Estate planning documents are essential if you wish to protect your assets & loved ones.
Whether you are deciding who should make health care-related decisions on your behalf, inherit your real property, or manage your financial assets, you will need legal documentation to make certain that your wishes and goals are respected.
Advance Healthcare Directives (AHCD)
An Advanced Health Care Directive combines two concepts into one document. It appoints a healthcare power of attorney (agent) to make health care decisions for the Grantor, if he or she becomes disabled. It also provides instructions given by the Grantor to specify end-of-life decisions.
It is important to remember that so long as the Grantor is mentally competent they maintain the right to make all personal health care decisions including the refusal or discontinuation of treatment.
Should the Grantor become disabled in the future, an Advanced Healthcare Directive will generally prevent court intervention when properly drafted and followed.
Power of Attorney (POA)
A power of attorney (POA) is a written document where a Grantor authorizes another individual to act as their financial agent. POA’s can be limited in scope and duration, but should the Grantor become disabled in the future, a power of attorney-when properly drafted and adhered to-will normally prevent court intervention.
When appointing a Power of Attorney, it is imperative that you trust that individual because the document will allow your agent carte blanche to manage all of your financial affairs.
Maryland Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST)
In Maryland, a Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) form is a document that replaces the Maryland Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) form. A MOLST expresses the care you wish to receive or have withheld in a life limiting situation.
Is a MOLST different than an Advance Health Care Directive?
An AHCD contains instructions about future hypothetical healthcare situations. A MOLST Order documents a patient’s wishes relevant to their current healthcare conditions and needs. The goal of a MOLST form is to provide as many clear and concise healthcare options as possible. Patients are presented health care situations and potential treatments. They are asked to check which treatments they would like to receive or have withheld in those specific situations.
A trust is a written document which creates an asset holding entity for the benefit of someone or something. Trusts are generally created while the Grantor is alive, or by the means of the person’s estate plan.
Some trusts are effective while the Grantor is alive, and others take effect at the time of the death. The trust is governed by the terms under which it was created. The person or entity who holds legal title or interest, and who has the responsibility to manage the assets and distribute the income or assets, is called the Trustee.
There are numerous reasons to create a trust including second marriages, the prevention of probate or ancillary probate, to prevent or minimize death taxes, to manage assets on behalf of children until they attain a certain stated age, to maintain and care for pets, and to allow a disabled person to maintain government benefits.
Different types of trusts include:
- Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust
- Special Needs Trust
- Trusts for Minors
- Pet Trust
Last Will & Testament
In Maryland, a will must be a written document. Wills control assets titled solely in the Decedent’s name, which may not designate a beneficiary. Assets that are co-owned, or that name a beneficiary, are distributed to those persons outside of probate.
The other requirements for a valid will are that the person signing the document is mentally competent and over 18 years of age. It must be signed in the presence of two witnesses who also sign it in its owner’s presence. A will only takes effect at your death, and prior to that time it serves merely to show intent.
- Name your executor(s), guardian(s) for minor children, and/or trustee(s)
- Detail your funeral burial/cremation decisions
- In particular circumstances, create trusts for children or other purposes such as tax planning
- List specific bequests when desired
- Avoid distribution under intestacy by stating who inherits, what they inherit and when they inherit from your estate
Special Needs Planning
- Reasons to Create an Estate Plan Now Have you ever said or overheard someone else say I do not need a Will, Power of Attorney or Advance Care Directive? By not engaging in estate planning you are allowing laws enacted by the legislature to make your decisions.
- Fluid Estate Planning for Changes in Life Circumstances Your estate plan needs to change with life events. Divorce, marriage, and having children are some of the few things that truly can affect every aspect of your life.
- Navigating the Medicaid Minefield What you don’t know about Medicaid can cost you and your loved ones. Here are some common traps that can be avoided with planning and help of a knowledgeable elder law attorney.
- Alzheimer’s Preparation The Alzheimer’s Association currently estimates about 11% of those over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s and that number is expected to triple by 2050. Yet, many people have not given any thought to how they would care for themselves or a loved one when faced with this disease.
- Debt After Death Some of the most frequently asked questions in the estate-planning field are about debt and what happens to it after you die.
- Choosing a Beneficiary Planning for a future after you die is never fun, but it is one of the best ways we can protect and help the ones we love. Selecting the correct beneficiaries of your estate is a task nobody relishes, but it is nonetheless important.
- The Importance of Reviewing Assets & Estate Planning Documents Post-Divorce Are you divorced or in the middle of a divorce proceeding? If so, you should review your estate planning documents, ownership titles on your assets and named beneficiaries.
- Special & Supplemental Needs Trusts Understanding Supplemental and Special Needs Trusts is the first step to ensuring future financial stability for any loved ones receiving disability benefits from the government.
- Reverse Mortgage Changes Reverse mortgages can be a useful tool. However, like most loans, a reverse mortgage is not a perfect product and should not be entered into until all of the factors, risks, etc. have been examined and explained to the borrower.
- Stan Lee Elder Abuse According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse, and of the nearly 5 million cases each year, only 7% are ever even reported to the police.