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When thinking about estate planning, know the fundamentals

| Jan 25, 2021 | Estate Planning

Maryland residents who are considering their estate planning options are doing so to protect their loved ones and to make certain their assets are allocated based on their preferences. These issues can become confusing with the variety of alternatives available. While there is nuance in every part of an estate plan whether the person is wealthy and has major assets or is of more modest means and does not have a lot to distribute, it is wise to think about the basics. Understanding the fundamentals and basic documents is often overlooked.

Basic documents for a useful estate plan

In the last will and testament the person – known as the testator – will list how he or she wants the assets distributed. That could be to individuals or entities and given as charitable contributions. For those with minor children, guardians can be listed. An executor will be named and that person is responsible for making sure the property goes where the testator wanted.

The durable power of attorney gives another person to right to act on the person’s behalf if he or she cannot oversee their own affairs. The agent can pay their bills, file taxes and handle their finances. With a health care power of attorney, an agent will be appointed to make the medical decisions on the person’s behalf if they cannot make the decisions on their own. For example, that can include testing, having surgery, being placed on artificial respiration and more.

The living will has instructions for the person’s treatment and care if they are unable to express it. This will shield loved ones from having to make those difficult decisions they would otherwise be obligated to make if there was a heath care power of attorney. If the living will has a do not resuscitate (DNR) order, then there will not be life-saving treatment if the person would die without it. Beneficiary designations are listed on retirement accounts and insurance policies saying who will receive the proceeds if the person dies. A common mistake is that people do not change their beneficiary designation if they get a divorce or there are other life changes. The money will go to the individual listed no matter the circumstances and what the policyholder likely would have wanted.

Legal guidance can navigate the terrain of effective estate planning

Estate planning can be complex and people who want to make sure their wishes are carried out should have legal assistance so it comes to pass. Regardless of a person’s age, health situation and needs, having an estate plan that addresses all relevant issues is imperative. A firm with experience in all aspects of estate planning may be able to help.

 

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