You may be eligible for free legal services through the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS). All Marylanders have the right to make determinations about their healthcare, how their bills will be paid, and to decide who should receive their personal belongings. These rights apply regardless of your income or assets. Think about your family. Making these decisions ahead of time will be a kindness to your family in troubling times when making decisions can be particularly difficult.
HOW DO I START ESTATE PLANNING?
Think about who you would want to name as your agents and who should inherit your belongings.
Gather the names, addresses, and phone numbers of these people.
If you income qualify you may be able to receive free legal assistance with all of these steps through the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS).
What is a Will? It names someone to handle your estate. It names guardians of any minor kids. It says where and to whom your assets will go, and will authorize payment of funeral expenses. Why is it important? If you die without a will, then the state decides how to distribute your assets. State laws usually don’t reflect your wishes. A will allows your property to be distributed as you desire and allows you to tell the court who you want to raise your children.
Advanced Health Care Directive
What is an Advance Medical Directive? It appoints a Healthcare Agent: someone that handles your health decisions if you can’t communicate. It can also include a Living Will: this outlines your medical preferences, which will guide doctors in deciding how best to treat you if you can’t communicate. Why is it important? It helps the doctor to speak with one person and receive a decision instead of all of your family members trying to agree on what to do. What else do I need to know about Advance Medical Directives? The agent must base decisions on your best interests Pick a person that you are close with (usually a family member), who understands your
Financial Power or Attorney
What is Financial Power of Attorney? It appoints a person to make decisions about what happens to your property, assets, and insurance while you’re still living. It goes into effect right when you make it unless you specify otherwise. It lasts until death. Why is it important? Your representative can arrange the payment of everyday expenses, rent, and/or doctors’ bills. They can collect government benefits, handle bank transactions, file and pay your taxes, manage retirement accounts, and more. They will deal with insurance on your behalf to get your full benefits for you. It is a simple way to arrange for someone to manage your finances if you become incapacitated (unable to make decisions for yourself). If you don’t appoint someone yourself, the court may appoint someone. This can be a complicated and time consuming process. What else do I need to know? You can decide what powers to give your representative. Pick someone you trust to manage your finances.
A will simply
Here are steps you can take to pass your things to whomever you like, WITHOUT having to go through probate. Taking these steps lets you protect your assets during your lifetime as you continue to be the sole owner of these assets, but when you pass, they pass outside of probate to the people you have chosen to receive them.
Naming beneficiaries: You can pass your car to a family member by making a vehicle beneficiary designation. The cost is $20 and can be done at http://www.mva.maryland.gov/about-mva/info/27300/27300-78t.htm, or at a local MVA office. This will permit you to remain the sole owner of your vehicle, but when you pass, it will go to the person you designated as the beneficiary.
Insurance policies, retirement accounts, pensions, will transfer similarly to your designated family or friends with a “payable upon death.” You contact the company and instruct them as to who you would like to receive the benefits after you pass away. This person will be your “beneficiary”. You can make these changes online or by calling the company and requesting a form. There should be no costs to make your beneficiary designations.
The balance of your checking and saving accounts may also pass with a “payable upon death.” You can pass the balance of these accounts to a designated person. This is better than sharing accounts
Houses can pass in the same way. You can pass the house using a life estate deed. This will keep the house in your name, and after you pass, it will transfer the house to whomever you name, just like bank accounts, insurance policies and vehicles. Doing a life estate deed is a much safer option than adding someone to your deed as a joint owner, making your home vulnerable to their creditors.
Life Estate Deeds
Once you’ve successfully put your home in your name, it is very important to name someone who will inherit the home when we pass away! You can pass the house using a life estate deed. This will keep the house in your name, and after you pass, it will transfer the house to whomever you name, just like bank accounts, insurance policies and vehicles. Doing a life estate deed is a much safer option than adding someone to your deed as a joint owner, making your home vulnerable to their creditors. If you put someone directly on the deed with you, and they owe anyone any money, those debt collectors can come after the house! A life estate deed prevents this from happening.
IF YOU INCOME QUALIFY…
You may be eligible for free legal services through the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS). MVLS can assist you for free with your estate planning and preparing a life estate deed. You can apply for services anytime online by clicking the link below, or call our intake line at (410) 547-6537 on Monday – Thursday from 9 am to 12 pm.