2017 Maryland Legislative Updates to Estate Planning

Simpson Law, PA.

Thanks for the fast turnaround; our very nice trip to Russia was made better knowing all this was taken care of with your professional expertise…we will keep you in mind in the future…and when we know someone else is looking for estate planning help.

--Steve, Silver Spring, Maryland

Thanks so much for everything…I gave your business card to 3 co-workers… I gave you the highest recommendation!

--Elizabeth, Fairfax, Virginia

Thanks again for your help and patience while we dragged our feet.

--Debbie,Potomac, Maryland

Getting a will written, designating a power of attorney - these are all tasks that I knew must be done - but I had been putting them on the back burner. Suzanne made the process simple, quick and painless. Everything was done professionally and in a timely manner. It brings me peace of mind to know that all this is taken care of!

--Nancy, President and Founder, Moms, Inc.

Thanks again for being so thorough…stay in touch.

--Donna, Reston, Virginia

I really appreciated all you did to make this so simple and speedy. You have done a great job incorporating all our various issues. I hope to have opportunities to send other clients your way.

--Caitlin, Laurel, Maryland

Suzanne handled the preparation and filing of all the estate documents for me, my husband, and our daughter. This included our wills, general powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney, and others. Her explanations were always clear and thorough. Suzanne also found a possible problem in the wording on the deed to our house--- and recommended a simple solution. We are so happy to now have everything in good order. Working with Suzanne was a personal and professional pleasure!

--Terry

Thanks for letting us bring the children!

--Jennifer, Boyds, Maryland

Thanks for making it so easy and coming to our house both times!

--Don, Olney, Maryland

Suzanne is honest and knowledgeable about estate law. She will guide you to what best fits your needs and your financial situation. She is also very family oriented and that means a lot to me.

-- Linda

Thanks a lot for your help!

--Jan, Fairfax, Virginia

Thanks for everything!

--Cindy, Olney, Maryland

I am a lawyer as well, but my family went to Suzanne several years ago to prepare our wills and related estate documents, and we were extremely pleased with her services. From my professional perspective, she is very intelligent and stays up-to-date on the current laws, and on a more personal note, she is a very warm and caring person.

--Melissa

I’m telling my friends about you!

--Suzanne, Olney, Maryland

Thanks for making it easy!

--Paula, Rockville, Maryland

We worked with Suzanne to develop an advanced directive and will. It was a pleasure working with her -- she was helpful, very well-informed, thoughtful, and understanding of our needs. She was able to lead us through the process with clear instructions and had obviously done her homework before we arrived so that the process was efficient, with minimal back and forth. She has developed a very specific approach to writing advanced directives that reduces ambiguity and provides tremendous reassurance that our wishes will be fulfilled. She dispelled some misconceptions we had about wills and trusts in a respectful, courteous and patient manner, without ever making us feel awkward or uncomfortable. We absolutely trust her judgment and her recommendations which are provided with a commendable balance of professionalism and warmth.

--Anne

I've been a client of Suzanne's for almost a decade and, with flexibility and compassion, she has worked with me to adapt my plan to meet my expectations. I trust her advice and highly recommend her services.

--Donna

I had a unique opportunity to observe Suzanne's interactions with a diverse group of colleagues over a year of her participation in Leadership Montgomery and based on that I choose her to prepare my estate plan and to advise me about the process. She is a good listener who is well-respected by her peers for her thoughtful insights and assessments. I decided to retain her to prepare my own estate plan and felt she handled my case with competence and integrity, making the process very comfortable and easy for me.

--Katalin

Suzanne prepared our wills and other estate documents after our child was born. She helped us think through the consequences of the decisions we made, including making sure we had contacted our choices for guardians. We really appreciated her flat-fee based billing too. We knew exactly how much to budget for her service. As a great bonus, with her quarterly newsletter, we get regular updates on relevant legal issues. We have recommended Suzanne many times in the past and will continue to do so. She's a great go-to person.

--Wendy

Suzanne Simpson is the best lawyer I have ever met. She helped me in a most difficult probate case made extremely complex by incompetence of involved parties. She handled the case with efficiency, integrity, know-how and compassion making the best out of a very complicated situation. Due to her knowledge and efficiency my case was resolved in a positive manner. I have not enough words in my vocabulary to express my trust and respect for her ability to successfully finalize a case which other lawyers had deemed to difficult to handle. Kudos for Suzanne Simpson, Esq.!!

--Marta

Ms. Simpson was our attorney helping us form a will and all the related documents that are important when you have a child -- and even when you don't. What can I say? She has it in all areas. First and foremost, she is an honest person and I always feel she is focused on giving us the best advice. She is highly knowledgeable and continues to go to seminars and keep up with the latest changes in the law -- of which there are many! Her service is impeccable: prompt, calling back ASAP, polite. And in all the while I have known her, she has never made any reference to any client. So I know my own info will be kept private. And her compassion is true, something you need and want when dealing with life and death issues.

--Michelle

Suzanne was easy to work with and very knowledgeable. She explained advantages and disadvantages of optional language and was very helpful in developing our wills, health directives and powers of attorney.

--Wills client

My husband and I were referred by our financial advisor to Simpson Law and from the first phone call to Suzanne Simpson we were handled in a professional manner-she clearly explained all of our options, the laws involved, we made our decisions and within the time frame that we requested. High Marks---we plan on recommending Simpson Law to all of our business partners, family and friends as well.

--Mary Joe

She does what it takes to get the job done. Suzanne is caring and compassionate which is helpful during the estate planning process which can be very emotional in some cases. She is a pleasure to work with and her fees are very reasonable, unlike many other attorneys.

--Susan

Read more testimonials

The Maryland General Assembly passed a handful of bills this year that have significant effects on estate planning. Here is a breakdown of the bills and how they could affect you.

Requirement for Trustees to Provide Notice to Self

This is from SB792 and is an amendment to the Maryland Trust Act from 2014. This bill exempts a trustee from the requirement to notify him or herself if they are also a qualified beneficiary. Such notifications also include annual trustee's reports. Trustees are also not required to send notice to "a person whose identity or location is unknown to and not reasonably ascertained by the trustee." This means that if a trustee doesn't know the location or identity of a beneficiary and cannot easily find them after placing a notice in a county newspaper once a week for at least three successive weeks, as stipulated by the bill, then they are not now required to provide notices or reports to that beneficiary until they are located or identified. This bill goes into effect on October 1, 2017.

How Does This Bill Affect You?

By and large, this bill only affects the trustees mentioned. It has no real effect on grantors or beneficiaries. This means a bit less work for the trustees who is also a qualified beneficiary in that they do not have to create and give reports to themselves, which seems rather redundant. In essence, this bill eliminates a redundant requirement.

"Secret Trusts"

SB793 is also an amendment to the Maryland Trust Act and could have interesting ramifications in the years to come. This bill allows for grantors to designate someone else to receive information on behalf of a beneficiary. This means the beneficiary may not be informed at all about the trust's performance or even the existence of the trust. In theory, under SB793, a beneficiary may not know about a trust until they are due to receive distributions. The bill also states a defined standard of care that the person receiving notices on behalf of the beneficiary owes to that beneficiary. Under current law, a qualified beneficiary is entitled to receive notices and reports and other information about the trust.

SB793 also allows the creator of a trust to prohibit a trustee from acting as a representative of a certain beneficiary in certain situations. The bill goes into effect on October 1, 2017.

How Does This Bill Affect You?

There may be situations in which you don't always want the beneficiary of a trust to know that they are a beneficiary, or to know all of the details of a trust. This bill allows for those situations. One such situation may be that the beneficiary is a minor or otherwise too young to handle that information in a mature fashion and you would prefer that an older party receive the information on their behalf until the beneficiary is older. This means that a so-called "secret trust" is, in theory, possible now in Maryland.

Transferring Vehicles Under Trust

Under SB0449, excise taxes and title fees are now exempted when a vehicle is transferred to or from a trust. These vehicles may include motor vehicles, trailers, semitrailers, mopeds, motor scooters, and even off-highway recreational vehicles. The taxes are waived if the transfer is made into the trust or if the transfer is made from a trust to a beneficiary who would be exempted from the tax under Title 12 or Title 13 of the tax itself. The tax may also be waived if the transfer from the trust to a beneficiary is made during the life of the trust's creator and the tax was already paid when the vehicle was originally bought.

Vehicles may also be exempt from the tax if they're acquired by a qualified charity, religious organization, local department or social organization that would normally be exempt from taxation by the IRS, or if the vehicle is a rental. This bill goes into effect on July 1, 2017.

In addition, HB0492 was also passed this year and allows the owner of a vehicle with proper certificate of title to stipulate a TOD beneficiary, or transfer-upon-death beneficiary. By doing this, the vehicle avoids becoming part of an estate and its administration. To create the designation, the owner of the vehicle has to send an application to the MVA and receive a new certificate of title. The designation can be removed or changed at any time by ordering a new certificate of title.

How Does This Bill Affect You?

Both of these bills make things somewhat easier for transferring ownership of motor vehicles upon the death of the owner. SB0449 helps in a financial sense by making certain transfers exempt from excise and title taxes. HB0492 helps ease the transfer of ownership by allowing the owner of a vehicle to designate a beneficiary and, upon the death of the owner, the vehicle goes to that beneficiary without being subject to estate administration. It simply eases the transference of property from one person to another.