Although many people in Maryland are aware of the importance of having an estate plan in place for the sake of their loved ones, it is no secret that many Americans put off the process or forget the importance of keeping existing documents up to date. This can apply to changes in life circumstances, such as divorce and remarriage, changes to financial sources, the addition of beneficiaries, or a move to another state.
Residents of Anne Arundel County do not have to have a will in place, but without this basic estate planning document, the state’s intestacy laws will determine the distribution of assets to next-of-kin heirs. Any minor children will also become wards of the state if no relative or family friend steps forward. The county Orphans’ Court oversees the probate process, which may include the appointment of a guardian for any minor children who inherit property or who do not have a designated guardian.
Basic documents to put in place
When planning for the future, it is important to think about who you wish to provide for and how to do this, as well as considerations for the management or control of a business, real estate allocations, or insurance policy designations. Even without a comprehensive plan in place, some importants documents to have include:
- A will, which not only allows the grantor to name a personal representative (PR) to oversee the estate, but also a guardian for minor children. In addition, the will can include beneficiary designations and provide for the creation of a trust
- A financial Power of Attorney (POA) that will designate and agent to manage property, transfer or give gifts, or pay bills and other expenses of the grantor
- A POA for health care appointing an agent to oversee medical decisions on behalf of the grantor
Keeping documents up to date
When reviewing your estate plan, it is essential to update documents or create new ones that reflect the changes that have occurred due to significant life events. Some of these can be due to:
- Divorce or remarriage
- Sale or purchase of real estate or other major assets
- Death or incapacity of a PR or beneficiary
- Adding beneficiaries
Important documents to hold on to for revision or to itemize assets include any past wills or other estate planning instruments, as well as any documents that verify existing assets and debt. When examining estate planning issues, it is also useful to also consider future tax implications on the estate plan, how to minimize probate and how best to provide for loved ones, especially minor children.