(Ok, 80% Kidding.)
Congratulations! You have a baby on the way. You’ve shared the happy news with your family and friends. You’ve done the latest Pinterest-inspired gender reveal. You’ve decorated the nursery and posted the pictures on social media. You’ve agonized over your baby registry. Perhaps you have even packed the diaper bag and strapped that car seat into your sedan (and started pricing SUVs and minivans because…goodbye sedan).
Or maybe you have a family of littles already. And you are knee-deep in crayons, potty seats, diapers of various sizes, Legos, tee-ball, ballet, and gymnastics. You’ve attended parent-teacher conferences. You have added field trips, holiday programs, and dentist appointments to your Outlook calendar. You basically live at the pediatrician’s office at the start of every school year. Your Administrative Assistant knows your kids’ napping schedule and arranges telephone conferences accordingly.
Well young parent, let me encourage you to take this opportunity to now address something few of us want to think about: your estate plan.
I get it. This goes on the back-burner for many of us. But here are a few things you may not realize and will hopefully motivate you to put this at the top of your To-Do List:
- In Maryland, if you pass away without a Will and you are survived by minor children and a spouse, your estate will be distributed ½ to your spouse and ½ to your kids.
- Without a Will, there is no designation of someone to serve as the Guardian of minor children, if your spouse does not survive you.
- Without a Power of Attorney, if you were living but unable to sign your own name, your spouse has no authority to access your retirement account, handle real property that is titled in your name (even if your spouse is a joint owner of the property), or sign your name to a contract.
- Without an Advance Medical Directive, the presumption is that you must have wanted to be kept alive for as long as possible, with the use of all available medical interventions.
So… let me point out a few more things:
- In your Will, you get a chance to designate a Guardian of your children, and direct that everything you own should be distributed to your spouse.
- You can, in your Will, set aside a portion or all of what you own in a trust for the benefit of your kids, and you can indicate how the money in the trust should be used (like…not on a Porsche, for example).
- You can also designate who would be in charge of the money in the trust (we call this person the Trustee) – and it could be someone different than who you designate to be the Guardian.
- A trust for the benefit of your kids can protect their inheritance from potential creditors (if they had serious medical expenses, for example), divorce, and the unwise decisions young people sometimes make with money.
- A Power of Attorney and Advance Medical Directive can help keep your financial, legal, and medical issues private if something happened to cause you to be unable to manage these matters for yourself while you are still living – these documents put authority into the hands of your named Agent and Health Care Agent, without additional hoops to jump through.
All that to say: make your estate plan a priority! And, also: putting your estate plan in place may not be as complicated as you think. And, finally: even if it is just as complicated as you think, it’s pretty important, and needs to be done. Good luck parents!
ABOUT BRIANNA JARRETT
Since her admission to the Maryland Bar in December 2010, Brianna Davidson Jarrett has practiced in the areas of elder law and estate planning. Brianna earned a Bachelor of Social Work from Messiah College in 2007, and then pursued a Juris Doctor at Widener University, where she served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Widener Law Journal, and graduated magna cum laude in May 2010. She then joined The Law Offices of Nomiki Bouloubassis Weitzel, LLC, as a law clerk and, after her admission to the Maryland Bar in December 2010, she became a practicing attorney with the firm and continued as an Associate before joining Offit Kurman in 2018. Brianna is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), the American Bar Association, and the Maryland State Bar Association, where she is also a member of the Estates and Trusts Section as well as the Elder Law Section.
ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN
Offit Kurman is one of the fastest-growing, full-service law firms in the Mid-Atlantic region. With over 170 attorneys offering a comprehensive range of services in virtually every legal category, the firm is well positioned to meet the needs of dynamic businesses and the people who own and operate them. Our twelve offices serve individual and corporate clients in the Virginia, Washington, DC, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City regions. At Offit Kurman, we are our clients’ most trusted legal advisors, professionals who help maximize and protect business value and personal wealth. In every interaction, we consistently maintain our clients’ confidence by remaining focused on furthering their objectives and achieving their goals in an efficient manner. Trust, knowledge, confidence—in a partner, that’s perfect.
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