("Even if you have not written a Will, you have a Will written by the State"). *
A Last Will and Testament is an opportunity to state in a legal document those persons whom you want to receive the assets of your estate, and to select the Personal Representative, (commonly known as an Executor), to manage the administration of your estate – other considerations:
‣ If you have minor children, a Will may provide who will be their guardian, to oversee their daily care and/or who will be trustee to manage their finances should you meet an untimely death;
‣ You must be: (1) at least 18 years old in both the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland, (2) competent to make a Will, and (3) the Will must be properly executed;
‣ If you die without a Will, the State in which you were domiciled upon your death, legally prescribes how much and to whom your assets will be distributed.
A Durable Financial Power of Attorney is your chance in a legal document to choose the person (Attorney-in-fact or Agent) that you want to make financial decisions on your behalf, which may include paying bills, property transactions, filing taxes, etc.
‣Durable means that the document remains effective even if you become incapacitated.
‣It is most needed when you may be incapacitated or unavailable to make important personal business decisions.
‣The District of Columbia requires the principal’s signature to be acknowledged.
‣Maryland requires the principal to sign before a notary in the presence of two witnesses if the document is executed after October 1, 2010.
A Health Care Advance Directive allows you to have some control over your future medical treatment while you are competent. The most common forms of Advance Directives are:
‣ An Advance Medical Directive (Living Will), is a legal instrument giving you an opportunity to indicate the health care treatment you desire or do not want. However, most only cover specific life sustaining procedures;
‣ A Durable Health Care Power of Attorney is a legal document that makes provisions for an Agent personally selected by you to make medical decisions for you;
‣ An Advance Medical Directive and Durable Health Care Power of Attorney can be combined into one document;
‣There are certain requirements for determining incapacity. In Maryland, a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney may be effective immediately without the person being deemed incompetent.
A Trust is an agreement by which a Grantor (Settlor) appoints a Trustee to manage assets for beneficiaries, and the remaindermen are those who receive assets when the trust ends.
‣The Grantor funds the trust with assets by transferring title to those assets to the Trustee.
‣The Trustee has a fiduciary duty to, among other things, carry out the terms of the trust, defend the trust, prudently invest trust assets and administer the trust in the best interest of the beneficiaries
‣There are transaction costs associated with managing a trust
‣There are different kinds of trusts, revocable, irrevocable, charitable, testamentary, etc.
Conservatorships and Guardianships are court processes involving, among other things, applications to the court, background security checks and periodic reports.
‣An Applications is made to serve in these capacities or if the court finds it necessary may appoint.
‣ A Conservator is appointed by the court after it has been determined pursuant to a hearing that an individual is no longer competent to manage his finances and assets.
‣ A Guardian is appointed by the court to manage the finances of a minor or the care of an incompetent adult and if no conservator has been appointed, duties could also include managing the adult’s financial affairs.
A Probate Proceeding is a court proceeding that involves the appointment of a Personal Representative (commonly known as an Executor) to administer the decedent's estate. Depending on the nature and size of an estate, the probate process in both Maryland and the District of Columbia may not be lengthy or expensive. The administration of the estate, includes among other things:
‣ Paying valid claims or debts;
‣ Preparing an inventory of assets ;
‣ Distributing assets to beneficiaries pursuant to a Will or the state's intestate laws if the person dies without a Will.
‣ Completing a balanced accounting.
‣ Arranging for the preparation and payment of state and local income taxes, federal and estate fiduciary taxes, inheritance taxes.