Downs Law Firm, P.C.

Augmented Estate Law

Maryland Augmented Estate Law Protects Spouse with a Bigger Piece of the Pie

A new “Maryland Augmented Estate Law” has been enacted by the legislature. This law greatly enlarges a husband’s or wife’s protections to receive at least a minimum “Piece of the Pie” at death. It expands new rights about which assets a surviving spouse can elect to receive at the death of their spouse. It is a significant factor to consider in creating or reviewing your Revocable Trust or Last Will and Testament. Current law provides protections so that a spouse cannot be disinherited. It has long been the law that, absent a valid prenuptial agreement (or postnuptial agreement), a surviving spouse could opt to receive one-third of the deceased spouse’s assets instead of what the will provided. This is called taking an Elective Share, as it is a right that must be exercised by the spouse and is not automatic. In most cases, this right did not include assets the deceased spouse held in a revocable trust.  In addition, the spousal inheritance right did not apply to assets passing by beneficiary designation, such as life insurance, pay on death accounts or individual retirement plans.  The Augmented Estate law will allow a surviving spouse to reach such assets if left out of the planned inheritance.  It also potentially increases the portion for surviving spouses without children, increasing it from one third to one half of the augmented estate. If you are married and are leaving everything, or most things, to your spouse, this new law will not affect you.  However, for couples who are separated or who do not plan to provide his or her spouse, this law could impact you significantly. Even if this is irrelevant to your marriage, or if you are single, it is now an important consideration when planning for your descendants. If you are concerned about the stability of your children’s marriages, or if you want to protect their inheritance from divorce, the impact of this new law should be considered when revising your plan.  The creation and structure of trusts to protect beneficiaries from potential marital problems will be more important. Time is needed to see the full implications of this new Augmented Estate Law.  Although, it clearly increases the advisability of prenuptial or postnuptial agreements for people getting married who have children from prior relationships.  The law will take effect in October 2020, so there is time to adjust your planning if needed. I foresee significant work for estate litigation attorneys because of this change. As always, we are here to make modifications to your estate plan necessitated by changes in the law to make sure your plan accomplishes your goals. For the Full text of the bill, Is Prenuptial Agreement a Good Idea?  

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Estate Planning attorney and feuds

Estate Planning Attorney Can Help Avoid Family Feuds

A daughter has some problems, as siblings are hurt by parent’s estate planning intentions. With the choices you make of who you put in charge, you set the table for great or horrible results. Failing to have any plan is setting the table for controversies and fights. Families can grow together with brothers and sisters under the same roof. As time goes by and aging parents must make tough decisions, things can get difficult with feuds developing. An estate planning attorney can help the family through these difficult times, according to a Faribault Daily News article “Attorney can smooth path for families making legal plans,” The article tells of a reader who faced a problem from siblings, when the parents wanted to create a power of attorney for health and care decisions. The difficulties came from siblings who live far away but felt as if they not being included in their parent’s plans. For this particular family, one sibling lives 500 miles away and another lives 800 miles in the opposite direction. The one daughter who lives in the same community is the logical choice for power of attorney. What can be done? The parent’s foresight in updating their estate plan and related legal documents is to be congratulated. The one adult child who lives in their community, is the best choice for power of attorney for medical and financial decisions, so they can quickly handle an emergency situation. The parents have assigned the other two adult children as secondary POAs and everyone has already been informed that they will all receive equal shares in the estate. The out-of-town siblings should be happy at how fairly and expeditiously their parents are taking care of in these matters. Adults need someone to be named to handle health care and financial decisions, if they become incapacitated and need someone else to make decisions. Having a POA puts others in place to take over any tasks. Having a secondary POA designates someone to step in, if the primary is unable to act. When someone choses a POA because they don’t want to hurt any feelings, the result is often disastrous. It’s important to pick the most competent and trustworthy candidate. Some states also allow what is known as a “co-agent,” so that decisions are made together. But in an emergency, if the other person is not immediately present and time is an issue, this can lead to critical situations being unresolved. One way to soften this kind of situation is to have the entire family meet with the estate planning attorney in a family meeting. With a professional who is not emotionally tied to the family dynamics, decisions can be explained, and cooler heads may prevail. An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and help smooth over family issues, if necessary. We spend the time in consultations helping to weigh out these choices. Reference: Faribault Daily News (August 28, 2018) “Attorney can smooth

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