After working for a lifetime, it is often very important for elderly individuals to safeguard their legacies. There are many ways that this task can be completed. The goal for protecting property after death is often linked with avoiding the probate process. This process is a time-consuming process that ties up a person’s assets until the legal process to pay off creditors and distribute an inheritance is completed. Other strategies can also safeguard property even if the probate process is necessary.
One effective way of protecting property after death and even before it is to put it in a trust. The grantor of a trust transfers property into a trust so that the trust is legally held by the trust and not the grantor. The grantor appoints a trustee to follow the instructions in the trust and to manage the trust income and interest. The trust names one or more individuals for whom the trust is made to benefit, called the beneficiaries.
There are a variety of trust types. A grantor may make a living trust in which the grantor is also the trustee and the beneficiary. This may be a living revocable trust that can be changed at any time. Once the grantor dies, the trust becomes irrevocable and the trust assets are handled by the successor trustee.
Trusts can be specifically drafted by a knowledgeable estate planning attorney to effectuate the desires of the grantor. For example, a trust may be made to protect against creditors or to protect a beneficiary who has money management troubles. Trusts can also be made to benefit charities or to provide for the needs of a person with special needs.
Right of Survivorship
An effective way to transfer certain property is through the use of a right of survivorship. When property is owned as joint tenants with the right of survivorship, the owners own the entire property together. When a joint owner dies, his or her share of the property is absorbed by the surviving co-owner. Even if the co-owner provided for his or her share of the property to pass to an heir, this has no effect because the person’s portion of the property automatically passes to the other co-owner immediately at death. This can help property pass without having to be probated.
Tenants by the Entirety
Maryland recognizes a special series of property rights when property is owned as tenants by the entirety. This special designation is provided only for married co-owners of property. It provides the same benefits as joint tenants. However, it also offers additional benefits, including protection against creditors because only creditors of joint debts can take action against the property. Neither spouse is permitted to convey his or her portion of the property to anyone else while legally married.
Life insurance policies, investment accounts, retirement accounts and other accounts typically pass outside of probate when the account owner lists a person who will receive the amount in the account after his or her death.
It is important for loved ones to have access to immediate funds after the passing of a loved one. One way to accomplish this is to designate an account as a payable-on-death account. This type of account functions the same as a traditional bank account. However, the account owner lists the name of a beneficiary who will receive the money in the account upon the account owner’s passing. This person has no right to any funds during the owner’s lifetime. However, he or she can usually quickly access the account upon showing identification and proof of death.
Elder Law Firm in Maryland
At Hammond and Associates, we take pride in helping our clients plan for the future—that way, you can focus on your needs and those of your loved ones. We can assist through tough decisions about the future.
Our principal office is located in Bethesda, but for the convenience of our clients, we can arrange for conference rooms for client meetings elsewhere. If you live outside of the Bethesda area and would like to meet with Hammond and Associates, we can set up a meeting in the following locations: Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Fulton, Bowie, Columbia, Frederick, National Harbor, Annapolis, Pikesville, Owings Mills, Towson, and Hunt Valley.
Contact us online or call us at 301-861-4555 and we can discuss how our elder law attorneys can provide assistance throughout the litigation process. We want to help you protect your loved ones in Maryland!