Estate Planning Resolves Concerns for Those Without Legal Heirs

Estate planning in Maryland may involve special considerations for those who have no close family or heirs. It is important in that situation to establish legal protocols during life to take care of the distribution of one’s assets after death. This includes the important task of appointing an executor to manage the estate. In addition, appointments must be made for a health care directive and for a durable power of attorney, each of which is effective during the maker’s lifetime in the event of an incapacity.

The same applies to deciding on trustees for both living and testamentary trusts. Importantly,  life insurance, retirement and investment accounts require that beneficiaries be listed for direct distribution to them of the proceeds at death. With no beneficiary designation, the proceeds from those accounts are treated as part of the decedent’s probate estate, a result that may be undesirable. The individual with no children or immediate family must keep those beneficiary designations current and updated. Letting them lapse or remain unchanged after a beneficiary’s death, a divorce or other changes may bring unwanted consequences.

If there is no will, complications may loom for those with no legal heirs. When a person dies without a will in Maryland the state’s intestacy laws will kick in and specify the persons to whom the assets pass. In the case of no heirs and no will, one’s assets could potentially be forfeited to the state itself. This makes it critical to do some basic estate planning as soon as possible.

An important first step is to make a last will and testament. It gives the maker control over the disposition of his or her assets and prevents the dreaded forfeiture to the state. In the will, the maker can designate close friends, distant relatives and/or favored charities for receipt of assets in the percentages desired. Where there are step-children from a prior marriage or other persons of concern, the testator may provide for their needs. If any of them are minors, the maker may direct that a testamentary trust administered for their welfare until a specified age.

In addition to the will, a person often chooses to prepare a health care directive and a living will during the estate planning process. The living will is an important legal instrument that tells one’s doctors what to do during one’s last days. Many people do not want to be kept alive artificially where death is a certain and inevitable outcome. The living signed by the patient, usually tells the medical providers to withdraw artificial life-extension treatments, or alternatively, it may direct them to use all means available to extend life.

In the healthcare directive, the principal appoints a representative to make medical decisions if the maker is incapacitated and/or incompetent. For those with no immediate family, it is a relief to know that a trusted friend is ready to act on one’s behalf. The same holds true for the power of attorney, in which the principal can appoint a friend or business associate to conduct his or her daily financial affairs and to make important decisions during a period of incompetency.

Estate planning in Maryland is best engaged in with the guidance and assistance of an attorney who is experienced in that complex area of the law. Many factors can change the equation of options and legal consequences that are available or beneficial. As you can see, there are many reasons why a person who has no children or other preferred heirs has a pressing need to set up an estate plan without delay. The critical protections that you will receive for acting are in stark contrast to the unwanted impact of putting off such important matters to another day.

¿Qué es la planificación patrimonial y por qué es importante?

La planificación del patrimonio es lo que algunos pueden considerar un mal necesario. Puede ser muy incómodo pensar, y mucho menos discutir, cómo le gustaría distribuir sus bienes después de su fallecimiento. Cuando tomas en cuenta las decisiones más pesadas, como quién asume la tutela de cualquier menor de edad o quién se hace cargo de su negocio, no le deben extrañar que muchas personas demoren o descuidan por completo la planificación del patrimonio.

Además de la incomodidad general, muchos renuncian a la planificación de sucesiones por que simplemente no comprenden su importancia. Según un estudio reciente, solo el cuarenta y dos por ciento (42%) de los estadounidenses tienen documentos de planificación de sucesión.

En este artículo, explicaremos qué es planificación patrimonial, por qué es tan importante y cómo comenzar.

¿Qué es planificación patrimonial?

La planificación patrimonial es el proceso de preparación de la forma en que desea que se distribuyan sus bienes a su muerte o incapacidad, y la documentación de sus deseos en lo que respecta a la atención médica al final de su vida. Es un malentendido bastante común que la planificación patrimonial esté reservada para los ricos. En realidad, todos los que poseen propiedades, tienen dinero en una cuenta bancaria o poseen artículos personales tienen una herencia y deben planificar su distribución ordenada.

Además de determinar quién recibe qué de su herencia, un plan patrimonial también puede contener componentes cruciales que podrían evitar que sus seres queridos tengan que tomar decisiones complejas por usted, como por ejemplo:

  • Nombrar guardianes para cualquier niño menor de edad
  • Nombrar a los administradores de su patrimonio en caso de incapacidad o muerte

¿Por qué es importante planificar el patrimonio?

La planificación patrimonial tiene muchos beneficios, independientemente del tamaño del patrimonio o las circunstancias personales. Casi todos pueden beneficiarse al contar con documentos de planificación patrimonial que responden a sus necesidades personales, que incluyen, entre otros, los siguientes:

  • Testamento
  • Poder legal
  • Fideicomiso
  • Directiva médica avanzada

Tener sus documentos preparados por una abogada con experiencia en planificación patrimonial de Maryland disminuirá en gran medida las posibilidades de que su patrimonio esté sujeto al proceso de legalización de testamento, que puede ser emocional y financieramente agotador.

Planificación de la sucesión empresarial

No solo es importante la planificación integral de sucesiones para las familias, sino que también es vital que los propietarios de empresas de Maryland tengan una estrategia. En 2014, las pequeñas empresas de Maryland emplearon a 1.1 millones de personas, que representaban poco más del cincuenta por ciento (50%) de la fuerza de trabajo privada. Con esos números, es seguro decir que independientemente de si ha estado en el negocio durante veinte o dos años, es importante crear un plan de sucesión. Al establecer la estrategia de sucesión de su negocio, aquí hay algunos puntos que debe considerar:

  • Identificando a su equipo de asesores principales
  • Determinar si los miembros de la familia desean y están calificados para manejar el negocio
  • Identificar empleados clave para ayudar a manejar el negocio
  • Determinar un cronograma de cuándo y cómo la empresa hará la transición a su sucesor
  • Incorporación de su plan de patrimonio personal en torno a su plan de sucesión de negocios

Muchos dueños de negocios no establecen un plan de sucesión por adelantado. Una enfermedad imprevista o la muerte de un propietario pueden llevar a una empresa a una caída irrecuperable y descendente. Un plan de sucesión sólido puede detallar qué hacer en caso de muerte o incapacidad prematura del propietario.

Contáctenos

Tener una abogada con experiencia en planificación patrimonial puede garantizar que sus deseos estén delineados adecuadamente según la ley de Maryland. Las Oficinas Legales de Elsa W. Smith, LLC pueden ayudar al redactar documentos de planificación patrimonial que protejan sus bienes, respeten sus deseos y protejan contra el proceso público de legalización de testamento de Maryland. Contáctenos hoy en nuestra Oficina de Annapolis al 410-995-7719, en Laurel al 301-358-4340 o visite nuestro sitio web en elsawsmithlaw.com para conocer cómo podemos protegerlo a usted, su familia y su negocio.

5 Common Mistakes with Do It Yourself Contracts

A contract memorializes each side’s understanding of the terms of an agreement. Pay special attention to these five common pitfalls when entering into a contract in order to save time and money should the relationship deteriorate.

Mistake #1: Not Having a Meeting of the Minds

Take the time to have an in-depth conversation about what each side expects before the contract is drawn up. Know what it is that you are seeking out of the relationship and aim to have a solid understanding of the other party’s wants so that you can anticipate those elements of the contract that may require later negotiation. This step will result in a well-written contract that addresses the minute details of your specific situation rather than a standard form contract.

Mistake #2: Not Reading the Fine Print

Remember that you will be forced to uphold all parts of the contract, not just those that you read. Neglecting to point out and re-work any confusing provisions may result in that language being used against you at a later date. Pay special attention to any bolded, capped or larger-print block sections. This is generally done because those sections contain language alerting you that you are waiving some sort of right. For example, when signing a lease, you may see block print that discusses the right for the landlord to enter a confession of judgement against you for failure to pay. You’ve potentially allowed the landlord to enter a judgment against you without your having the ability to defend against it, even if you have a valid excuse for not paying.

Mistake #3: Neglecting to Consider Choice of Venue, Choice of Law

Be mindful of language related to the location of any potential dispute resolution. This generally refers to where a trial would be held in the event of a breach. If you are entering into a contract with a supplier to produce a good, you want to be sure that any litigation takes place in your city and state, not that of the supplier. If you live in Maryland and your supplier is located in California, it is not advantageous for you to spend thousands of dollars merely in travel to litigate your claim. Similarly, choice of law provisions dictate which jurisdiction’s laws will apply as to the construction, interpretation and litigation of the contract. If you want to file a suit due to a breach of contract, you have three years in Maryland, but the statute of limitations may be shorter (or longer) in the other party’s state, and that statute of limitations may apply if their state’s laws were chosen in the contract.

Mistake #4: Eliminating Boilerplate Language

Boilerplate provisions are standard in most contracts. They serve several purposes such as: defining the parties’ rights and responsibilities, how the parties may make changes to the contract, how the parties may provide notice and control the remedy in case of a breach. It is important to understand the meaning of each type of boilerplate clause and only choose those that are beneficial for your particular contract. Eliminating them altogether may cost you money and peace of mind down the road.

Mistake #5: Not Hiring An Experienced Attorney

Contracts are written in a language that can be extremely difficult for an average untrained person to understand. Hire a lawyer experienced in reviewing and drafting contracts, particularly one who has practical experience in the area that underlies the basis of the contract. For example, if you are a landlord and need a contract for a new tenant, seek out an experienced real estate attorney. This is especially important if the other side has an attorney who has drafted the contract.

Contracts can be the start of a prosperous relationship, but they can also result in a chain of negative consequences. Avoid the above mistakes in order to benefit from business relationships and to protect your interests.