FAQs Archive - Ritter Elder Law & Estate Planning

Frequently Asked Questions

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  • What is the Purpose of a Revocable Living Trust?

    The purpose of a revocable living trust is to provide a flexible and effective means of managing and distributing a person’s assets and property during their lifetime and after their death. A revocable living trust is a legal document that allows a person (the grantor or settlor) to transfer their assets into a trust, which is managed by a trustee (who can be the grantor, another individual, or a professional trustee).

    The primary benefits of a revocable living trust include:

    1. Avoiding probate: A revocable living trust can help to avoid probate, which is the legal process of administering a person’s estate after their death. Assets held in a revocable living trust are not subject to probate, which can save time and money.

    2. Providing for incapacity: A revocable living trust can provide for the management of a person’s assets and property in the event that they become incapacitated. The trustee can manage the trust assets on behalf of the grantor, which can help to avoid the need for a court-appointed guardian or conservator.

    3. Flexibility: A revocable living trust is a flexible estate planning tool that can be customized to meet a person’s specific needs and circumstances. The grantor can make changes to the trust during their lifetime, including adding or removing assets and changing the beneficiaries.

    4. Privacy: Unlike a will, which becomes a matter of public record when it is filed with the probate court, a revocable living trust can be kept private.

    Overall, a revocable living trust is a useful estate planning tool that can provide a range of benefits for the grantor and their beneficiaries. It is recommended to work with a qualified estate planning attorney to create a revocable living trust that is tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.

    Click here to visit RELEP’s Estate Planning webpage.

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  • What is a Regular Estate in Maryland?

    In Maryland, a “regular estate” is an estate that does not qualify as a small estate and is subject to the standard probate process. This means that the estate must be opened with the Register of Wills, and the personal representative (executor) must follow the procedures and requirements set forth in Maryland law. The estate value thresholds are as follows: $50,000 or greater constitutes a regular estate unless the surviving spouse is the sole legatee, then the “regular estate” filing threshold is $100,000.

    The probate process for a regular estate in Maryland involves several steps, including filing a Petition for Probate and Administration, inventorying and appraising the assets of the estate, paying off any outstanding debts or taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the heirs or beneficiaries.

    The personal representative is responsible for managing the estate during the probate process, which may include dealing with creditors, filing tax returns, and distributing assets. The personal representative must also comply with the deadlines and requirements set forth by Maryland law, and must seek court approval for certain actions, such as selling real estate or making significant changes to the distribution of assets.

    It is important to note that the probate process can be complex and time-consuming, and it can involve multiple court appearances and legal fees. It is recommended to consult with a qualified attorney to understand the Maryland probate process and the options available for estate planning and asset distribution.

    Click here to visit RELEP’s Estate Planning and Probate webpage.

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  • What is Elder Law?

    Elder law refers to a specialized area of legal practice that focuses on issues that affect older adults and their families. It covers a range of legal topics, including estate planning, long-term care planning, guardianship, healthcare decision-making, and financial exploitation prevention.

    Elder law attorneys typically work with older adults, their families, and caregivers to provide legal advice and representation on a variety of issues related to aging. They may help clients create wills and trusts, establish powers of attorney and advance directives for healthcare, navigate the complex healthcare system, and protect their assets from financial exploitation.

    Elder law also encompasses a range of issues related to elder abuse and neglect. Elder law attorneys may represent older adults who have been victims of physical, emotional, or financial abuse or neglect, and they may help clients take legal action against perpetrators of elder abuse.

    Overall, elder law is an important and growing field of legal practice that helps older adults and their families navigate the complex legal issues that can arise as they age.

    Click to visit RELEP’s Elder Law and Medicaid webpage.

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  • What does it Mean to Die Intestate?

    Dying intestate in Maryland means that a person has died without a valid will or other estate planning documents. When a person dies intestate, Maryland’s intestacy laws govern how their assets and property are distributed.

    Under Maryland intestacy law, if a person dies without a will, their assets and property will be distributed to their heirs according to a specific order of priority. The deceased person’s surviving spouse and children are typically the first in line to inherit the estate, with the spouse receiving a portion of the estate and the children receiving the remaining balance. If the deceased person has no surviving spouse or children, their parents, siblings, or more distant relatives may be considered heirs and may be entitled to a share of the estate.

    It is important to note that dying intestate can be a complicated and time-consuming process, and it can result in the distribution of the deceased person’s assets and property in a manner that does not reflect their wishes. To avoid this, it is recommended to create a valid will or other estate planning documents to ensure that your assets and property are distributed according to your wishes. A qualified attorney can provide guidance and assistance with creating a will or other estate planning documents in Maryland.

    Click here to visit RELEP’s Estate Planning and Probate webpage.

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  • What is a Legatee?

    In Maryland, a legatee is a person or entity named in a will to receive a specific gift or bequest from the deceased person’s estate. Unlike an heir, who is entitled to a share of the estate when the deceased person dies without a valid will, a legatee only receives the specific property or asset that was bequeathed to them in the deceased person’s will.

    For example, if a deceased person’s will specifies that their antique furniture collection should be given to their friend John, then John is considered a legatee and is entitled to receive the antique furniture collection, while the rest of the estate will be distributed according to the terms of the will or Maryland intestacy laws.

    It is important to note that the rules governing inheritance, wills, and trusts in Maryland can be complex, and they may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the deceased person’s estate. It is recommended to consult with a qualified attorney to understand the laws and rules related to inheritance and estate planning in Maryland.

    Click here to visit RELEP’s Estate Planning and Probate webpage.

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  • What is an Heir?

    In Maryland, an heir is a person who is entitled to receive property or assets from the estate of a deceased person when the deceased dies without a valid will. Maryland’s intestacy laws govern how the deceased person’s estate is distributed when there is no will, and they determine who is considered an heir and what share of the estate each heir is entitled to receive.

    Under Maryland law, the deceased person’s surviving spouse and children are typically the first in line to inherit the estate when there is no will. If the deceased person has no surviving spouse or children, their parents, siblings, or more distant relatives may be considered heirs and may be entitled to a share of the estate.

    It is important to note that the rules governing intestacy and inheritance can be complex, and they may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the deceased person’s estate. In addition, the existence of a will, trust, or other estate planning documents can also affect who is considered an heir and what share of the estate they are entitled to receive. It is recommended to consult with a qualified attorney to understand the laws and rules related to inheritance and estate planning in Maryland.

    Click here to visit RELEP’s Estate Planning webpage.

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  • What does a Financial Power of Attorney do?

    A financial power of attorney is a legal document that grants a person (the agent or attorney-in-fact) the authority to manage the financial affairs of another person (the principal) in the event that the principal becomes incapacitated or unable to manage their financial affairs on their own.

    A financial power of attorney typically grants the agent the authority to perform a wide range of financial tasks on behalf of the principal, including:

    Paying bills and expenses
    Managing bank accounts and investments
    Filing taxes
    Buying or selling real estate or other property
    Applying for government benefits
    Signing contracts and legal documents

    The agent’s authority to act on the principal’s behalf can be limited to specific tasks or can be broad enough to cover all financial matters.

    A financial power of attorney is an important estate planning document that can help to ensure that a person’s financial affairs are managed in the event that they become incapacitated. It is important to choose an agent who is trustworthy and capable of handling financial matters, and to review and update the financial power of attorney regularly to ensure that it reflects any changes in a person’s circumstances or wishes.
    Click here to visit RELEP’s Estate Planning webpage.

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  • What is the Medicaid Look-Back Period?

    In Maryland, the Medicaid lookback period is currently five years. This means that when an individual applies for Medicaid benefits to pay for long-term care, the state will review the individual’s financial records for the five-year period prior to the application date to determine if any assets were transferred or given away during that time.

    If the state determines that the individual has transferred assets for less than fair market value during the lookback period, they may impose a penalty period during which the individual will be ineligible for Medicaid benefits. The length of the penalty period is based on the amount of the transfer and the average monthly cost of long-term care in the state.

    It is important to note that the lookback period and rules regarding transfers of assets can vary by state, so it is important to consult with a qualified attorney who is familiar with Medicaid rules and regulations in Maryland to ensure that you are making informed decisions regarding your assets and Medicaid eligibility.

    Click here to visit RELEP’s Elder Law and Medicaid webpage.

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