prepared by Arden Law Firm’s experienced & licensed attorney(s). Our lawyers are licensed in Maryland only.
Arden Law Firm assists Maryland residents (and those domciled in Maryland but living elsewhere) with estate planning needs.
We offer flat-fee planning and aim to provide straight-forward, cost effective solutions to common planning needs.
Contact our firm by phone at 410-216-7000 or fill out a consultation request form to set up an estate planning meeting or get more information.
Basic Estate & Life Planning should at a minimum cover two main things: 1) your wishes for who you want to handle your financial and medical affairs whlie you are living (for example, if you cannot due to short or long term incapacity) and 2) your wishes for wrapping up your affairs and distributing your assets when you die.
See our flat fee legal pricing guide for an estimate of standard attorney fees and costs.
The following documents are central to most estate plans:
Power of Attorney
Health Care Advance Directive
Revocable Living Trusts
Life Estate Deeds
A: In Maryland a Will must be in writing, signed by the planner (who is competant on the day they are planning) and witnessed by 2 witnesses who actually see the planner sign.
A: In Maryland, the Personal Representative is the person who is charged with managing the Decedent’s estate. Some states refer to this person as the Executor (person charged with executing the Will’s instructions). In Maryland a Personal Representative might be the named Executor in the Will OR the person appointed by the Court to manage an estate where there is no Will.
A: If someone dies without a valid Will, they are said to die “intestate” (without a Last Will and Testament). Maryland law inserts a formula for inheriting in such cases (the law of intestate succession), which may or may not match what the person wanted. The current legal formulas are spelled out in the Estates & Trusts article of the Maryland Annotated Code.
This formula has changed multiple times in recent history, but usually is some variation of splitting an estate between a surviving spouse and children or between a surviving spouse and parents or if there is no spouse then to nearest living relatives. In some cases without a Will property can “escheat” or revert to the State.
A: the Personal Representative (PR) is responsible to file the Will with the Court (Register of Wills / Orpan’s Court) and open up an estate. The Personal Representative needs to petition the court for appointment. In situations where there is a Will but no probate property the PR files something called a Will of No Estate.
A: Yes, appointing a guardian for minor children is one of the important things to put in a Will.
A: A power of attorney (POA) goes into effect when the planner (the principal) specifies (either upon signing or perhaps on a certain event, such as a physician statement that the planner is no longer able to manage their affairs). A POA is only effective during the lifetime of the person who made it. By law, the power of attorney immediately ceases on the principal’s death.
A: A limited power of attorney gives the authority to act for limited matters, for example a limited power of attorney might be used to give someone else the authority to sign settlement papers at a real estate transaction. A general power of attorney grants the agent a broad power to act in the princpal’s stead or generally deal with a variety of financial matters, for example a general POA usually gives authority to deal with matters involving real estate, banking, investments, taxes, etc.
A: Generally, No. While an attorney would want to look at the specific power of attorney to make a legal determination, an Agent cannot “self deal” or use the authority to benefit themselves. An Agent must act to further the Principal’s interests, not their own. In some cases, a Power of Attorney will grant specific authority to make gifts, usually to continue established patterns of giving (for example, if someone gave each child $10,000 and each grandchild $5,000 per year for the last 10 years and under a Power of Attorney that person gives express authority to gift, the Agent could likely continue to make those gifts.
A: A Living Will is a document that describes your wishes while you are living, for example what kind of medical interventions you might want. This is often also called an “Advance Directive” because it describes in advance your desires if you were unable to make health care decisions at some point in the future. Our firm includes a Living Will / Advance Directive / Health Care Power of Attorney in our planning packages. If you cannot afford an attorney or simply want to set this up on your own, you may want to check out the form Advance Directive generated by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office. It is usually a very good idea to have a Living Will - without it someone may need to seek guardianship.
A: Customarily when people speak of a Power of Attorney they mean a Financial Power of Attorney. Under a financial power of attorney someone is given authority to manage financial affairs (e.g., banking or real estate transactions) That is not the same thing as a Health Care Power of Attorney which names someone to make health care decisions. Our firm typically includes a Health Care Power of Attorney or Health Care Agent designation in the Living Will / Medical Advance Directive.
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