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 to avoid challenges or will contests in the probate court.
Revocable Living Trusts – 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 revocable living trusts rather than wills, 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 accounted for.
Powers of Attorney – You never know when something may happen (injury, 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 medical 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.
Probate Administration – 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. Trust administrators (trustees) owe legal duties to 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.
Special Needs Trusts – A special needs trust is a way to transfer money and property to an individual with special needs, without compromising that individual’s eligibility for SSI, Medicaid or other means-tested government assistance. See our FAQs page for more information on special needs trusts.
Health and Education Exclusion Trusts – 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 Trusts – 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.
Second Amendment Trusts™ (Gun Trusts) – Don’t rely on the executor to transfer firearms according to a will, who 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 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.