Estate Planning, Probate & Trusts Article Archives
Benjamin Franklin’s observation that nothing is certain but death and taxes is a little less true in Maryland, where the estate tax itself is virtually dead. Under a measure passed in this year’s legislative session, Marylanders will be able to leave behind more than $5 million in assets with no tax liability. This is good news for the rich and middle class alike.
January, 2012 | By Carl E. Eastwick
These days, a revocable inter vivos trust serves as the principal testimony instrument of many estate plans. The settlor of a trust of this sort retains nearly total control of the trust assets by retaining the unfettered power to amend the trust, and by implication also to revoke it. It matters not whether the trustee is the settlor or a third party. Thus, the beneficiaries of the trust possess but a tenuous contingent interest in the trust assets.
One of the most difficult assets to plan for is the family vacation home. For many families, the vacation home is an important center of annual family activity, with multiple generations of family becoming emotionally invested in the property. If the property is located in a desirable area, it’s value can often grow larger than any other single family asset. Once the eldest generation passes away, however, conflicting desires over what to do with that valuable asset may cause family unity to fray.
In the course of our estate planning work with clients, we will ask who the client wishes to designate as trustee of any trusts we are creating, and as executor (or “personal representative”) of his or her estate. These are the people (or entities) who will take legal title to, and control the property of the trust or estate until it is distributed. They are in a fiduciary capacity, which means that they can be held personally liable if they negligently or intentionally misuse the property entrusted to them.