Five Estate Planning Questions and Their Answers

Estate planning, with or without a lawyer, can be a little overwhelming.  For an estate planning attorney in Maryland, there are plenty of questions which come up again and again.  Take a look at the list below, and maybe you’ll get some of yours answered:

1. Do I really need an estate plan if I don’t own much? The answer to this is: ABSOLUTELY.  An estate plan isn’t just about setting up trust funds.  There are very important documents that everyone should have, regardless of their income level or assets.

2. What is the most important document I should have my estate planning lawyer draft? There are several which are important, but to get started, you will likely need a medical directive that explains what your wishes are in a variety of medical situations when you are unable to make decisions for yourself.  If you’re married, you spouse will likely become the default decision-maker, but by having your wishes outlined, it makes things much clearer and takes some of the burden off of your loved ones.

3. Any others I really need? If you’re not married, you should really create durable powers of attorney for your medical decisions and your financial obligations.  Parents should absolutely set up legal guardianship for their minor children.  And just about everyone can benefit from creating a will.

4. Aren’t “trust funds” just for the ultra-rich? Actually, they’re not.  While we may be conditioned to think of trusts as some sort of savings account that doles out money to the next generation, they are actually so much more.  Putting your assets into a trust allows you to put specific restrictions and conditions on how the money is used, can protect a piece of property, and can significantly lessen the amount of taxes owed by your estate and its heirs.  The cost of setting up a trust will save you its value many times over.

5. Will I have to pay a “death tax?” Maybe.  For 2012, this estate tax only applies to those worth more than $5 million.  The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (2013) makes permanent the $5 million inflation adjusted estate tax exemption and portability (which permits a surviving spouse to use a prior deceased spouse’s exemption). Thus, for the vast majority of Americans the federal estate tax is now irrelevant.

Of course, there are many other questions which an estate planning lawyer is used to answering on a regular basis.  These five, however, are commonly asked and may have been on your mind.  Armed with this information, you may have realized that now truly is the time to meet with an estate planning attorney and get the ball rolling for your future plans.

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About Nicole K. White

After losing a close relative, Nicole witnessed the devastation, enormous expense and chaos caused by not having a simple estate plan. It is Nicole’s mission to educate parents, especially single parents, about protecting themselves, their families, minor children, and assets with comprehensive Estate Planning.

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