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Estate planning can be a complex legal topic but can be easily understood as a form of emergency preparedness. Just as emergency preparedness is all about minimizing a disaster's impact with a calculated plan of action, estate planning is about minimizing the financial or legal impact of your death or disability on your family.
There are plenty of tools to help you with estate planning in Maryland. Whether you live in Silver Spring, Frederick or Baltimore, you have access to legal estate planning resources like wills, living trusts, advance directives and more. Using LawInfo's Maryland estate planning articles, you can learn about the legal ins and outs of securing your family's future and connect with a qualified local attorney.
A Last Will and Testament is a common method used by Maryland residents to make their estate distribution wishes known. If you want a certain person or organization to receive an asset from your estate when you die, you can include that wish in your will. You can also assign a guardian to your children under 18 years of age if you don't have a surviving spouse when you die.
Maryland will only recognize typewritten wills signed by the testator (the person for whom the will is written) and two witnesses. Holographic (handwritten) and nuncupative (oral) wills are not legally recognized. Maryland makes an exception on holographic wills for active members of the U.S. armed services.
If any part of your estate isn't included in your will or a trust when you die, it is distributed among your family by Maryland's intestate succession laws. When this happens, any wishes you or your family may have had about the intestate assets are forfeit and the law decides who gets what assets.
If you die intestate, your assets will be distributed by living succession to your:
If you have no living inheritors, your intestate assets will escheat to one of two Maryland government organizations. Your estate will escheat to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene if you received long-term care benefits from the Maryland Medical Assistance Program. If you didn't receive such benefits, your estate escheats to your county's board of education for use by public schools.
While many Maryland residents' concerns with estate planning are focused on what happens to their property and family after death, another important part of estate planning is concerned with healthcare. There may come a time when you become incapacitated or incompetent to making decisions from an accident or failing health.
You can ensure that your healthcare needs are addressed when you're no longer able to make decisions yourself using Maryland's Advance Directive. This is a legal document in which you can select a health care agent and list your healthcare wishes (sometimes called a “living will”).
By giving a health care agent the durable power of attorney, you are permitting them to make healthcare decisions when you are unable to. Since the Advance Directive combines the power of attorney with your living will, you can specify the types of healthcare treatments you want or don't want your agent to permit.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified estate planning lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local estate planning attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.