Howard County Estate Planning Attorney
McDonald Law Firm serves clients in Howard County and the surrounding counties with comprehensive estate planning services, including the drafting and review of Wills, trusts and powers of attorney to ensure clients and their families are properly taken care of during their lifetime, while preserving a legacy for future generations. The estate planning practice of McDonald Law Firm encompasses all of the following estate planning strategies:
Wills – The Will is the foundational document of your estate plan. Through the Will, you can leave gifts to specific family members or charitable institutions and create a lasting legacy. A Will is also important to name a guardian for your minor children and to appoint an executor to carry out the terms of the Will and distribute your estate according to your wishes. In order for a Will to be valid, it must meet specific legal requirements. McDonald Law Firm can assist in drafting, amending or revoking Wills to ensure your Will is valid and enforceable, and minimize challenges or Will contests in the probate court.
Revocable Living Trust – A revocable living trust is an excellent vehicle for transferring assets, including cash and property, to your spouse, children or others. Assets placed in trust do not have to go through probate; meaning that they can be distributed to beneficiaries more quickly and with less expense than through a Will. The terms of a trust can also be kept confidential, as opposed to a Will, which becomes a matter of public record when it is probated. A sensible practice is to transfer as much assets as possible through a revocable living trust rather than a Will, although a Will is still needed for other reasons noted above, as well as to pour over (transfer) any assets into a trust that were not funded into the trust prior to the trust maker’s death. At McDonald Law Firm, a complete revocable living trust-based estate plan will consist of the following documents: a Revocable Living Trust, Pour-over Will, Assignments of Personal Property, Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, Living Will, HIPAA Authorization, Certificate of Trust, Trust-Funding Instructions, and a Personal Property Memorandum.
Powers of Attorney – You never know when something may happen (injury or illness) that renders you incapacitated and unable to care for yourself or manage your financial affairs, whether only temporarily or for the long-term. By preparing powers of attorney in advance, you can choose someone you know and trust to make financial or legal decisions on your behalf during your period of incapacity. Otherwise, a court may decide these issues for you, or appoint some stranger or institution to manage your affairs.
Advance Medical Directives – Medical directives such as a health care proxy or living will can let family members and medical professionals know how you wish certain end-of-life or other decisions to be made. McDonald Law Firm provides sensitive and compassionate advice to help you decide on issues such as Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders, feeding tubes, etc., and creates the necessary documents so that your wishes will be followed. Without advance medical directives, these decisions may be thrust upon anguished relatives who are unsure or who disagree over the proper decisions to make. You can ease their distress by deciding these matters in advance and communicating your wishes.
Estate Administration (Probate) – Probate is the court-supervised process for giving effect to the terms of a Will and other legal documents. The executor or court-appointed administrator must gather and inventory all assets, pay debts and taxes of the estate, sell property, dispute or settle claims against the estate, and distribute the estate in accordance with the Will. McDonald Law Firm can provide invaluable assistance throughout the probate process so that probate closes as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
Trust Administration – Duties of the trust administrator include managing trust property for the benefit of the beneficiaries, making investments or selling property, and distributing assets to beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust. The Trustee of a trust owe a legal duty to the beneficiaries and can be removed or sued for mismanagement, conflicts of interest or self-dealing. McDonald Law Firm provides advice and assistance in all aspects of Maryland trust administration.
Health and Education Exclusion Trust – HEETs are a valuable way to help pay for a beneficiary’s healthcare or education, while avoiding gift taxes and other estate taxes, including generation-skipping transfer taxes. A HEET is an irrevocable trust and is subject to many restrictions and requirements in order to be valid.
Charitable Remainder Trust – CRTs are another type of irrevocable trust that can offer significant tax advantages to persons with large estates while meeting the admirable goal of donating to important charities and nonprofits. A charitable remainder trust allows you to designate yourself or another beneficiary to receive income from the trust for a set period, after which the remaining assets are given to the charity.
Domestic Asset Protection Trust – A domestic asset protection trust (DAPT) is an irrevocable trust established under the special laws of one of the limited number of jurisdictions (currently 17 states, including Delaware, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Alaska) that allow the settlor of the trust to be a discretionary beneficiary and yet still protect the trust assets from the settlor’s creditors. If such a trust were set up under the laws of a non-DAPT jurisdiction, the general rule is that the settlor’s creditors can access as much of the trust as can be distributed to the trust settlor.
Community Property Trust – A community property trust is a special type of joint revocable trust designed for married-couples who own low-basis assets (real estate, stocks, etc.), enabling them to take advantage of a double step-up in basis upon the death of the first spouse. Tennessee and Alaska are the two jurisdictions, which permits non-residence to opt-in and utilize the states’ community property statutes to establish a community property trust.
Second Amendment Trust™ (Gun Trust) – Don’t rely on the executor to transfer firearms according to a Will; your executor might unknowingly violate any number of state or federal gun control laws and cause your firearms to be forfeited. Avoid the transfer tax and burdensome federal requirements with a Second Amendment Trust™. McDonald Law Firm is well versed in the special requirements for creating a valid Second Amendment Trust™ or gun trust.
Marylanders get help today with your Maryland estate planning needs from a dedicated Maryland estate planning attorney
For advice and assistance on the proper legal strategies in preparing a comprehensive estate plan, call McDonald Law Firm at 443-741-1088. We offer an initial consultation and practice throughout Howard County and the surrounding Counties.