important documents that should be considered and drafted that are just as important for those just starting a career or building a new family.
Last Will & Testament
As noted, a Last Will & Testament is a crucial estate planning document. Essentially, a Will specifies how you want your property divided among family, friends, charitable organization, pour-over trusts and others upon your passing. Other matters identified in a Will might express preferences for custody of minor children and pets. Often, a Will also expresses how you want other matters handled such as burial and funeral preferences. Finally, a Will generally also identifies who the deceased wants as their Personal Representative to wind up affairs.
But, other estate planning documents should also be considered including these:
- Trusts established before death as an alternative to trusts created through a Will
- Powers of attorney for property
- Health care Advance Directives (also called health care powers of attorney)
These types of estate planning documents are important because they can become operative before death during a time when a person is incapacitated or otherwise unable to handle his/her affairs. These documents are important for younger persons. Here is a quick primer on these estate planning documents.
Living and other types of trusts
Under Maryland and DC laws, it is possible to create various types of trust that can be used to manage property and financial affairs. A Trust is generally created by a document which creates the Trust which can act legally as an artificial entity – like a corporation. A Trustee is appointed to manage the assets – like a personal residence or rental property – on behalf of beneficiaries. One advantage of a trust like this is that affairs will be managed – by the Trustee – if there is a medical or other incapacity. Trusts also have the advantages of avoiding probate proceedings in some cases and there may be certain tax advantages.
Property powers of attorney
A power of attorney is a document that designates someone to act on behalf of another with respect to whatever the power of attorney allows under the conditions specified. Thus, a parent might sign and properly execute a property power of attorney granting a daughter the right to access to certain financial accounts if the parent is medically incapacitated.
Advance Directives for health care
Advance Directives for health care are similar to property powers of attorney except they apply to health care decisions when there is medical incapacitation. A person is designated as your “Health Care Agent” and will act and make health care decisions if a person is unable to act on their own behalf. Further, in the Directive, a person can specify what medical treatments that are wanted and what treatments are not wanted. An example might be a statement that a person does NOT want to be placed on life support machines like a ventilator for breathing.
Maryland and D.C. Trust and Estate Planning Attorneys
If you need estate planning documents drafted, contact the Maryland and DC trust and estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl. We have the experience and expertise you need. Schedule a consultation today or call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280.