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Mensah Law Offices

Estate Planning, Probate & Probate Litigation

Estate Planning, Probate & Probate Litigation

Below are some frequently asked questions about estate planning, probate and probate litigation. Remember, if you have additional questions you can submit them to Mensah Law Office.

What is an Estate Plan?

An estate plan is a legal planning document created for an individual or a couple who desire to arrange, prior to death, for the transfer of their assets by legal process.  The plan does not go into effect until after the death of the person or persons for whom the plan is created.  The goal of most individuals or couples, in whose name plans are created, is to produce a document adhering to state and federal law that allows for them to transfer the maximum amount of their wealth to a person or persons pre-selected by them.

For estates where the total value of the taxable estate is more than $5,250,000 the federal estate tax laws are a major concern.  Planning around federal estate tax laws may be required to ensure that the maximum amount of wealth is transferred.  For the Maryland and District of Columbia resident, where the total value of their estate is over $1,000,000, the state estate tax laws can become a major concern and planning around those laws is required to ensure that the maximum amount of wealth is transferred.  

Finally, Maryland is one of only a small amount of states, nationwide, that has an inheritance tax, (i.e. a tax levied on certain categories of beneficiaries to an estate) so planning may be required to address inheritance tax issues for Maryland residents.

Who Needs an Estate Plan and Why?

If you have a job, own property of any kind, have been through a divorce, and especially if you have children, you need an estate plan.  When a legal professional drafts an estate plan you can set terms for who you want your property and assets to be distributed to at the time of your death. These assets can include:

  • Bank accounts
  • Investment accounts
  • Property
  • Retirement benefits
  • Inheritance rights
  • Life insurance policies
  • Other transferable assets

An estate plan allows you to be very creative when passing along benefits, such as taking advantage of tax saving solutions, ensuring financial resources are available to minor children (until they reach your predetermined age of majority), or providing for charitable donations.

However, if you fail to create a plan, or if you do not have a plan drafted by an established estate planning professional you not only cease to have control over what happens to your assets but you will likely suffer the following consequences:

  • No control over who gets parental rights over your minor children
  • No control over who gets to enjoy the financial proceeds of your estate
  • Family fights about how to distribute your estate, which can often end in very expensive litigation (meaning the proceeds of your estate is going to pay for attorney’s fees in probate)

What is Probate and Should I Retain an Attorney for Probate?

Probate is a legal process where a will is accepted by the court after the person for whom the will was created has died.  Probate is also the process used for distributing the possessions of a deceased person who died without a valid will or some other estate planning instrument.  The overwhelming majority of estates for deceased persons will go through the probate process.  

Due to the fact that all estates that pass through probate are subject to the authority of local courts and rulings by judges within those courts, it is essential to have a solid understanding of the local rules of court as well as the rules for administering estates, distributing assets, paying creditors, and closing an estate, so as to avoid taking actions that are in violations of local laws.  The failure to follow local rules could subject you and / or the estate to financial penalties.  In the long run it is likely cheaper and safer to have experienced counsel by your side.

Submit Your Estate Planning, Probate & Probate Litigation Questions

We encourage all clients to ask questions to the firm about estate planning generally.  For instance, if you have a question about what a valid will is or what a Q-tip trust is please submit your question by clicking on the link below.  For a list of previously answered questions also see below.

Submit Your Question