Questions About Estate Planning

Estate Planning Attorney Has Answers

Picture of elderly ladiesMaryland and Washington DC estate planning lawyer Michelle Lanchester has over 25 years of experience as an estate planning attorney. Over the years, her clients have asked her for a lot of information. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about estate planning.

What is an estate?

An estate consists of all the property, possessions and monies that you own or control. An estate includes items such as houses, land, real property, automobiles, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, cash, furniture, furnishings, jewelry, art and retirement benefits. It also includes businesses, sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations, and/or joint ventures, tools, equipment, accounts, receivables and business property.

What is estate planning?

Estate planning is the process that involves making decisions in advance, during your lifetime, regarding your: (1) healthcare (2) family and loved ones (3) financial and business matters, (4) property, (5) life care decisions and (6) after life decisions and matters. This type of advance planning empowers you to safeguard your wishes and protect you, your family and loved ones in the event of emergencies.

What can an estate plan do for me?

An effective estate plan can empower you:

  1. To control your decisions about your life;
  2. To direct how decisions will be made regarding your healthcare and your quality-of-life;
  3. To direct how and to whom your property and assets will be distributed;
  4. Reduce or eliminate interference from private, local, state and federal entities who would seek to make decisions on your behalf or in your stead.

Do I need a will?

Every legally competent adult should have a will. Your will contains your wishes regarding the distribution of your property after your death. If you fail to plan, the government has a default plan for you and your loved ones. You may not like the government’s plan, since the government did not personally consult you. Eliminate the possibility of confusion and heartache by consulting with estate planning attorneys. Position yourself to leave a legacy of love.

What is a trust?

Trusts are complex, private legal documents that can provide recurring management of money, property, financial arrangements, asset management during your lifetime and estate tax planning for married couples. Trusts are an effective way to specify the conditions upon which children, relatives and loved ones receive money and property over a specified term of years. Trusts are also for parents who are concerned about providing ongoing management for children with special needs.

A trust is often used to avoid paying probate fees. The trust is not filed in probate court in a manner that is open for viewing by the public.

How can estate planning assist me in charitable giving?

Charitable giving is a wonderful thing to do. It can also be an effective beneficial tool in reducing possible estate tax liability.

How do I plan for medical emergencies? Do I need a Power of Attorney?

The most effective way to plan for medical emergencies is to have your advance directives and financial power of attorney documents prepared while you are healthy. There are at least four documents that you will need:

  • the medical power of attorney for health care (an advance directive)
  • the living will (also known as an advance directive)
  • the financial power of attorney (durable power of attorney)
  • the HIPAA authorization document

For a medical power of attorney, you will need to select an agent you trust to carry out your wishes in the event of a medical emergency. For a financial power of attorney, you will select a trustworthy individual who will handle your financial and business matters in the event of an emergency. A major goal for preparing the advance directives and the financial durable power of attorney documents is to ensure that your wishes are honored. Your loved ones will be relieved and will have peace of mind about knowing and following your decisions.

Estate planning is always a good idea, regardless of your age, if you are a competent adult. Be in control of your decisions and leave a legacy of love. Contact estate planning attorney Michelle Lanchester at her offices in Washington DC and Largo, Maryland to discuss your estate planning options.

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