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There are many legal documents available to include in an estate plan. However, those that are appropriate will depend on a person's specific circumstances, in Maryland or in any other state. They should also reflect any recent changes to estate planning laws. Recent changes in the law have made the revocable living trust a more popular estate planning tool than before.

Prior to the changes that happened a few years ago, an irrevocable trust was a common part of many estate planning strategies. This legal instrument was used as a vehicle to own life insurance. Typically, the benefits received from the policy are utilized to pay for estate taxes of the decedent.

With the new law in place, the exemption level for estate tax liability has been increased. This means only the wealthiest estates will be held liable for estate taxes. Nevertheless, this hardly means that trusts have become obsolete. As a result of the change regarding the level of the estate tax exemption, the use of irrevocable trusts has decreased in favor of revocable trusts.

Revocable trusts are different from irrevocable trusts because they allow the grantor to retain control over his or her assets. Some Maryland residents make use of a revocable living trust as part of an estate plan geared toward maximizing assets while limiting tax liabilities. The revocable trust puts the grantor's finances in the hands of a person he or she trusts, while also retaining ultimate control in case a change in circumstances requires alterations to be made to the terms of the trust.

Source: cincinnati.com, "Trusts remain useful tool in estate planning", J. Brendan Ryan, Nov. 21, 2014

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