Part of my work representing my business clients has also been assisting them in planning for the long-term future, including their wills, advanced directives and powers of attorney. These documents must be tailored to the individual needs of the client.
Using forms available on the internet is dangerous for many reasons. For example, some forms may not be valid in Maryland, most people don’t know how to properly execute (sign and witness) a will and advanced directive, and most importantly, in order to meet an individual family’s needs, these documents must be tailored to your age, your stage in life, your goals and the needs of your children and grandchildren.
If you own and operate your own business or have significant real estate holdings (for business, or the legacy vacation property), your estate documents must be carefully designed to match your needs and your family and business dynamics.
My clients and I typically consider the following estate planning elements when discussing their estate. Of course, what is right for you, your spouse, partner and/or children, will depend on your circumstances.
- Advance Directives – provide an agent to assist with medical decisions when you cannot, and to provide your specific end of life instructions
- Executor (Personal Representative) choice – the person who will handle the “business” of your estate– paying debts, selling assets and distributing your property, following your death.
- Trusts. Sometimes, due to age, maturity, disability or other life circumstance, a child or her should not receive money or party at death, but the assets should be held by another more mature or sophisticated person until the heir is ready to won assets in his or her own name; sometimes a trust is used to protect the assets from persons or liabilities closely associated with the heir. Trusts can be carefully tailored ot meet the needs of your individual circumstances.
- Powers of Attorney. There may be occasions in you life, due to disability, hospitalization or travel, when you cannot be available to compete a matter of personal or commercial business. A power of attorney can be utilized to allow a transaction, or a continuing series of transactions, to occur, without your presence. While Powers of Attorney are very useful tools, caution must be exercised: they have to be properly prepared, executed and maintained, and at times, terminated, so that they can be effectively used, and to protect you and your assets from misuse.
Estate planning documents are extremely flexible and can be designed to fit your unique needs. I will work closely with you to determine your goals and create precise instruments to carry out your intentions.
Sophisticated Estates and Tax Matters
For estates with a value of greater than $3 million, I will often recommend that the client seek the advice of a lawyer specializing in tax-saving devices. Remember, an estate over $5 million is taxed by the federal government, and those over $3 million (2017, $4 million in 2018) may be taxed by the State of Maryland. This is a complex area and many exceptions and exemptions exist. While I do not plan for estates of these magnitudes, I have relationships with lawyer who can provide expert advice.
My clients typically find the estate planning process easier than they thought – and a great relief once the process is completed. An unplanned estate is both dangerous and a burden. Planning takes a bit of thought, time and money, but the rewards – particularly the peace of mind– justify the effort many times over.