Estate Planning, Probate & Trusts Article Archives
What is an estate plan? What exactly is a trust and why might I need one? Can an estate plan help reduce taxes? I am in a same-sex relationship. How can we protect ourselves beyond a basic estate plan? I’ve heard about revocable living trusts. Should I have one? What is probate? My assets are relatively modest. Do I still need an estate plan? What happens if I die without a Will? I am young and healthy. Do I really need a financial Power of Attorney and Advance Medical Directive?
Your ability to select the person to manage your affairs after your death is one of the advantages of making a will or a trust. If you make a will, or a revocable trust as a substitute for a will, you nominate a person to settle your estate. If you create a trust, you name a person to be the “trustee” of the trust. The trustee is duty bound to follow the instructions in the trust instrument and the law governing trusts.
Most people encounter probate for the first time after a close family member dies. Probate is simply the legal name for wrapping up the affairs of the deceased so that title to his or her wealth is validly changed over to the beneficiaries of the estate. This brief list of questions and answers is an effort to provide a perspective on the probate process.
Imagine if the state of Maryland planned your funeral. Your loved ones could gather in a state-run funeral chapel under the hum of florescent lights. Amid plastic chrysanthemums and piped-in organ music, you would be eulogized by a state employee who had never met you. With little to go on, he could speak favorably of your diligence in paying your taxes and avoiding incarceration. Then your remains would be conveyed to a public cemetery and interred beneath a marker bearing the identifier by which the state knows you best—your Social Security number.
How does that sound? Like a Las Vegas wedding, this scenario may have a certain kitsch appeal, but most of us would prefer something a bit more personal. Fortunately, the state won’t plan your funeral, even if you fail to do so. But if you die without a Will, it will plan your estate, and the results can be just as regrettable.