In Maryland, it is important for people to have a comprehensive estate plan. Often, this is pushed to the backburner and left for “another time.” While it is wise to craft an estate plan with all the necessary documents early in life, those who are coming close to retirement age should understand that it is even more vital. Older people are generally more established and have greater assets and heirs to be concerned about. Knowing what documents are foundational is essential.
People generally have a basic understanding of what a will is, but many do not take the steps to create one. The will states what the person — the testator — wants done with their property and assets after death. It can also detail the care instructions of minor children. Surveys have shown that only 40 percent of adults in America have a will. For people nearing or past retirement age, that rises to 58 percent. Still, that is troublingly low and not having a will leaves the property at the whim of the courts.
People should also prepare a power of attorney. This gives a trusted individual the right to act on the testator’s behalf in all areas of that person’s life, including finances, business and legal. Those who are ill or injured and cannot state their wishes can rely on the agent listed in the power of attorney to act in their best interests and based on their desires. A health care directive (also referred to as a living will) will state what the person wants if he or she is incapacitated and medical treatment is set to be used. For example, if a person does not want to be kept alive with a ventilator, the living will can say there cannot be artificial breathing equipment used on that person.
Finally, an estate planning information packet will have all the person’s documents, such as bank accounts, their passwords, insurance and more. After a person becomes incapacitated or dies, significant time can be spent searching for this information and having it in one place can help loved ones to address the inevitable issues that arise. Having a well-crafted estate plan can provide peace of mind to anyone, especially someone who is older and preparing for retirement.