Estate Planning Lawyers
Our attorneys work with clients to develop and implement personalized plans that achieve their family’s goals and needs. In particular, we work with clients to:
Implement incapacity plans for management of the client’s finances and personal needs in the unfortunate event that he or she becomes physically or mentally unable. By planning now for potential incapacity, you can avoid court supervised guardianship proceedings, which could result in an undesired individual in charge of your affairs. Our incapacity planning tools include: Financial Powers of Attorney, Health Care Powers of Attorney, and Advanced Directives, also known as “Living Wills”.
Implement estate plans to achieve varied client goals including: protecting assets from unforeseen creditors, minimizing probate and unwanted publicity, minimizing income and transfer taxes, providing for special needs of loved ones, ensuring assets pass how and when a client wants to his or her intended beneficiaries, designating the desired individuals to act as guardians for minors or special needs family members, and appointing the desired individuals or entities to act as fiduciaries. The basic tools we use to achieve these goals include Wills, Revocable (or “Living”) Trusts, Special Needs Trusts, and Spendthrift Trusts.
What is a Will?
Your Will is a document that controls the passing of most of your property upon your death. A Will controls property that is owned individually or as a tenant in common, and where a beneficiary designation is not in place. A Will is also the document nominates guardians for your minor children. Wills are flexible documents that can be used to create “testamentary trusts” for beneficiaries that take effect after you pass away.
When a Will is your primary estate planning document, your estate is administered via a process known as Probate, wherein a state entity oversees the administration and distribution of your property.
What is a Revocable Trust?
A revocable, or “living”, trust is a commonly used alternative to a Will. A revocable Trust is an entity that you create while you are alive to hold your property subject to your instructions. Upon your death, the trust (rather than the state) controls the administration of the trust assets, avoiding publicity, and often speeding up the administration process. For some individuals, trusts offer additional advantages over wills, including increased tax planning ability, and potentially smoother transitioning during incapacity. They are, however, more costly to set up.
Special Needs Trust: If your loved one has special needs because of disability, you may wish to consider setting up a special needs trust for his or her benefit. A properly drafted special needs trust can provide an individual who relies on mean-tested government benefits with supplemental resources for various purposes without disqualifying them from the benefits.
Spendthrift Trust: A spendthrift trust is a trust you create for the benefit of another, the assets of which are inaccessible to the creditors of that individual. Spendthrift trusts are particularly important vehicles for inheritance when a beneficiary has financial troubles. Aside from that, spendthrift trusts are commonly used when an individual wants to provide a protected nest egg for beneficiaries that will stay intact in the face of divorce and unexpected lawsuits.
Post Mortem Administration
Our attorneys represent clients who are serving as Personal Representatives and Trustees, counseling them through the estate and/or trust administration process from start to finish. We provide the following services to our fiduciary clients, ensuring a smooth estate and/or trust administration, as the case may be:
For clients who are serving as Personal Representatives, we prepare and file all required probate pleadings and forms with the relevant authorities, including, but not limited to required inventories, accountings, and reports. We assist with procuring all necessary releases and ultimately the distribution of assets to beneficiaries according to a decedent’s will.
For clients who are serving as Trustee, we assist them with compliance with their fiduciary duties, applicable state and federal law, and preparation of any necessary accountings, notifications, or other reports to beneficiaries.
Our experienced tax professionals offer preparation of required fiduciary income tax returns (Forms 1041) and federal or state estate tax returns (Form 706 and the state counterparts). Speak with one of our Baltimore Tax Lawyers today for a free consultation.