I used to think estate planning was just about assets, and who gets what.

I was wrong.  Since then, I’ve faced my own estate planning challenges, and helped clients face theirs.  I’ve seen first-hand what happens when planning is inadequate.  An elderly man lost phone service because he hadn’t authorized someone to help him pay the bills when he could no longer handle the task.  An adult son and only child felt hurt when his mother disinherited him.  She probably hadn’t meant to, she just never got around to retitling an asset she’d purchased decades before he was born.  One couple avoided doing a will because they didn’t know whom to name as their child’s guardian.  By not doing a will, the couple unintentionally exposed their beloved child to the risk of becoming a ward of the state.  A woman named her husband as a health care proxy, even though she thought he might not follow her wishes.  I spoke about these challenges, and others, in my presentation to the National Association of Financial Planners Baltimore Study Group, Estate Planning . . . and What Happens If You Don’t.

Please let me assist you in preparing the right estate documents so you and your loved ones can avoid these problems.  Here are the most common documents:

  • Will (with or without a Revocable Trust)
  • Power of Attorney
  • Maryland Living Will and Health Directive
  • Irrevocable Trust
  • Trust and Estate Administration
  • Estate and Gift Tax Return Preparation (separate from, or in conjunction with, Estate Administration)

The basic estate planning documents everyone needs include a Will, Financial Power of Attorney, and Maryland Living Will and Health Directive.  A Will distributes your probate estate as you direct, a Financial Power of Attorney enables someone you name to oversee your finances if you cannot, and a Living Will and Health Directive enables someone you choose to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so.  Without these documents, your health issues may be managed, and assets distributed, in ways you did not anticipate.

Thinking about estate planning means looking at our own mortality, or considering the possibility that health conditions in the future may cause us to rely on others for help.  It’s easier to tackle these difficult issues if we have loving, supportive family and friends we can trust with our health and assets.

If you do, I can help you prepare documents that include your caring family and friends as appropriate.

If you don’t find yourself in a positive, supported situation, you’re not alone.  Many others face the same challenges.  It may be tempting to avoid estate planning altogether.  Rather than leaving matters to chance, please allow me to help you sort through possible options to develop the best plan for your specific circumstances.

If tax planning is required, I can help you gift assets, or prepare trusts.  After death of a loved one, I can guide you through probate administration.

Probate is the process of distributing assets. I recently helped a family resolve a difficult title issue during probate so they could sell the estate’s only remaining asset: their mother’s house.  The solution required research into long superseded DC probate law, and provided the family with a way to acquire title inexpensively, without a court proceeding.