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1. To save on estate taxes:  With proper estate planning, you can reduce or eliminate the amount of taxes that your estate will owe at your death.  This is a significant consideration because assets subject to estate tax are taxed at very high rates.


2. To choose a personal guardian for your children:  A will is the only instrument that you can use to designate a personal guardian for your children upon your death.  If you do not do so, the court can choose anyone who petitions the court for custody of your children. 


3. To name a property guardian for your children:  If you have not prepared a will or living trust which provides for adult supervision over your minor children’s property, the court will appoint a property guardian to oversee your children’s inheritance until majority.  If you prefer to defer the outright distribution of property to your children beyond the age of 18, you can name either a custodian or trustee to manage the property.  If you a name a custodian for your child’s property under the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act, such property will be turned over to the child when he reaches 21 years of age.  If you create a trust, you can dictate both the ages and the circumstances that you think are appropriate for the trustee to distribute income and principal of the trust. 


4. To select your executor:  If you do not name an executor in your will, the court will choose someone to administer your estate.  You are better qualified than the court to choose a person that will use his discretion to further your intentions and is capable of handling the responsibilities of executor of your estate.  In addition, your executor will be required to post a fiduciary bond unless you waive such requirement in your will.


5. To make specific bequests to individuals:  A will or living trust is the only way that you can give specific gifts of money or property to people that you choose.  Written or oral instructions that do not satisfy the requirements of a will are not legally enforceable.  If you do not have a will, the state of Maryland provides a method of distribution to your relatives that may not be consistent with how you want to distribute your property. 


6. To prevent family feuds:  Although a will does not guarantee family harmony after your death, it decreases the possibility that heirs will fight over your intent regarding decisions such as distribution of your possessions, your funeral and burial arrangements, or guardianship of your children.  You can include a “no contest” clause in your will which prohibits anyone who challenges the provisions of your will from receiving an inheritance. 

7. To direct under what circumstances life-sustaining treatment is given to or withheld from you: 
You can create a living will through which you direct whether life-sustaining treatments, artificial nutrition and hydration, and comfort care are given or withheld from you in the event that you are in a persistent vegetative state or your death from a terminal condition is imminent.  A living will protects your loved ones by sparing them from making such agonizing decisions, and prevents the possibility of disagreement about your treatment amongst family members. 


8. To designate a trusted person to make medical and financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated:  You can prepare a Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances whereby you name people that you trust to make medical and financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated.  In the absence of these documents, someone must petition the court to act on your behalf.


For assistance with your estate planning needs, please contact the Law Office of Jill A. Snyder, LLC at (410) 864-8788
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