Frequently Asked Questions2024-05-06T16:39:43-04:00

Family Legacy™ Frequently Asked Questions

Working With Us

What services do you offer?2024-03-27T15:26:30-04:00

We are a law firm focusing on estate planning and administration.  We help clients choose the right strategies for their estate plan to achieve their goals.  These strategies may include Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Advance Directives for Health Care, and various other ancillary documentation as needed based on a given client’s goals.  Goals may include elder law, charitable planning, special needs, estate tax, as well as protecting an inheritance from creditors and divorce. 

Elder Law is a subset of estate planning but is more tuned to real time asset preservation in the event of current or potential stay in a nursing home.  We help clients either way to employ strategies that meet their goal of asset preservation while maintaining the level of personal care that they need.  Proactive elder law is planning for the potential while crisis mode would be for someone who is already receiving nursing home level care and is spending large sums of money on a monthly basis.  We effectively help clients and their families preserve assets in the face of such a personal and financial crisis. 

Estate settlement involves the two life crises:  disability and death.  We help clients and their families in these crisis situations to transition control over assets to the proper person or persons, identify duties required by law, and assist in carrying out the instructions in the estate plan.  The settlement process may be supervised by the government (probate) or may be private if the client took the necessary preparations when they were alive and well to make it so. 

Most of our clients find value in having a lasting relationship with a law firm that fully discloses fees in advance and doesn’t nickel and dime them on charges for photocopies, telephone calls, emails, amendments to documents, etc.  Most do, but not all.  We also offer a more traditional estate planning service as well. 

We provide clients who own businesses the opportunity to review and update their corporate documents to maintain the integrity of the personal asset protection that is expected from the corporate structure. 

Where are you located? And how do I get there?2024-03-27T15:27:43-04:00

Our office is located in the York Green complex at 1300 York Road, Suite 120, Lutherville, Maryland 21093.  Of the 4 buildings in the complex, we are in the first building, Building A, a colonial style brick building that fronts York Road.  Our suite is on the first floor and easily accessible. 

We are just North of the Baltimore Beltway (Interstate 695) on York Road.  Take Beltway Exit 26 North on York Road if you are coming from the East.  Take Beltway Exit 26B North on York Road if you are coming from the West. 

Move to the left lane and turn left at the traffic light at Greenridge Road.  If you are driving South on York Road, turn right at the Greenridge Road light.  This takes you into our parking lot.  Our building is the red brick building on your immediate right after making the turn.  We are directly across York Road from the Peppermill Restaurant. 

There is ample free parking.  

In addition to our office suite, we have a dedicated Learning Center on the lower level of the building where we conduct training programs for estate planning helpers, Client Update Program sessions, and other group learning opportunities for clients and their families as well as other professional advisors. 

Appointments are also available in Bel Air and Rockville.

What will happen during an initial meeting with your office and how much will it cost?2024-03-27T15:30:45-04:00

There is no cost to learn about your estate planning options and what factors affect your estate.  In our office, the process begins with an orientation to estate planningIf you attend a live orientation event or watch a recorded session there is no cost for the initial meeting in our office or via ZoomIf you prefer to have the orientation as a one-on-one meeting, there is a fee for that session.   

Common Estate Planning Questions

Would You Explain the Estate Planning Process?2024-03-27T15:32:20-04:00

The average person can’t be expected to know the ins and outs of the law, so it is important for people who want to plan their estate to learn a bit about how systems work.  This provides a basis of knowledge to make good decisions for themselves.  This helps one form a vision for what the result of their plan should be.  This vision drives what strategies to use.  The creation process is (1.) to learn about planning, teach the law firm about what you own and how you own it, (2.) hone your vision about what result you are trying to achieve through estate planning, (3.) design your plan; (4.) review your plan; then (5.) implement the plan. 

 It is important to properly maintain your estate plan in light of changes in your personal or financial situation as well as when the law changes.  Regular reviews and updates assure your plan’s success. 

How Long Will It Take to Create an Estate Plan?2024-03-27T15:33:09-04:00

The time it takes to create your estate plan depends on how well you are prepared.  Taking the time to properly consider issues related to your potential disability or death is key to creating your personal estate plan.  On average you should expect the process to take a few weeks as you consider different issues over that time.  In our law firm, we prefer to schedule out all meetings so that the estate plan so that our clients know, in advance, when they can expect the plan to be delivered for their review and signing. 

How Will My Estate Plan Be Updated If My Circumstances Change?2024-03-27T15:33:43-04:00

In general, the average estate plan only gets updated if the client initiates the update. 

In our law firm, most of our clients prefer to be prompted to review and update their estate plan, so they receive regular contact from our firm.  The cycle varies, but the purpose is to make sure that our clients have a recently updated estate plan at any time they develop a disability or should they die.

What Happens to My Estate Plan After I Pass Away?2024-03-27T15:34:35-04:00

Your estate plan will provide a set of instructions to guide your personal representative or trustee to wind down your affairs and to pass your assets to your chosen beneficiaries in the manner you selected.  The plan doesn’t go away unless you instruct that it does so.  You may choose to extend the life of your plan to  


What is estate planning?2024-03-27T15:35:11-04:00

Estate planning is keeping control of your property while you are alive and well; planning for you and your loved ones in the event of your disability; giving what you have, to whom you want, when you want, the way you want; all while passing your wisdom along with the rest of your weath. 

Why do I need to plan?2024-03-27T15:36:15-04:00

You don’t need to planThe state has an estate plan for you if you fail to create your own.  That said, you may want to planIf you want to be in control of your plan, then you need to create an estate plan to memorialize your wishes. 

Do I need a will?2024-03-27T15:36:50-04:00

People employ the Will strategy when they want to accomplish goals that require a will to achieve.  The operative word is “need.”  If you don’t like the default state law regarding the handling of your estate and you want to have more control then you might need a will to accomplish that goal. 

What happens when someone dies without a will?2024-03-27T15:37:22-04:00

When someone dies without having made a will, what happens depends on how they owned their assets.  You use a will to direct how you want the asset you own in your own name, individually, to transfer after your death.  You also get to name the person or persons who will be in charge of your affairs after your death.  Without a will, state law will dictate who is entitled to your assets and who is in charge. 

Should I hire a lawyer to help me draft a will, or can I do it myself?2024-03-27T15:38:23-04:00

Anyone can do anything themselvesThat doesn’t mean that they will do it effectively.  There are certain legal requirements for a valid will that are not obvious to the average personAttorneys are taught about these legal requirements and they keep abreast of changes to these legal requirements as they occur.  Attorneys can advise you based on their experience and other situations raised in cases decided by a courtChances are that you don’t have the same experiences and reference of knowledge that an attorney hasIf you were to make a mistake when creating your will it will likely not come to light until after your deathAt that point, you would have a difficult time correcting that mistake. 

What is a living will/advance healthcare directive?2024-03-27T15:38:58-04:00

The Advance Directive for Health Care is the method to designate your Health Care Agent or Surrogate and provide instructions for your end-of-life situationsYou designate whether to withhold life support and feeding tubes in certain situations.  These have typically been done through two separate documents:  Living Will and Health Care Power of AttorneyThe Advance Directive for Health Care combines both in a format defined by state law that is familiar to medical professionals. 

What is probate?2024-03-27T15:39:41-04:00

Probate is the public process of administering the estate after a person’s deathIt begins through the Register of Wills office in each county and is overseen by the Orphans’ Court.  It is a public record.

Should I avoid probate?2024-03-27T15:40:14-04:00

Whether you should avoid probate is determined by your estate planning goals.  If your goal is to keep your assets and beneficiaries private and not subject to review by the general public, then you should take steps to avoid probate by creating an estate plan that does that. 

What are trusts and what benefits do they offer?2024-03-27T15:40:56-04:00

There are two basic types of trusts:  revocable and irrevocable.  They mean how they sound.  A person can change their revocable trust if they choose.  The irrevocable trust is set once it is signed.  A person cannot change the terms of their irrevocable trust on their own. 

 The easy way to think of revocable trusts is as general-purpose estate planning trusts.  The client is in day-to-day control of their own trust.  They can change their trust at any time.  They name people to be in charge of their trust if the client becomes unable to manage their financial affairs and they can leave detailed instructions for those persons to follow during the period of disability.  The revocable trust also provides for the transfer of assets following the death of the client.  It is the most comprehensive tool for general estate planning purposes. 

 Irrevocable trusts tend to be specific purpose trusts as the client gives up certain types of control over assets in order to accomplish the intended result.  Irrevocable trusts are popularly used for charitable purposes, gifting for medical or educational purposes without gift tax, special needs, estate tax reduction, asset protection, and many more purposes. 

 Trusts can have benefits and costs, so it is important to understand both and weigh whether a given type of trust would be appropriate for you.  Being informed keeps you in charge of your plan! 

What plans can I make for my pets?2024-03-27T15:41:25-04:00

Maryland recognizes and authorizes the use of pet trustsA pet trust can set aside designated assets or a percentage of assets for the care of a pet who survives youYou would further designate the person who would take care of your petPlease talk this over with them before including them in your pet trust.  These trusts can easily be included in your will or revocable trust. 

Will my beneficiaries’ inheritance be taxed?2024-03-27T15:42:04-04:00

For people who die in Maryland, there are two possible death taxes:  inheritance and estate.  The estate tax exempts the first $5 million of assets in an estate so that tax is paid on only the amount that exceeds $5 million.  The inheritance tax applies to more distant related beneficiaries as children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, and siblings are exempt from the inheritance tax.  Anyone else who receives property as a result of someone’s death would trigger a 10% tax (11% if the will or trust pays the tax on the beneficiary’s behalf)

What is a power of attorney?2024-03-27T15:42:41-04:00

A power of attorney is an estate planning tool that you may use to designate someone to stand in your shoes for the purposes that are named in the power of attorney document.  This authority of your designated agent applies to all property you own in your own name.  It would not provide authority over assets owned in a trust that you created. 

 A power of attorney may be limited or general.  There is not a “standard” power of attorney, however there are statutory form powers of attorney that provide advantages over others. 

Can I leave money to a charity?2024-03-27T15:43:12-04:00

Yes, you can leave money to a charity in several ways.  You can name the charity as a beneficiary of any asset for which you can legally name beneficiaries.  You can name the charity as a beneficiary of your will or revocable trust.  Those are simple ways to leave assets to a charity. 

There are also more sophisticated ways to leave assets to a charity.  You can also set up a special charitable trust that would either provide income to the charity during your life with the remainder going to your beneficiaries; or provide income to you for the rest of your life with the remainder at your death going to charity.  These specialized trusts should be used under the counsel of an experienced attorney. 

Would my children get my money if I remarry?2024-03-27T15:43:42-04:00

If you aren’t careful, your children may lose an inheritance to a stepparent.  Titling assets jointly with a spouse is convenient, but that convenience may disinherit children from a prior marriage if the wrong spouse dies first.  A second marriage need not cause such a result.  If the parent’s goal was to provide for the surviving spouse and children then they would need to take action to create an estate plan that would lead to that result. 

When A Loved One Passes Away

Things To Do Immediately2024-04-01T12:12:09-04:00

For Everyone:

  • Call the law firm immediately!
  • Arrange for the care of any pets
  • Secure the house
  • Schedule a Settlement Counselling Session™ with the Law Firm as soon as possible, to occur within 2 weeks
  • Make a list of questions to bring to your Initial Settlement Counselling Session™
  • Read and follow the correspondence you receive from the law firm

If Your Loved One Was Our Client:

  • Locate the Estate Planning Portfolio (“RED Book”) and the Client Family Operator’s Manual (“Black Book”) – Do Not remove anything
  • Review Tab 7 of the Black Book
  • Review (and follow) the purple instructions for final arrangements in the Red Book behind the tab marked “Memorial Instructions”
Things NOT To Do Before Getting Legal Advice2024-04-01T12:13:33-04:00
  • Don’t close any bank accounts or roll over any IRAs
  • Don’t endorse any checks or other documents in the decedent’s name
  • Don’t drive the decedent’s car
  • Don’t remove any household furnishings
  • Don’t pay any bills
  • Don’t use decedent’s credit cards
  • Don’t contact life insurance companies
  • Don’t contact banks or investment institutions
  • Don’t use any Power of Attorney or do anything “as” POA or “Agent”
How many death certificates do I need to order?2024-03-27T11:52:13-04:00

Generally, the funeral director will order as many certified death certificates as you request. At a minimum, you will need an original certificate for yourself, the law office and each financial institution at which your loved one maintained an account (including banking, insurance and brokerage institutions). If you’re unsure how many death certified death certifications to order, we recommend you initially request ten. If additional certified death certificates are needed, then can be obtained from the Vital Statistics at a later date.

What should I do with any Social Security checks which arrive after my loved one has passed away?2024-03-27T11:52:58-04:00

If you discover an uncashed Social Security check, please hold it until your Settlement Counselling Session™, and we will provide you with complete instructions as to how to proceed at that time. Normally, monthly Social Security payment received after the date of death must be immediately forwarded back to the Social Security Administration and must not be deposited or cashed.

What do I do with other checks made payable to my loved one?2024-03-27T11:53:43-04:00

Hold on to these checks until you meet with your attorney. The attorney will discuss this issue during your meeting. However, if you are uncomfortable holding on to the checks, feel free to call the office for direction. This is one of the first issues discussed in the Settlement Counselling Session™.

Should I be getting appraisals of any of assets?2024-03-27T11:54:25-04:00

Until we have our Settlement Counselling Session™, there is no need to secure appraisals for your loved one’s assets. However, eventually we will need a quoted value in writing on the value of any real estate, residential personal property, crops growing in the ground, licensed vehicles and watercrafts, and business interests. The “formality” of the appraisal or valuation will depend on the type of asset and the death tax situation involved.

Should I be dividing up any of the personal property among surviving loved ones?2024-03-27T11:55:07-04:00

No!  You should not be dividing up any of the personal assets of your loved ones among the beneficiaries until you have had sufficient opportunity to assess the value of the items for tax reporting purposes. All distribution of your loved one’s property should be postponed until after the Settlement Counselling Session™, and after the property has been properly valued.

How do I pay funeral expenses?2024-03-27T11:55:46-04:00

The funeral director will normally work with you on this issue. If your loved one made for pre-paid arrangements, you’ll simply need to verify this fact. If no pre- paid arrangements were made, the funeral director will normally be satisfied with either an assignment of life insurance or, if possible, an advance from a family member that will be repaid once your loved one’s accounts become available. It is recommended that you NOT withdraw funds from any of your loved one’s accounts in order to pay the funeral home.

How do I pay other bills that come due prior to the Settlement Counselling Session™?2024-03-27T11:56:44-04:00

Most creditors are very understanding of the position you’re in. You have no legal access to your loved one’s funds until formal action has been taken. We recommend that you explain this to any creditors, and to simply inform them of when you will be meeting with your attorney for the Settlement Counselling Session™. If you’re faced with a particularly pushy or hostile creditor, call the law firm immediately so that we may work through the situation for you.

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