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Should a living will be part of your estate plan?

It is never easy to plan for the future, especially when it pertains to your own health care and potential medical problems you could face as you move through life. However, having a good, thoughtful estate plan in place can eliminate some of the stress regarding these sensitive matters.

Every Maryland family could benefit from having an estate plan. This makes certain issues easier for your family in case of incapacitation, but it also provides you peace of mind knowing that you get to decide what happens to your assets and to determine what kind of health care you want. As part of your complete estate plan, you may find it beneficial to consider the benefits of a living will.

Estate planning is for young Maryland residents too

When you're young and carefree, probably the last thing on your mind is planning for the future. However, life is unpredictable. There may be challenges even when you're young. No one wants to think about the "what ifs," but planning for those maybes may save you and your family members a lot of grief should the unthinkable happen.

That's where estate planning comes into play. It's not just for older Maryland residents. Tragedy can strike at any age. Having an estate plan even when you're young and single may give you peace of mind and be your voice when you can't speak.

Things to consider when assigning power of attorney

Writing a will can be a daunting task for all individuals, whether they are writing one for the first time or making changes to an existing document. For some Maryland residents, it may feel as though they are relinquishing control or making premature decisions about their lives. This may be especially true for those who are considering assigning a power of attorney

Individuals may find it helpful to have a backup agent, or they may find it helpful to separate the power of attorney between two people. It can be separated into financial and health care powers of attorney so that no one person is burdened with all of the decisions. One might also find it beneficial to include the entire family by informing them who the officially appointed agent is. This way the family may be more inclined to work together when making difficult decisions. 

Establishing a special needs trust

During the last several years, it seems as though more individuals are classified as having special needs. As a result, many Maryland families may be considering establishing a special needs trusts. These trusts are intended to supplement the income individuals with special needs may receive through government programs.

A special needs trust can be set up by either the individual that the trust is intended for or by a parent, legal guardian, grandparent or the court. These are referred to as either first party or third party trusts. In both cases, the disabled individual that the trust is intended for should be under the age of 65. Trusts that are established by a third party are expected to also be funded by a third party and not the individual that the trust is intended for. 

Remember your pets in your estate plan

For many Maryland residents, animals are more than just pets. They're a part of the family. This can be especially true for older individuals that live alone. However, pets are often overlooked in an estate plan. 

One woman died in her home at the age of 82. She lived alone except for a 12-year-old dog and an 11-year-old cat. Another woman left two cats without a caretaker after her death. Her niece was unaware that her aunt had cats, and the family was unprepared to take them in. A third woman's family was unable to retrieve her dog from a shelter after she was hospitalized because they did not have proof of guardianship. 

A living will is not just for the sick and elderly

Thinking about one's own mortality can be daunting. Too many individuals put off making a will because of what that document represents. This is especially true for a living will or health care proxy. Some Maryland residents may find it difficult to discuss how their belongings will be distributed after their deaths. However, many more may find it nearly impossible to consider what medical treatments they do or don't want to receive, especially if that decision could literally mean the difference between life and death.

Many individuals fear that if they have a living will that prevents them from receiving a certain kind of medical treatment that they won't receive treatment at all. Others might wonder what would happen if they changed their minds later in life about what types of care they would be willing to receive. Some individuals may find it helpful to remember that in some non-life-threatening cases the contents of a living will may be reinterpreted.

The benefits of estate planning could prove crucial late in life

The idea of planning for certain life events can be intimidating. However, having a plan in place to cover certain scenarios in life could help you or your loved ones avoid a great deal of stress down the road, and considering the benefits of estate planning might help you overcome previous reservations.

When you consider estate planning, your first thoughts may turn to what will happen when you die. However, a similar process can also cover a multitude of scenarios in which you are living, but may be unable to make decisions on your own, and having a plan in place for these instances could prove exceedingly beneficial in avoiding a potential disaster.

Estate administration disputes may center around inheritances

Family matters can easily become complicated in Maryland just as they can anywhere in the country. The exact issues that relatives may face differ from family to family and could range from insignificant to monumental. In many instances, families face conflict when it comes to estate administration, especially if individuals believe that a potential heir or beneficiary should not receive an intended inheritance.

Such a situation is currently underway in another state. It was recently reported that a family is attempting to keep one man from obtaining an inheritance from his deceased grandfather's estate. Apparently, the grandfather's estate was worth at least $42 million, which he had bequeathed to his four daughters. However, one of the daughters is presumed dead after going missing in a boating accident. She was the mother of the man involved in the inheritance dispute.

Estate administration disputes may lead to litigation in Maryland

After a loved one passes, his or her estate will need attending to in various ways. Depending on the manner in which the deceased may have planned for his or her estate to be addressed after death, estate administration could continue for years. Of course, even if an individual created a thorough estate plan, issues with the administration could come about.

Maryland residents may be interested in a pending piece of litigation in another state. Reports indicated that an issue has arisen with the estate of a deceased attorney and his living daughter. An oceanfront home stands at the center of the dispute as the woman's mother is the beneficiary of the trust that holds ownership of the home, but the woman believes that the trustees are not acting in her mother's best interests. The estate would like to sell the home for $46 million.

Estate plan tools could impact need for probate in Maryland

Once individuals decide to start estate planning, they may feel a sense of direction when it comes to getting their affairs in order. Even before creating the legal documents associated with their plans, they may begin sorting through their ideas of what arrangements they would be most comfortable with when it comes to allowing their family to close their estate. When going through such thoughts, Maryland residents may wonder what tools may help create an effective estate plan.

Because each plan is personal to the individual who creates it, choosing the right tools and documents can depend on the desires of that person. One major choice that many parties want to make is whether to allow their estate to go through probate. Because probate is a public affair, some people do not feel entirely comfortable with the idea. However, the legal process can prove beneficial when it comes to ensuring that the contents of a will are followed.