Category Archives: Estate Planning and Probate

Two Estate Planning Documents You Might Need Tomorrow


By: Denise Martin

There are two estate planning documents that everyone should have, whether they are young or old, rich or poor, married or single: a power of attorney and a living will. While people generally think that estate planning documents are for after you die, a power of attorney and a living will are documents that actually can only be used during your lifetime.

A power of attorney is a document in which you designate an agent with the authority to act on your behalf regarding financial and legal matters. You can limit the authority you give to your agent in a power of attorney, such that it can be used in only a particular circumstance. For instance, if you need to sell your home but are unable to be present on the closing day, you could prepare a power of attorney giving a friend or family member the limited authority to sign the closing papers for you. Often, however, we recommend the preparation of a power of attorney that is broad in its scope so that you have someone (typically a spouse, family member, or close friend) who can act on your behalf with respect to a wide array of matters. This would be particularly helpful if you were to become disabled and unable to handle your own affairs. The general power of attorney document we prepare at McChesney & Dale allows your agent to pay your bills, invest your money, file and pay your taxes, manage your retirement benefits, etc.

The other document everyone is advised to have for use during their lifetime is a living will, also called an advance medical directive. This is a document that allows you to specify the structure of your medical care under certain circumstances. First, the living will allows you to determine whether you want medical interventions used to try to extend your life if you have a terminal condition or are in a vegetative state. Second, the living will allows you to appoint an agent who can make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated.

Please feel free to contact me or any of the other attorneys at McChesney & Dale at 301-805-6080 if you have questions about a power of attorney or a living will.


An Overview of the Probate Process

Author: Charles F. Fuller

When a person dies, many questions arise.  An important question is what is to be done with their assets and debts?  Unless those assets are jointly titled or have been previously placed in a trust, the laws of most jurisdictions, including Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia require that the disposition of assets and liabilities be administered through the courts.  The task of gathering information, sorting out assets and liabilities and reporting that information to the court is generally known as “probate.” Continue reading

The Duties of a Personal Representative

Author: Charles F. Fuller

When a person dies and a petition for probate is filed with the local court, a “personal representative” is appointed by the court to administer the estate. Usually the person appointed as the personal representative is the person designated in the decedent’s last will and testament. The personal representative is charged with identifying the assets of the decedent and valuing those assets on the date of the decedent’s death. Continue reading

Legal Implications of the Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage in Maryland


Author: Denise Martin

At present, the District of Columbia and nine states, including Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington have legalized same-sex marriage and will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.[1]  On March 1, 2012, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed the Civil Marriage Protection Act into law, providing that same-sex couples can obtain a civil marriage license.  Maryland voters upheld the law on the November 6, 2012 election ballot (Question 6), and the law goes into effect beginning January 1, 2013. Continue reading

The Benefits of “Crummey Trusts”

Author: William P. Dale

Despite the potentially misleading name, Crummey Trusts can be a very effective tool in estate planning.  See Crummey v. Commissioner, 397 F.2d 82 (9th Cir. 1968).  The special importance of this type of (irrevocable) trust is that it makes feasible a form of gift-giving which allows the donor, (a parent, grandparent, or otherwise) to make gifts in trust, either to minors or adults, for whatever purposes the donor may have in mind, and still take advantage of the annual exclusions available for outright gifts (currently $13,000). Continue reading

Special Needs Trust

Author: William P. Dale

With the advances in medicine during the second half of the 20th Century, more and more families are dealing with the situation in which a mentally disadvantaged child has been able to grow into adulthood and can expect to live a normal life span. Since many disabled citizens are now living a significantly greater number of years, families are faced with a growing number of questions as to their care and maintenance. Continue reading