Will your loved ones be taken care of after you are gone?
Although estate planning may be uncomfortable for many people to think about, the truth is that it is necessary to protect your family.
In fact, approximately 7 out of 10 people in Maryland will die without having a proper will in place to inform everyone what to do with their money, possessions, property, and even possibly minor children in the event they pass away.
Today we are going to look at an overview of what estate planning involves and how your Maryland estate planning attorney can alleviate many of the challenges that you may face.
Maryland Estate Planning
There is a lot to estate planning that the average person does not know about or fully understand. For instance, you may not even know why you should have an estate plan in place.
What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is the arrangement of a person’s assets during a person’s life, at death, and after death. This plan may include many things such as:
- How to manage the estate in the case of medical incapacity
- Determination of administrators of the estate plan in the case of incapacity or death
- Designation of guardians for minor children
- Decisions regarding beneficiaries in relation to all assets
- such as gift, estate generation skipping transfer, and income taxes
Estate planning can be quite complex and confusing, especially if you have a number of properties, investments, or beneficiaries. That is why one of the most important first steps in deciding the fate of your estate is to consider hiring an experienced estate planning attorney in Maryland.
8 Important Reasons You Need to Start Your Estate Planning Today
Estate planning involves many steps and often requires the expertise of a seasoned estate planning attorney to help you and your family with your planning needs.
Let’s look at the most common estate planning steps and considerations your Maryland attorney will likely guide you through as you arrange for your final days and tailor your estate plan to protect your beneficiaries.
1. Draft a Will: Protect Yourself and Those You Love
There are several reasons why drafting a will is a good idea, such as:
- Wills make sorting out your assets easier on family and friends after you pass away. Without one, the process can be time-consuming, costly, and stressful.
- Without a will, a court will distribute your assets according to Maryland law. This may not fall in line with your final wishes.
- Wills can lower possible inheritance taxes. Those are taxes that may be payable on the value of the property and money you leave behind.
- Wills can secure the future of any minor children you may have as well as any family that depends on you financially. This also includes if you wish to leave money to those outside out of your family.
Discussing your decisions with your Maryland estate planning lawyer will ensure every detail is thoroughly and objectively considered to prevent emotions from taking over.
Having an attorney review your will can also ensure that everything stated in there will be upheld in the Maryland court system.
2. Sign Advance Directives
Unlike the will discussed above, Advance Directives determine how your health care provider can care for you in the event you are unable to make your own medical decisions.
Not only do you outline your medical wishes in terms of care, you designate a health care agent to carry out your wishes if you cannot make decisions for yourself in the case of a medical emergency.
3. Consider Creating a Living Trust
If you own property, consider placing it in a living trust. This will help your friends and family avoid probate court. Probate court deals with the administration of estates, including any property you are leaving your beneficiaries and can be a costly process.
4. Think About Getting Life Insurance
If you have a spouse, children, or other people depending on your financially, you should consider investing in life insurance. This insurance, payable upon death, will help cover unpaid debts or estate taxes you owe, as well as provide financial security to those that depend on you for money.
5. File Beneficiary Forms
Failing to designate beneficiaries for things such as bank accounts and retirement funds can backfire big time. Not only can your assets get into the hands of the wrong people, your survivors may have to endure a potentially lengthy probate process as well.
By assigning beneficiaries to your financial accounts, those accounts become “payable upon death” to those designated on the official forms.
You can also register your stocks, bonds, and brokerage accounts to be transfer to your beneficiaries upon death.
Something your estate planning attorney will likely advise you of is to make sure you update your designated beneficiaries in the event of a major life change. For example, a divorce or ended friendship may change your thoughts on who you wish to give your finances to after death.
Updating these important forms is necessary if you want the distribution to reflect your final wishes after your passing.
6. Designate a Financial Power of Attorney
Assigning someone you trust complete authority over your finances and property if you become incapacitated is a safeguard against your money being distributed against your wishes.
Keep in mind, however, that this person does not have to be an attorney to manage your finances.
7. Make Final Arrangements
Setting up a “payable upon death” account at your bank to use for your final arrangements, such as funeral expenses, is one easy way to help your survivors with your final expenses. In addition, you can make your wishes known regarding organ donation, body donation, and burial or cremation.
This kind of information is better for your survivors that will be in a state of grief after your passing.
8. Organize Your Documents
When you pass away, there are documents that people close to you need to access.
Luckily, if you use your Maryland estate planning attorney to help you formulate an estate plan, many of these documents will be safely stored for when the time comes to use them. However, even if you use an attorney, those involved in your estate plan need to know how to contact your attorney.
Here are some of the most important documents to make accessible to those closest to you:
- Insurance policies
- Real estate deeds
- Certificates for stocks, bonds, and annuities
- Bank information including accounts, mutual funds, and safe deposit boxes
- Retirement plan account information
- Information regarding all debt such as credit cards, mortgages and loans, utilities, and unpaid taxes
- Information about your funeral plans and any other final instructions you may have
Make sure your beneficiaries know who to contact, where to go, and what needs filing on your behalf in order for your estate distribution to happen smoothly.
In the end, estate planning is a big deal and is a lot to take on all at once, especially if going it alone. If you are ready to start planning your end of life wishes and get an estate plan underway, consider contacting one of Maryland’s leading estate planning attorneys, Dilip Paliath, Esq.
Not only can Dilip create an individualized estate plan to match you and your family’s needs, he can assist your survivors with any contested wills after your death.
Dilip is dedicated to helping you understand all of your estate planning options, any potential consequences for the decisions you make, and the tools available to help you meet your end of life goals. Plus, he will use his extensive estate planning experience and knowledge to protect your heirs in the event someone contests what you have designated as your last wishes.
Contact Dilip Paliath, Esq. today and get your estate planning taken care of now. By preparing for the future now, you can rest assured those closest to you will be protected long after you are gone.