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Webinar: Saturday, October 16th at 10am-Now is the time to protect and plan!
Our webinars are designed to be educational, interactive, informative and generate relevant discussion for attendees. Modern Estate Planning is more than just preparing a will and putting it in a safe.

Webinar – Click Here to Register for October 16th at 10am

How to Protect your "Stuff" in 3 Easy Steps (Estate Planning Workshop)

This webinar covers frequently asked questions and common misconceptions regarding: Wills & Trust, Asset Protection, Nursing Home Issues, Medicaid Qualification, and Estate Taxes.

Please click to register for our webinar:

Webinar – Click Here to Register for October 16th at 10am

Our webinars are designed to be educational, interactive, informative and generate relevant discussion for attendees. Modern Estate Planning is more than just preparing a will and putting it in a safe. Find out how a comprehensive Estate Plan will protect your assets and your family. Our experienced attorney, Wilson McManus, will be sharing stories on how Estate Planning is beneficial and sometimes crucial. In an Estate Plan, you need to know the Rules: Who's "Rule-book" controls your Estate Plan? Yours? The Governments? Someone else? You need to know your Predators: Who's a Threat to Your Stuff? The Government? Long-term Care Costs? Your Family? You need to know your Options: What Plans are out there? Does a Will work? What about a Trust? Which kind of Trust?

Please click to register for our webinar:

Webinar – Click Here to Register for October 16th at 10am

Our workshops fill up fast, so please call (443) 470-3599 today to RSVP.

We can't wait to see you!

Today is the right day to take your first step. Click below to register for our next free workshop and learn what everyone is talking about. Attending our next free Workshops is the best way to Get Started on your New Estate Plan!

REGISTER FOR A WORKSHOP

October 15, 2021
Estate Planning Horror Stories
In Maryland, a will must be signed by the person making the will (testator) and attested and signed by two credible witnesses in the presence of the person making the will. The witnesses must know that the document is intended to be that person's will, and they must also sign the document themselves.

As Halloween approaches, we want to share with you some estate planning horror stories. Do not let these mishaps happen to you.

Creating an Invalid Will in the State of Maryland

In Maryland, a will must be signed by the person making the will (testator) and attested and signed by two credible witnesses in the presence of the person making the will. The witnesses must know that the document is intended to be that person's will, and they must also sign the document themselves. The reason for this rule is that by the time a will takes effect, the person who signed it is no longer around to say whether or not the document that is being presented to the probate court is really his or her will. But if there are witnesses, they can come to court and testify that the will-maker stated the document was his or her will and appeared to be of sound mind and not under any undue influence.

Each witness must be a legal adult with an age of 18 or over. None of the beneficiaries listed in the will nor the lawyer who drafts the will are qualified to serve as witnesses for the signature of the will.

These rules must be strictly adhered to or the will is not valid and the assets may not be distributed the way the testator intended.

Failing to Properly Specify Beneficiaries or Specific Property

A will should be drafted very thoroughly and clearly or it can lead to all sorts of confusion. Using general class language, such as ‘all my siblings’, may end up leaving out or adding to the class in ways the testator did not intend. For example, does ‘all my siblings’ include half siblings, step siblings or the guy you love like a brother? If you want to include someone in your will as a beneficiary, you need to name the person clearly and identify the specific type of property you intend for each beneficiary to inherit. This sounds simple, but if a will is not carefully worded, all types of horror may ensue.

Creating a Trust, but Failing to Fund It

During the estate planning process, it may be determined that a living trust is a better solution to accomplish your overall goals. The trust may be created by the estate planning attorney, but if the client fails to see through the funding of the trust, then it is as if the trust never existed.

Failing to Update Beneficiary Designations

This common mistake can lead to some of the most horrific estate planning horror stories. It is all too common for clients to fail to update beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, annuities and retirement accounts and then when they pass away someone like an ex-spouse inherits the asset.

To prevent estate planning horror stories from ruining your distribution plans, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Stouffer Legal in the Greater Baltimore area for a thorough, comprehensive plan. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at (443) 470-3599, emailing us at office@stoufferlegal.com, or register for an upcoming free webinar using the link below:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5272245534454831628

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8269165686586229772

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/978475606617310476

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5164260298467537676

October 15, 2021
Medicaid Divorce: Maybe . . . Maybe Not.
Harry and Wanda got married late in life. This was their second marriage, and both had children from the prior marriages. The couple wanted their children to inherit from their respective parents, so Harry and Wanda signed a prenuptial agreement to keep their property clearly separated.

Harry and Wanda got married late in life. This was their second marriage, and both had children from the prior marriages. The couple wanted their children to inherit from their respective parents, so Harry and Wanda signed a prenuptial agreement to keep their property clearly separated.

Unfortunately, Harry was then diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Medical bills piled up, his condition worsened, and soon Wanda was no longer able to care for him at home. But the cost of nursing-home care was formidable.

The Medicaid program is designed to help pay for that staggering cost. However, before a couple can be eligible, the rules require that the assets of both spouses are counted to pay for the care of one, even if only one spouse needs the care. Prenuptial agreements do not matter. The Medicaid rules count the assets of both spouses together. Wanda would be permitted to keep some of her property for her own use – but this would not be enough for her to maintain her standard of living, pay for her retirement, and still leave enough for Wanda’s children to inherit.

Wanda heard that divorce might solve this dilemma. The couple’s assets would get separated in the divorce proceedings and, after that, only the property designated as Harry’s would be applied to the cost of his care. He would spend that down, Medicaid would then step in, and Wanda’s share would remain her own.

But Wanda didn’t like the idea of a divorce that would be only “on paper,” because she had no intention of deserting Harry in his time of need. Harry’s children weren’t happy, either. And if the divorce was going to work as intended, the couple should probably consult not just one but three professionals – an elder law attorney, a financial planner, and a divorce lawyer.

But this plan would involve expense, possible family unrest, and uncertainty as to whether a court would approve the plan. The divorce strategy comes with significant downsides.

Early planning is best, to consult an elder law attorney at least five years before the need for Medicaid arrives. If that is not possible, an experienced elder law attorney can find other, less-fraught ways than divorce.

We help families navigate these difficult issues to avoid more stress on the family in the future. If we can be of assistance with your planning, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

You can schedule an appointment by calling us at (443) 470-3599, emailing us at office@stoufferlegal.com, or register for an upcoming free webinar using the link below:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5272245534454831628

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8269165686586229772

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/978475606617310476

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5164260298467537676

October 14, 2021
What Happens to a Lawsuit if a Plaintiff Dies?
A dead person cannot file a lawsuit. But what happens when a person dies after a lawsuit has been filed but not resolved? When a person dies, the legal claim passes to his designated heirs.

A dead person cannot file a lawsuit. But what happens when a person dies after a lawsuit has been filed but not resolved? When a person dies, the legal claim passes to his designated heirs. Practically speaking, this means the personal representative appointed by the probate court to administer the estate is also appointed to act on the decedent’s behalf in the pending lawsuit.

The claim becomes an asset of the estate. The legal fees are paid by the probate estate and the decision to settle or not settle the case is made by the personal representative. The personal representative has a fiduciary duty to make decisions that are in the best interests of the estate; therefore, any decisions made pertaining to the lawsuit are also held to this fiduciary standard.

Mass Torts/Personal Injury

Maryland law allows a mass tort or other personal injury lawsuit to exist if the injured person dies. These are referred to as “survival actions”. The intention behind the law allowing these cases to proceed is that a person who commits an action that causes harm should not be off the hook because the offended person passes away.

These survival actions should not be confused with wrongful death actions. A wrongful death case allows eligible survivors to sue for losses they have experienced. These eligible survivors include close family members like parents, spouses or minor children. In contrast, a survival action allows someone to start or continue a lawsuit in place of the deceased plaintiff. The damages the estate potentially may receive are the same that the plaintiff would have received if he were still alive. When a plaintiff dies, is it a wrongful death suit or a survival action? That depends on how the plaintiff dies.

If the plaintiff’s cause of death is unrelated to the underlying personal injury case, then there is no wrongful death claim. This would constitute a survival action.

While a personal representative is allowed to continue the lawsuit, damages are capped as of the time of death. Any calculations for lost income or pain and suffering will be limited by the date of the plaintiff’s passing.

In the rare situations where the defendant’s actions not only injure the plaintiff, but eventually cause the plaintiff’s death, there may be both a wrongful death suit and a survival action. The estate of the deceased plaintiff will bring about the survival action and recover whatever amount that would have been owed to the plaintiff had he lived. Eligible survivors will bring the wrongful death cause of action and recover damages based on that.

Divorce

If a couple files for divorce and one of them passes away before the divorce is finalized, the court will dismiss the action as it pertains to the absolute divorce. Once someone dies, there is no need for the divorce. The action will remain in regards to equitable distribution and child custody. The court will grant custody to the surviving party, unless there is a reason that it would not be in the child’s best interests.

The equitable distribution action is where things get more complicated. The matter is now between the surviving spouse and the decedent’s heirs. In many cases, if a will has not been updated or if there is no will at all, the surviving spouse ends up inheriting from the decedent. This may contradict what the decedent would have wanted, but without proper legal planning, these unintended results occur.

Criminal Matters

If someone is charged with a crime and passes away before the matter is resolved in court, the district attorney’s office will voluntarily dismiss the charges. There is no point in spending taxpayer’s dollars to prosecute a crime without a living defendant to face the consequences.

Dealing with estate administration issues can be very complicated when a lawsuit is involved. Contact the experienced probate attorneys at Stouffer Legal in the Baltimore area for assistance in matters like these. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at (443) 470-3599, emailing us at office@stoufferlegal.com, or register for an upcoming free webinar using the link below:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/374544655805521932

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5272245534454831628

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8269165686586229772

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/978475606617310476

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5164260298467537676

October 13, 2021
Live Webinar October 19th at 10am-Now is the time to protect and plan!
Our webinars are designed to be educational, interactive, informative and generate relevant discussion for attendees. Modern Estate Planning is more than just preparing a will and putting it in a safe.

LIVE Webinar – Click Here to Register for October 19th at 10am

How to Protect your "Stuff" in 3 Easy Steps (Estate Planning Workshop)

This webinar covers frequently asked questions and common misconceptions regarding: Wills & Trust, Asset Protection, Nursing Home Issues, Medicaid Qualification, and Estate Taxes.

Please click to register for our webinar:

LIVE Webinar – Click Here to Register for October 19th at 10am

Our webinars are designed to be educational, interactive, informative and generate relevant discussion for attendees. Modern Estate Planning is more than just preparing a will and putting it in a safe. Find out how a comprehensive Estate Plan will protect your assets and your family. Our experienced attorney, Wilson McManus, will be sharing stories on how Estate Planning is beneficial and sometimes crucial. In an Estate Plan, you need to know the Rules: Who's "Rule-book" controls your Estate Plan? Yours? The Governments? Someone else? You need to know your Predators: Who's a Threat to Your Stuff? The Government? Long-term Care Costs? Your Family? You need to know your Options: What Plans are out there? Does a Will work? What about a Trust? Which kind of Trust?

Please click to register for our webinar:

LIVE Webinar – Click Here to Register for October 19th at 10am

Our workshops fill up fast, so please call (443) 470-3599 today to RSVP.

We can't wait to see you!

Today is the right day to take your first step. Click below to register for our next free workshop and learn what everyone is talking about. Attending our next free Workshops is the best way to Get Started on your New Estate Plan!

REGISTER FOR A WORKSHOP

October 12, 2021
Probate and Life Insurance- How they Intersect
Typically, life insurance policies pass outside of the probate process once you pass away. What this means is that the money owed to your beneficiary gets mailed directly to that beneficiary and does not get included in your estate in the probate court.

Typically, life insurance policies pass outside of the probate process once you pass away. What this means is that the money owed to your beneficiary gets mailed directly to that beneficiary and does not get included in your estate in the probate court.

Your probated estate will include other assets that you distribute through the terms of your will. A personal representative will be appointed to inventory all of your probate assets, notify any possible creditors and then make distributions accordingly in line with the various rules of estate administration. This may include paying necessary taxes, funeral costs and all valid claims against the estate.

While life insurance should bypass the probate process, things may not always go as planned.

Deceased or Missing Beneficiary

If the beneficiary listed on the life insurance is deceased or is unable to be located, the money will have to be paid into your probate estate and distributed to beneficiaries listed in your will. If you do not have a valid will, the money will be included in your estate and distributed according to the Maryland laws of intestate succession.

No Beneficiary Listed

If you do not list a beneficiary at all on your life insurance policy, the same thing happens. It will be included in your probate estate and distributed according to your will (or intestate succession if no will). If any of the beneficiaries either listed on your policy or determined through probate is a minor, then a guardian will have to be appointed.

If it is determined that no valid beneficiary exists, the life insurance company will write the check to the probate court. The money is then included in the probate estate. The named personal representative will manage the assets along with all the other assets. The money will be used to satisfy valid claims and then distributed to heirs.

Tips for Avoiding Life Insurance Payouts from Going to Your Probate Estate

1. Keep your policy up-to-date. If your beneficiary passes away, update the designation with a new beneficiary.

2. If a Beneficiary is a Minor, the life insurance needs to be placed into a trust to avoid probate.

3. Designate a contingency beneficiary. Listing a second option reduces the probability of the policy having to go through probate. Some policies will also allow co-beneficiaries and if one of the listed co-beneficiaries is deceased or unable to be located then the full amount of proceeds go to the other co-beneficiary.

Remembering to check your life insurance policy beneficiary designations periodically is the best strategy for avoiding the policy ending up in probate. Update the policy after any major life event such as marriage, divorce or death of a loved one.

One other item to keep in mind regarding life insurance proceeds is that the amount will be included in the decedent’s taxable estate regardless of whether it goes through probate or not. The cash value of a life insurance policy purchased and owned by the deceased is included in that individual’s taxable estate and is subject to estate taxes. Currently, the exemption amount is extremely high ($11,580,000), but that is expected to change by 2025. Be sure to factor in this cash value amount when figuring up a strategy to minimize estate taxes.

For more information on comprehensive estate planning that incorporates life insurance policies, contact the estate planning attorneys at Stouffer Legal in the Greater Baltimore area. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at (443) 470-3599, emailing us at office@stoufferlegal.com, or register for an upcoming free webinar using the link below:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2182924623866855181

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/374544655805521932

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5272245534454831628

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8269165686586229772

October 11, 2021
Webinar: Sunday, October 10th at 6pm-Now is the time to protect and plan!
Our webinars are designed to be educational, interactive, informative and generate relevant discussion for attendees. Modern Estate Planning is more than just preparing a will and putting it in a safe.

Webinar – Click Here to Register for October 10th at 6pm

How to Protect your "Stuff" in 3 Easy Steps (Estate Planning Workshop)

This webinar covers frequently asked questions and common misconceptions regarding: Wills & Trust, Asset Protection, Nursing Home Issues, Medicaid Qualification, and Estate Taxes.

Please click to register for our webinar:

Webinar – Click Here to Register for October 10th at 6pm

Our webinars are designed to be educational, interactive, informative and generate relevant discussion for attendees. Modern Estate Planning is more than just preparing a will and putting it in a safe. Find out how a comprehensive Estate Plan will protect your assets and your family. Our experienced attorney, Wilson McManus, will be sharing stories on how Estate Planning is beneficial and sometimes crucial. In an Estate Plan, you need to know the Rules: Who's "Rule-book" controls your Estate Plan? Yours? The Governments? Someone else? You need to know your Predators: Who's a Threat to Your Stuff? The Government? Long-term Care Costs? Your Family? You need to know your Options: What Plans are out there? Does a Will work? What about a Trust? Which kind of Trust?

Please click to register for our webinar:

Webinar – Click Here to Register for October 10th at 6pm

Our workshops fill up fast, so please call (443) 470-3599 today to RSVP.

We can't wait to see you!

Today is the right day to take your first step. Click below to register for our next free workshop and learn what everyone is talking about. Attending our next free Workshops is the best way to Get Started on your New Estate Plan!

REGISTER FOR A WORKSHOP

October 9, 2021
Webinar: Saturday, October 9th at 10am-Now is the time to protect and plan!
Our webinars are designed to be educational, interactive, informative and generate relevant discussion for attendees. Modern Estate Planning is more than just preparing a will and putting it in a safe.

Webinar – Click Here to Register for October 9th at 10am

How to Protect your "Stuff" in 3 Easy Steps (Estate Planning Workshop)

This webinar covers frequently asked questions and common misconceptions regarding: Wills & Trust, Asset Protection, Nursing Home Issues, Medicaid Qualification, and Estate Taxes.

Please click to register for our webinar:

Webinar – Click Here to Register for October 9th at 10am

Our webinars are designed to be educational, interactive, informative and generate relevant discussion for attendees. Modern Estate Planning is more than just preparing a will and putting it in a safe. Find out how a comprehensive Estate Plan will protect your assets and your family. Our experienced attorney, Wilson McManus, will be sharing stories on how Estate Planning is beneficial and sometimes crucial. In an Estate Plan, you need to know the Rules: Who's "Rule-book" controls your Estate Plan? Yours? The Governments? Someone else? You need to know your Predators: Who's a Threat to Your Stuff? The Government? Long-term Care Costs? Your Family? You need to know your Options: What Plans are out there? Does a Will work? What about a Trust? Which kind of Trust?

Please click to register for our webinar:

Webinar – Click Here to Register for October 9th at 10am

Our workshops fill up fast, so please call (443) 470-3599 today to RSVP.

We can't wait to see you!

Today is the right day to take your first step. Click below to register for our next free workshop and learn what everyone is talking about. Attending our next free Workshops is the best way to Get Started on your New Estate Plan!

REGISTER FOR A WORKSHOP

October 8, 2021
Are You Prepared to Care for an Aging Parent?
Today there are over 46 million seniors in the United States and the number is expected to double by 2060. As more parents look to their adult children for caregiving, it is important to understand all the issues that come along with the responsibility of caring for seniors.

Today there are over 46 million seniors in the United States and the number is expected to double by 2060. As more parents look to their adult children for caregiving, it is important to understand all the issues that come along with the responsibility of caring for seniors.

From financial issues to family disagreements to healthcare emergencies, there are many unexpected challenges that arise from family caregiving. Early preparation can help prevent or mitigate these challenges. Below are 5 tips to help prepare yourself for caring for an aging parent:

1. Assess the Financials. Start by gaining access to your parent’s financial records and evaluating the overall situation. Are they in debt? Do they have a system in place to pay monthly bills? Are their beneficiary designations up-to-date on all accounts? Develop a budget and gain an understanding of what type of long-term care they can afford.

2. Prepare the Right Documents. Meet with an estate planning attorney and help your parents develop a will and/or trust that will properly distribute assets once they pass away according to their wishes. While they are still of sound mind, have them sign a power of attorney for both financial/legal affairs and healthcare decisions.

3. Review Insurance Needs. Discuss various options of health insurance, life insurance, homeowners’ insurance and long-term care insurance with a trusted insurance specialist. Make sure policies are sufficient and up-to-date with proper beneficiary designations. Maintain access to the policies and stay on top of paying the premiums.

4. Research Housing or Adult Daycare. Take the time to familiarize yourself with options near you for both full-time assisted living centers as well as adult daycare centers. Make sure your selections align with the financial capabilities.

5. Have the Right Conversations. While discussing long-term care and planning for death and disability can be difficult conversations, it is very important to make sure everyone is on the same page. If several family members need to be involved, schedule a formal meeting. This also gives everyone advance notice that the conversation will be difficult and allows them the opportunity to prepare themselves mentally and emotionally. If there are any difficult family members, consider enlisting the assistance of a paid mediator. Make sure you choose a calm environment and come prepared with a list of topics to cover. On that list should be:

- Making sure a will or trust is or will be created at a certain time;

- Making sure power of attorney documents are in place and explaining why these are needed;

- Discussing any type of legacy wishes your parents may have;

- Determining their burial or cremation wishes and any funeral preferences; and

- Gaining access to the right documents and passwords when the time comes.

Preparation is key to minimizing stress related to caring for aging parents. At Stouffer Legal, our estate planning attorneys can help you get organized and ensure that your parents have the right documents in place so that their goals are realized. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at (443) 470-3599, emailing us at office@stoufferlegal.com, or register for an upcoming free webinar using the link below:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3265008992624136460

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5869009868476746252

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2182924623866855181

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/374544655805521932

October 8, 2021
Your Doctor Left Your Health Plan - Now What?
Going to the doctor is more than just casual small talk with a stranger. Often, you must explain your ailment quickly and succinctly, trust that your doctor has your best interests at heart and will keep your confidentiality; and make yourself vulnerable and talk about health issues that may be uncomfortable.

Going to the doctor is more than just casual small talk with a stranger. Often, you must explain your ailment quickly and succinctly, trust that your doctor has your best interests at heart and will keep your confidentiality; and make yourself vulnerable and talk about health issues that may be uncomfortable. Having a good relationship with your doctor can alleviate all these issues and can even increase the quality of your healthcare. So, you have a good relationship with a doctor you like, and you find out he is no longer in your health insurance network. Now what?

First, let’s examine why doctors leave health insurance networks. Usually, doctors leave health insurance networks for normal reasons such as retirement or if they move geographic locations. They are professionals, after all, and just as you probably have had to move to a new job, they do the same. Sometimes, there are other more technical reasons, such as if the doctor is unhappy with how the health insurance network conducts business. You’ll most likely be warned ahead of time if your doctor is leaving your network so you have time to plan, however, your doctor and your health insurance provider are not legally obligated to inform you if he is no longer covered. Unfortunately, huge surprise medical bills are all too common and these can leave you financially crippled for years. This is why it is so important when you reach your open enrollment dates each year that you call your doctor’s office and ensure your doctor is still covered under your plan.

So, what do you do if your doctor leaves your network? You may have continuity of care protection, which enables you to retain the same level of care from your doctor, for the same copays and fees, temporarily. If you are a senior who participates in a Medicare Advantage plan, you have the option to leave your health care network if your doctor does and if the network change is “considered significant based on the [effect] or potential to affect current plan enrollees” according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services guidebook. If you are currently covered under a private plan and are considering switching, it is prudent to call your doctor’s office and ensure they are covered under the new plan you are considering.

What if you can’t switch plans? Often, doctors will allow you to pay cash for your visits. You may be able to negotiate a reasonable cash price with your doctor because they won’t have to bill your insurance, which would save them time and administrative cost. If your doctor’s cash price is relatively expensive, it may still be worth it to you to maintain continuity of care.

If the previous options are out of the question for you, the next best thing to do is just to ask your doctor if they have any referrals. After all, your doctor will know your situation best and how to provide the best care and may know someone else who will be a good fit for you.

Having a doctor you like and trust can be such a relief and it’s always an unfortunate circumstance when your health insurance network no longer covers that doctor. Fortunately, there are ways you can plan for this and methods to make a smooth transition to a new doctor. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at (443) 470-3599, emailing us at office@stoufferlegal.com, or register for an upcoming free webinar using the link below:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3265008992624136460

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5869009868476746252

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2182924623866855181

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/374544655805521932

October 7, 2021
We can't wait to see you!
Today is the right day to take your first step. Click below to register for our next free workshop and learn what everyone is talking about.

Attending our next free Workshops is the best way to
Get Started on your New Estate Plan!
REGISTER FOR a WORKSHOP