Estate Planning Attorney Maryland
“Estate planning” is an often-misunderstood term. Many individuals believe that for someone to need “estate planning” they should have very significant and complicated assets. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Simply stated, estate planning is the process and preparation of certain legal documents to plan for an individual’s potential disability, and ultimately for death. Something should do at varying degrees.
It is important to also realize that estate planning is not just the preparation of a last will and testament and some other “form” documents. The guidance and advice provided by an experienced estate planning attorney during this process is just as important as how the documents should be structured. During the estate planning process, you should expect to discuss a number of important topics such as titling of accounts and other assets, how beneficiaries are named, various taxes, and coming up with a plan for distribution that makes sense (e.g. should distribution be left in trust or outright?).
A well-structured estate plan can usually also minimize or avoid certain taxes (estate taxes, inheritance taxes, capital gains taxes, and income taxes) unnecessarily being incurred upon death to some extent. Additionally, while it’s important to have well drafted estate planning documents, if the ownership and/or beneficiaries designated on accounts or other assets aren’t properly factored into the planning, then there may be unplanned for (and often unnecessary) delay (and expense) in the distribution of your estate from being required to go through the probate process. Fortunately, there are often many estate planning opportunities to avoid “probate”, as well as minimize various types of potential tax liability following death.
Estate planning should be done on an individual basis, taking into account each individual’s unique and specific family structure, assets, and planning needs and goals. Every adult should engage in this planning process a number of times over his or her lifetime. There are many “seasons” in life and planning needs often change over time. While it’s good to plan many years into the future, when doing estate planning it’s also important to realize that the only certainty we have is what we know about our life “right now”. Therefore, it’s important to structure an estate plan to account for potential future contingencies, but it’s also important to realize that there are specific planning needs that may change or arise at certain points in life and that significant negative consequences could occur from failing to plan (or properly updating a plan) accordingly.
Estate planning is one of Joe Mathis’ favorite areas of practice. He enjoys helping each family with their specific planning needs and goals and guiding them through this process to establish a comprehensive plan and prepare estate planning documents that they are comfortable with. Please contact us to schedule a meeting to discuss estate planning soon.