New & Noteworthy Articles

For most of our estate planning clients, their general desire is to leave their estate (eventually) to their children.  That’s usually an easy decision, but it is only a starting point for what needs to be an extensive discussion. One of the biggest decisions our clients need to make is how the child will receive his or her inheritance. Essentially, there are only two ways to leave assets to a person – either outright or in trust. That being said, there are many varieties of trusts that can be designed to provide different levels of control and flexibility.  Let’s look at these options in further depth.
The term “estate planning” encompasses not only planning for your death, but also for your disability. As we all know, people are living longer and the likelihood that you will experience Alzheimer’s, dementia, diminished capacity, or other cognitive impairment before you die has increased dramatically. Thus, no estate plan is complete without taking steps to ensure that, if you become incapacitated and can’t make decisions for yourself, someone you trust will be empowered to act on your behalf.
Many things we rely on have specific expiration dates that require action on our part. Driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations, passports, credit cards, memberships all have to be renewed on or before a specific date. We are given ample warning of the specific date these things expire, so we know we have to deal with this deadline. If we miss the deadline, these things are no longer of any use.
According to recent studies, a majority (55%) of adults have not written their will. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a will. That’s because if you don’t prepare your own will, Maryland’s inheritance law does it for you. It’s called the laws of intestacy, and those laws apply to those who die without a valid will. And some significant changes to those laws went into effect on October 1, 2023.
I am pleased to announce that MaKayla Hanington, who joined my firm as an Associate Attorney in 2020, has now become a partner in the firm. The firm will now be operating as HYATT & HANINGTON, LLC.
Your estate plan is not something you can ever “finish.” Your circumstances may change in the future, as well as tax laws or other laws that may affect your estate plan, and often these changes can come with both opportunities and pitfalls. It is best if your estate plan is reviewed regularly and updated to maintain your goals and address any changes in the law.
Many of our prospective clients who are married come into our office and believe that upon one spouse’s death, all of their assets will automatically be transferred to the surviving spouse. Though this may be true in some situations, it may not be true in all. How assets are transferred upon the owner’s death really depends on how the assets are titled.
Among the younger generation, estate planning is sometimes thought of as something only rich old people need to be concerned with. Many parents of young children haven’t given much thought to their estate plan. They may not think they have an “estate” to plan for.
Estate planning documents, including Wills and Revocable Living Trusts, need to be updated from time to time given changes in a client’s personal life, asset acquirement, and changes in tax laws. Although it would be nice if the documents we draft could withstand the tests of time, changes in the tax laws sometimes require us to re-evaluate the appropriateness of our client’s documents and, where necessary, make changes.
The SECURE Act (“Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement”) was enacted on December 20, 2019 and will significantly affect many of our clients with retirement plans, such as Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), 401(k)s, and 403(b)s.

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