Elder Law and Estate Planning
Wills, Trusts and Your Estate
Thyden Gross and Callahan elder law attorneys prepare wills, trusts, beneficiary designations, powers of attorney and advance medical directives for our clients. We have expertise in all aspects of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC elder law.
We look at all aspects of each client’s unique financial and family situation and use our estate planning tools to develop a plan that meets your estate and family needs.
We help you plan your estate. We make sure that estate planning documents meet your needs and that you understand them. We also advise and represent personal representatives, trustees and other parties in trust or estate administration and in litigation, including guardianship proceedings.
We advise and represent seniors and the disabled, and their families and caregivers, in the areas of healthcare and disability planning, guardianship proceedings, qualifying for Medicaid and other means-tested government benefits, and other legal issues affecting elders and the disabled.
We develop plans that keep you and your family out of court when advanced age or disability prevent you from making or communicating decisions about your assets, health and living arrangements. Our elder law and estate planning practice also keeps our clients’ estates out of probate when possible, and out of estate litigation in any case. In most cases, time and money invested now will save much larger expenditures later.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a will?
A will is a written document directing the passage of property after the death of the maker of the will – the “testator.” It is a common component of estate planning.
A will determines who will receive the testator’s property that does not pass “outside probate” by deed, deposit contract, beneficiary designation or other non-probate means.
A good will addresses the key components of will law. It names the testator’s personal representative, trustee, and guardian, if necessary, and alternates for each. Complete wills contain other provisions addressing debts and taxes, simultaneous death, and many administrative matters.
If you don’t make a will before you die, you leave an “intestate” estate. The state has rules governing who gets your property, who has priority for appointment as your personal representative and how any of your property received by minors will be managed.
If you are confident that you and your loved ones will be perfectly satisfied with the state’s choices about your estate, you don’t need a will. If you want to decide who winds up your affairs and who gets your property, you need a will.
Using an estate planning attorney to create your will ensures that it will accurately reflect your wishes and properly address all legal aspects if your estate.
Do I need a trust?
A trust is an arrangement under which one person, the trustee, holds legal title to assets for the benefit of one or more other persons, the beneficiary(ies), subject to certain directions regarding administration, investment and distribution of trust assets. Trusts can be useful in a variety of situations.
Trust for minors are needed to avoid guardianship of property proceedings. Special needs trusts, also called supplemental needs trusts (SNTs), are trusts that are designed to permit the beneficiary to enjoy the benefits of the assets owned by the trust without those assets being counted for SSI or Medicaid qualification.
If your property may pass to a minor or to a person who is or may be eligible for Medicaid, SSI or other means-tested government benefits, you need to include a trust in your will or create a standalone trust. Trusts can be useful for other purposes such as to avoid probate or to accomplish tax objectives.
Do I need a power of attorney?
A power of attorney (POA) is a, estate planning document that is used to appoint a person or institution to manage your affairs if you become unable to do so. The person or institution you appoint is called your agent or attorney-in-fact.
If you cannot make or carry out decisions regarding your property, money, or living arrangement, your agent under a power of attorney can act for you. If you don’t have a POA or it does not include the necessary powers, an expensive, intrusive court case called a guardianship proceeding may be required.
Illness, injury, old age, or daily life commitments happen to everyone. The time will come when you will need a POA. A POA should be included in every estate plan.
Do I need an advance medical directive?
Advance directives allow you to express your wishes regarding health care decisions in the event that you are incapacitated and cannot communicate your preferences yourself.
Usually advance directives address two distinct issues:
- directions regarding end-of-life medical care – a living will
- designation of a health care agent to act in the event of incapacity – a health care power of attorney
These two parts are often combined into one document and called an advance health care directive or by a similar name.
If you enter a hospital without an advance medical directive, you will be presented with the hospital’s form and will make important, deeply personal decisions under the stress of that moment.
Without an advanced directive your loved ones won’t have your well-considered written statement of your instructions and your desires. Worse, an impasse among the decision-makers or between them and the medical hierarchy can lead to court proceedings.
The best time to create an advance directive is when you’re healthy. You can consider your options carefully when immediate health concerns aren’t on your mind. You can also discuss your choices with your loved ones ahead of time.
Illness or old age eventually come to us all. The time will probably come when you will need an Advance Medical Directive. An Advance Medical Directive should be included in every estate plan.