What kind of Estate Plan should I have?

Basic estate planning begins with consideration of Wills (probate) versus Revocable Trusts (avoidance of probate) and the nature and function of each. Non-probate probate devices such as joint ownership, life estate deeds, payable on death and transfer on death designations, and beneficiary designations, while rarely used as the sole method(s) of planning, should also be understood as to their function and uses. As always, education is the key to understanding and the ultimate success of the planning.

I want to make sure that my property passes to my loved ones as easily as possible, with the least amount of administrative hassle and as inexpensively as possible. How can I do this?
Become informed. Be proactive and attend one of our Estate Planning Essentials Workshops. In this interactive session, you will learn that estate planning is not a static set of documents, but an on-going process involving initial development of the plan, maintenance and updating of the plan, lifetime learning and education for children and other beneficiaries, proper and on-going funding of the plan, all leading to the efficient management and smooth administration of the final distribution of the estate to your loved ones. Furthermore, you will learn that the total cost of estate planning involves the entire lifespan process, from inception of the plan, throughout lifetime, and in its administration after death.
I am concerned about my beneficiaries having to pay substantial taxes after my death. How can I minimize or eliminate these taxes?
If you are married, your estate plan should provide for the full utilization of each spouse’s state and federal estate tax exemptions. This is the first step in estate tax reduction. Next, the plan must be properly funded so that the plan can work optimally. Next, if necessary, more advanced techniques for estate tax reduction can be utilized, including gifting, shielding life insurance proceeds from taxation, utilizing valuation discounts, and more.
I have grandchildren. Is it possible for me to control my grandchild's inheritance and make sure that their share is properly utilized for their benefit?

Many grandparents share this concern. The answer is a definite “yes”. Rest assured that you can utilize many modern techniques to control your grandchild’s (or child’s) share in exactly the manner you wish, and for as long as you wish, thereby ensuring that your grandchild will receive the full benefit of your gift and that your intentions will be fulfilled.

I am concerned about asset protection. Can I protect the shares of my children and grandchildren?
Asset protection has become a paramount issue in our dramatically changing and unpredictable world. Clients can rest assured that through the use of leading-edge techniques, continuing client and beneficiary education, and implementation of various flexibility measures, it is possible to customize your estate plan to provide various degrees of asset protection for the shares of your loved ones. The degree of asset protection that can be structured is limited only by your wishes and desires.
I have substantial retirement assets. How should I leave those hard-earned assets to my spouse and descendants?
IRA and Qualified Plan assets are unique and should be considered a separate aspect of your estate planning. Failure to understand this important fact can lead to the destruction of the amazing tax advantages afforded under the current laws and unnecessary loss of over fifty-percent of the retirement assets. Since the average inheritance is dissipated in two (2) years, understanding how to leave retirement assets to your loved ones, including asset protecting such assets, should be of paramount concern to anyone who has accumulated such assets over their lifetime.
I have heard a lot about the use of Trust Protectors and Independent Trustees. What should I know about this?

Trust Protector is a special fiduciary whose job is to oversee certain aspects of a trust to ensure that the grantor’s wishes and intentions are fulfilled. A Trust Protector can change the administrative provisions of a trust if there is change in the laws, demand and review accountings, remove trustees and appoint new trustees, review requests for distributions, and much more. The powers given to a Trust Protector must be carefully considered in accordance with the grantor’s goals. An independent Trustee is a special fiduciary (such as a CPA, attorney, or corporate trustee) whose role is, among other things, to increase the asset protection of a beneficiary’s share held in further trust. Through the use of Trust Protectors and Independent Trustees, it is possible to maximize creditor protection for beneficiaries while providing for beneficiary control (or no beneficiary control) of the trust assets.

My parents have estate planning documents that are several years old. What should I be concerned about?"

Limited available statistics suggest that the average person updates their estate plan only once every nineteen (19) years. Because of this, older estate plans are not updated to keep pace with changes in the tax laws or to take advantage of the most modern estate planning techniques available. For example, from 2001 to 2010, there were several major changes to the state and federal estate tax laws. For those persons with taxable estates (estates of over one million dollars) and whose documents have not been updated since approximately 2005, it is likely that those documents are not optimized for the Maryland estate tax, thereby increasing the possibility that a state estate tax could be generated upon the death of the first spouse to die. Another example is the new Maryland Statutory Power of Attorney – all clients should update their power of attorney documents to include this form (now in the Code of Maryland) in conjunction with a supplemental power of attorney. Another example is the continuously evolving Maryland Advance Directive, now providing for further flexibility options for agent decision making.

My loved one has recently been diagnosed with the beginning stages of dementia. What should I do?

Depending on the circumstances, the most prudent course of action to have all family member attend an elder law consultation and all estate planning documents should be implemented as soon as possible, including Will or Revocable Trust, powers of attorney, and Advance Medical Directive. In some cases, asset protection strategies may need to be implemented, and an evaluation by a geriatric care nurse may be appropriate.

My loved one needs supervised care in assisted living or in a nursing home. How do I go about paying for this extraordinary expense? Are there any resources available to pay for these costs?
The first step in the process is to attend an elder law consultation with one of our attorneys. Certain resources are available. However, education and informed decision making about the planning for and utilization of such resources is critical. Other issues include evaluation by a geriatric care nurse and proper placement.
My parent(s) want to protect their assets from the possibility of complete dissipation due to long-term care costs. What are their options?

There are several options for asset protection, from pre-crisis planning strategies (planning prior to a crisis) to crisis planning strategies (planning once a crisis has already occurred). Education and informed decision making are the keys. In any such situation, counseling through an elder law consultation begins the process of education and information gathering, leading to a plan of action that will provide comfort and clarity to parents and children.

My loved one can no longer care for themselves and needs to move outside their home into an institutional care setting. How do I make this difficult transition and where should my loved one reside?
In almost all such cases, it is advisable to utilize the services of a geriatric care nurse or manager to assess the situation, make recommendations, and assist the family at this difficult time. Elville and Associates works with geriatric care nurses/managers to provide the highest level of service possible during this monumental time of transition.
My loved one is incapacitated and no longer able to manage their affairs; yet they refuse to cooperate and will not allow me and our family members to help them. What are my options and what can I do?

This situation is very common yet represents one of the most difficult challenges a family may ever face. Oftentimes such non-cooperation may indicate the need for a guardianship of the person or property of the disabled person. In other cases, where the disabled person has mental capacity, guardianship may be avoided through negotiation and compromise, and the use of existing powers of attorney and Advance Medical Directives, or the execution of new documents. Counseling and a well-developed approach are keys to success, especially where guardianship is determined to be the only reasonable course of action. The attorneys at Elville & Associates provide counseling to assist families and individuals in all such situations so that a plan of action may be developed and implemented.

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How Can I Begin My Estate Plan?