One of our most important jobs as adults is to plan for our family and business matters in the event of our death. This planning is much more than having a will that disposes of our assets, but involves many other important decisions. Here are some questions and answers that described some of the matters you’ll need to consider:
- Who will take care of my property and business affairs when I die? You will need a will to appoint a personal representative to take care of this, but additionally, you will want to appoint a substitute personal representative in the event that the person appointed is unable to serve because of death, distance disability. If don’t appoint someone, a judge at the Orphans Court will do so. You can see more about the Orphans’ Court at the Legal Links page: Legal Resources
- Who will take care of my children in the event my spouse and I die, or are disabled at the same time? Every parent should have will that appoints guardians, and substitute guardians, for their children in the event of death. Even if both spouses do not die, a carefully planned set of estate documents can provide for a guardianship of your children in the event of serious disability.
- I own my own business, who will take care of your business affairs in the event of a short, or long-term disability, or in the event of your death? You can take care of sort and log term disabilities by appointing someone to take care of your Business according to a valid Personal Financial Power of Attorney. Handling a business transition in the event of your death takes very careful planning, and coordination by a team of professionals: your attorney, your accountant, and often, and insurance professional.
- Who makes decisions about my healthcare if I can’t make those decisions? Won’t my spouse or partner automatically be the person to make those decisions for me? In most circumstances a healthcare provider will defer to the wishes of a spouse in the event of disability. What many people do not consider is what occurs when both spouses are injured in the same event, or one spouse is simply unable to participate in the decision-making, because of illness injury or other circumstance? For unmarried couples, the fact that they lived together is not determinative in the priority for decision-makers. Maryland law allows you to execute Advance Directives for Healthcare to ensure that your choices for a healthcare decision maker, a substitute decision maker, and instructions regarding your final days are established, and legally binding.
- My house is titled with my spouse or partner, in joint names. Since that’s where most of my money is, isn’t that enough? No, not in most circumstances. You may have other assets in your own name that need direction, for example, life insurance, automobiles, boats which do not automatically go to a spouse or partner. Many people assume that if they die without a will, everything goes to spouse, or that their assets are split evenly between their spouse and their children. Both of these assumptions are misconceptions. Without will, on the death of one spouse, the survivor is entitled to one-half of the nest estate with the balance divided among minor children, or if there are no minor children, $15,000.00 plus one-half of the residue , with the balance to surviving children. There are other rules that deal with other situations. Important point is this: you can and should use it will to determine precisely how you want your assets divided at the time of your death. Assumptions about how things pass in the event of your death are often incorrect.
- We have a child with special needs, and are concerned about the use of our assets for the benefit of our child in the future. How can we make sure that our wishes are carried out, and that our special-needs child is cared for appropriately? This can be managed by the use of a trust, and appointing guardians to care for the child, and to properly administer the monies flowing from your estate. Careful attention must be pay toward the appointment of a guardian over the property, to make sure that the assets are handled exclusively for the benefit of your child.
Each family presents a unique set of people, beliefs, that require careful planning. The process is not as difficult nor expensive as you might suppose, but does require consultation with an experienced attorney to make sure that your wishes are met and your family’s needs are fulfilled. . Steve Awalt will be happy to discuss your personal estate matters with you at your convenience. Call Steve at(410) 825 – 0570.