Maryland Estate Planning: The Basics

Estate planning is planning for the disposition of your assets in the event of your death and for others to assist you should you become incapacitated. Thorough estate planning can lead to a more efficient estate administration, resulting in lower cost and possibly minimizing the estate’s exposure to taxes. Hiring a Maryland estate planning lawyer can make the entire process clearer and progress more smoothly. Don’t hesitate — call and schedule a consultation today.

Hiring a Maryland Estate Planning Lawyer

Your will must be valid according to the laws of the state where you reside. An attorney licensed in Maryland would be the most familiar with the laws of the State of Maryland regarding the proper execution of estate-planning documents and Maryland-specific tax issues. Accordingly, it is probably best to work with an attorney who is licensed in the State of Maryland.

Process of Estate Planning

The role for a Maryland estate planning attorney is actually bifurcated. On the planning side, an attorney must work with clients and families to help plan for their future. On the administration side, after the death or the loss of a loved one or of the client, an attorney works to administer the plan that was created. For estate planning, a client will receive a questionnaire prior to their initial meeting with a Maryland estate planning lawyer. That questionnaire will help a lawyer understand the nature of the client’s assets, the client’s goals, and the issues that are specific to the client or the client’s family dynamic. When a lawyer has access to all this information beforehand, they will be able to have a good grasp of your particular situation when you sit down and discuss with them for the first time.

Initial Estate Planning Meeting

The initial meeting is typically very substantive and a Maryland estate planning lawyer will usually review options for the types of wills, trusts, and documents for incapacity that would meet your goals. After the meeting begins the process of drafting the documents discussed with the client. There may be several rounds of drafts and communications between the client and the attorney to ensure that the draft documents meet the needs of the client and best express their wishes. Once the drafts are finalized, the client will come back in for a signing meeting to execute the document. After the documents are complete and signed, a client may choose to continue to work with the attorney to ensure that all beneficiary designations and titling of property are coordinated with the overall estate plan.

Reviewing Estate Planning Documents

Once the active phase of the planning process is complete, then the responsibility for reviewing the documents lies with the client. The client should review the documents every three to five years to make sure that they do not need to be changed. Clients generally should also review their documents sooner if they experience major life events such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child or grandchild, a death in the family, death of a spouse or one of the fiduciaries named in the document, a change in the law, purchasing real estate, a move within or outside the state, and if a client experiences a significant increase or decrease in overall net worth. Throughout a client’s lifetime, the documents can be updated to reflect the needs of the client and they should also be updated to ensure that they reflect the most current changes in the law.

Contacting an Estate Planning Attorney

After the client or the client’s spouse pass away, the client’s loved ones can contact a Maryland estate planning attorney to assist them with the administration of their estate plan. A Maryland lawyer can advise what the appropriate probate administration proceeding would be, inform the fiduciaries of their roles in the estate plan, and assist with the overall distribution of the assets in accordance with the estate plan.

Maryland v. Other Jurisdictions

Maryland is one of the few states that still has both an estate tax and an inheritance tax. Because of the presence of both taxing systems, it is usually best to work with an estate planning attorney with experience in Maryland and who can advise you how to minimize exposure to either or both of those tax systems.