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People in Maryland often think that drafting a simple will is adequate for the purposes of estate planning. This idea is based on the thinking that as long as a person has some kind of will, the individual has completed his or her estate plan. However, wills are just one component of a well-thought-out estate plan.

Not all wills are the same. Wills can differ depending on the stages of life that people are experiencing, as a family's goals and circumstances transform throughout the family members' lives. In addition, wills may not control every single thing a person owns at death. Thus, the charities and people listed in a will may not end up getting what one wants them to get. Wills also do not provide planning in the event that a person becomes incapacitated.

What wills control at the time of death depends on the situation. Real estate is often transferred via a will, and so are other assets that have been collected over the years. However, other assets, such as a retirement account, have beneficiaries listed and thus are not controlled by a will.

When dealing with the possibility of incapacity in Maryland, a power of attorney is a valuable document to draft and include an estate plan. A person's chance of becoming incapacitated is as low as 20 percent before he or she reaches age 65, but the chance increases to 50 percent after this age. A power of attorney allows a person to name another individual to make critical medical and financial decisions for him or her in case he or she becomes incapacitated. Appropriate legal guidance may help a person to successfully create a comprehensive estate plan that addresses his or her unique needs and wishes.

Source: greenbaypressgazette.com, "Estate planning: It's more than just a will", Michael Maas, Feb. 22, 2016

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