Common Planning Techniques
The Default Wealth Transfer Plan – Dying Intestate
When a person passes without specifically addressing the distribution of his or her estate, default rules of distribution fill the void. Provided that you have not planned your estate, the Maryland General Assembly has created a plan for you under its intestate succession laws. These laws direct the distribution of your assets.
The Last Will and Testament is a set of written instructions to the probate court:
- Requesting that the decedent’s estate be admitted into the probate court’s jurisdiction;
- Requesting that the court accept and appoint the decedent’s nominated executor; and
- Requesting that the court validate and approve decdent’s proposed distribution scheme.
Only effective upon death, this instrument controls the disposition of decedent’s property that does not pass by alternative means. While drafting a Last Will and Testament is a common method by many, the distribution of “probate” and non-probate” property is often difficult and requires a competent attorney to address these issues.
A common misconception of these instruments is that they are for the ultra-wealthy; however, lifetime trusts afford great flexibility in carrying out your wishes. The revocable living trust is an estate planning instrument used to “hold title” to assets during your lifetime and to “receive” additional assets at death. Retaining all of your assets at death in this ‘vessel’ expedites the post-mortem administration process with little to no interference of the probate court.
While this type of planning is unique to each individual and means different things to different people, legacy planning emphasizes the belief that wealth goes beyond just material possessions. It involves our heritage, traditions, family values, community and philanthropy.
A proper distribution plan should speak volumes about the person and not just as a source of inheritance. The distribution plan should help enhance the lives of the beneficiaries but also motivate and inspire.