Estates and Trusts

Law Lends Finality to Planning With Revocable Trusts

A law emerging from this year’s session of the Maryland legislature now extends certain probate estate protections to revocable trusts, enhancing their utility as an estate planning tool. A flaw in the sometimes commercially touted strategy of beating estate probate with a revocable trust has been that creditor claims against the creator of the trust…

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Pet Trusts: Not Just for Leona

The real estate magnate Leona Helmsley was famously maligned when word got out after her death in 2007 that she had named her Maltese dog Trouble as the beneficiary of a $12 million trust fund. After a court battle, Trouble was forced to scrape by on trust principal reduced to $2 million. It seemed silly…

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Sign the Will Right the First Time; There May Not Be a Next Time

People signing Wills often wonder why the lawyer insists they come to the office to observe archaic-seeming formalities of execution, rather than just let them sign at home. A recent court decision, rejecting an amendment to a Will for failure of witnessing formalities, answers the question. For a Will to be admitted to probate estate…

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Tax Law: Fiscal Cliff Notes and the Tax ramifications of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 and Sequester Cuts

The “sequester” recently gobbled up headlines across national media. It has developed so much hype that many may have forgotten they already watched this movie’s first installment earlier in the year called “The Fiscal Cliff.” The American Taxpayer Relief Act was the federal government’s initial solution to the fiscal cliff. It was described as a…

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Estate Planning: Prepare for the worst, and plan for a great Spring vacation

Spring vacation season approaches and people are beginning to plan on how to overfill suitcases with swimsuits, sunglasses and beach accessories. As families make arrangements to fly somewhere distant together, dark thoughts sometimes cross the sunny landscape. “What if the plane goes down with all of us aboard? Do I have a current Will? If…

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Estate Planning: A New Measure of Certainty for Estate Planning

The new American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 enacted in response to the infamous Fiscal Cliff  now provides estate and financial planners with more definite rules for the foreseeable future. The Federal estate tax exemption was set to drop from $5.12 million per person to $1 million per person in 2013. This would have meant…

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Mortgages Deemed Enforceable Despite Missing Affidavits

A recent court ruling affirmed the reach of Maryland’s “Curative Statute” to excuse certain missing formalities in the recordation of a lien on real property, though the long course of the litigation suggests lien creditors are better off getting it right the first time.  Recently, deeds of trust, the mortgage-equivalent instruments used in Maryland to…

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Keeping Assets in the Family

Besides the basic tax bypass trust structure there are several ways of reducing exposure to estate tax, though most of them involve giving away control of an asset. The simplest of these is simply making gifts within the annual $13,000 gift tax exclusion. Larger gifts made by people with enough wealth to face estate tax…

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Court Takes A Peek Behind Corporate Veil

“Piercing the corporate veil” is a legal concept by which a court would look through a corporate entity to find the owners liable for the obligations of the business. In October of this year, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered piercing the corporate veil of a company that was being sued for payment…

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