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Wills And Powers Of Attorney

Salisbury Estate Planning Lawyers

About Wills

It’s real simple: Either you make your own will or the state of Maryland makes one for you. State law will determine who gets your property and who will be guardian of your children.

If you make your own will, you get to leave your heirs instructions about what you want done. If you die intestate (without a will), your heirs can fight about the legal details. That’s called, “litigation.” Litigation is wonderful for the lawyers involved. They get paid out of your estate.

Going online and finding a will-form and using it might be about as good as having no will. The fight can begin with whether or not your will is valid.

If you have substantial property, the terms of your will or other estate documents can make a big difference in how your estate is probated and how much probate costs.

The Law Firm of Shaw & Crowson, P.A., has been helping individuals and families with wills and other estate planning documents for nearly 20 years.

Powers

Another reality: By the time your will gets to probate, you’re gone. The documents that make sure you are taken care of while you’re still here are the really important ones.

These documents are the “POWERS” documents. The top three are General Power of Attorney, Limited Power of Attorney and Durable Health Care Power of Attorney.

The General Power of Attorney gives the person you designate broad powers to handle all of your affairs. A Limited Power of Attorney permits your “attorney-in-fact” to sign only certain designated documents for you. Don’t just blindly sign one of these documents. You want to think about it, or talk it over with someone knowledgeable.

New Maryland law became effective October 1, 2010, which regulates both general and limited powers of attorney. The Law Firm of Shaw & Crowson, P.A., is familiar with the changes in the law and can ensure your estate planning documents are fully compliant with the new General and Limited Power of Attorney Act.

The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care tells the medical profession who can make medical decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself. It tells your agent what decisions to make. Without one, the courts might decide.

Avoiding Probate

Probate is the complicated legal process by which your estate is settled. Through probate, your remaining debts are paid and anything left over is distributed to your heirs. Maryland Registers of Wills in each county provide probate information, but not legal advice.

Probate involves costs, often legal fees, and sometimes taxes. Probate can be time consuming, detail oriented and tedious. Therefore, there is a surplus of advice about how to avoid probate.

“Estate planning by Deed” is a common probate-avoiding technique. Just put your children’s names on your deed, and poof—no probate.

Just problems.

Unless the deed is drawn just right, once your children’s names are on it, you might not be able to get them off it. And, if they have creditors, their creditors may be able to lien your home. Now there’s a costly way to avoid probate.

Vesting

There are ways a property title can change when one owner dies without probate. The way the deed for your home or other real property is written may determine this. Lawyers talk about how title is “vested.”

Most married couples in Maryland hold title to their home as “tenants by the entireties.” One good thing about this vesting is that if one spouse dies, the other owns the whole home without the need for probate.

However, important changes in Maryland’s Estates and Trust Law affect all married couples. Experienced legal counsel is necessary to ensure your rights are fully preserved and objectives achieved. The Law Firm of Shaw & Crowson, P.A., is capable of representing your interests under the new law.

The “survivorship” vesting for unmarried property co-owners is joint tenants. Two, three or more co-owners can be joint tenants as long as each co-owner holds an equal interest in the property. If any one co-owner dies, the property then becomes legally owned by the surviving joint tenants without the need for probate. But beware: adding children or any one else to a deed just to avoid probate could cause unforeseen complications.

Who to Trust

“Trusts” are yet another way to own or give away assets. Trusts are gifts with strings attached.

If you give someone something in your will, they get it to do with as they please. If you make a trust instead, you can give specific instructions about what may and may not be done with your gift.

You can include a trust within your will. If you are leaving property to young or irresponsible heirs this could be a good alternative.

There are also trusts that take effect while you are still living. These “Living Trusts” can be yet one more probate-avoiding tool.

The attorneys at The Law Firm of Shaw & Crowson, P.A., understand the complexities of deeds and property titles. Talk with a knowledgeable lawyer before you make a costly mistake of “Estate Planning by Deed.”