Wills, Deeds, and Estate Planning
Proper estate planning stabilizes not only families, but also entire communities.
Our attorneys help families secure homeownership and create and sustain intergenerational wealth, ensuring, that homeowners’ assets are taken care of, even after they pass away through:
Estate planning services
In addition to this work, we provide other document preparation services specific to older adults, such as:
Powers of attorney
Advance health care directives
We also advise about the estate process and prepare distribution deeds for heirs who have all the documents and filings in order.
We also provide advice and up to in court representation for:
Reverse mortgage default
Access to public benefits
How do I get started?
Plan a stable future for you and your family with our attorneys. Complete our intake form to get started.
Are there tax credits or utility assistance programs that can help me maintain my home affordably?
The State of Maryland has developed a program which allows credits against the homeowner's property tax bill if the property taxes exceed a fixed percentage of the person's gross income. In other words, it sets a limit on the amount of property taxes any homeowner must pay based upon his or her income.
The Baltimore City Department of Public Works offers several programs to assist qualifying Baltimore City customers who need bill adjustments, payment plans, or financial assistance; as well as provide credits and fee exemptions for financial hardship. For information on programs available that help customers and make their water bill more affordable, please click on any of the programs or other sources of assistance below.
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 and 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.
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
It appoints a person to make decisions about what happens to your property, assets, and insurance if you become incapacitated and are unable to make these decisions for yourself. It goes into effect right when you make it unless you specify otherwise and 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.
It appoints a healthcare agent: someone that handles your health decisions if you can’t communicate. It can also include a living will, which 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 values, and speak with them about what you would want in certain situations. You must sign it and have two witnesses. The witnesses cannot be the healthcare agent and at least one witness must not be entitled to any of the estate or any financial benefits. Give copies to physician and Healthcare Agent you chose.
A will simply indicates where you want your things to go. But there’s another step—probate—that details how those items will get to the people you have designated. Probate is expensive (often several hundred dollars) and takes six months to a year to complete. Thankfully, there are steps you can take today to plan ahead and have your items go to the people you want to receive them AND avoid the expensive and timely probate process.
Taking these steps lets you protect your assets throughout 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 the MVA website 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, because you are able to avoid the financial entanglements that comes with sharing a credit card or checkbook.
Once you’ve successfully put your home in your name, it is very important to name someone who will inherit the home when you pass away! Houses can pass the same way as bank accounts, insurance policies, and vehicles, using a life estate deed. However, doing a life estate deed is a much safer option than adding someone to your deed as a joint owner, which could make 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.