YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

September 2022. Q: My spouse just died. I want to put my children on my house to protect it, so there’s someone there in case something happens to me. What do I need to do? A: There are several ways to set up the title of your home so that it will pass to your children when you die without probate. We want to be careful that your house doesn’t become available to your children’s creditors, though, so we don’t just want to make your children joint owners. I suggest that we draft a “life estate deed with power of sale” so you have control of the property, with “remainder to your children,” so title passes to them when you die, without the complication, costs and delays of probate. It’s complex, but not complicated; we can make it simple and...

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AVOIDING ENTANGLEMENTS

July 2022. A good lawyer helps you and your family navigate the court system, and that’s a great thing if that’s what you need. But preventative lawyering can help you and your family avoid entanglements in the court system in the first place. Our firm is currently enmeshed in excruciating legal intricacies, representing families in the court-administered guardianship system, simply because a parent didn’t sign a power of attorney. A properly-drafted power of attorney avoids guardianship proceedings, with concomitant expenses, fees, delays and headache. It’s so simple, but so often overlooked. More than the monetary outlay and disruption of schedule – when your spouse is trying to take care of you – the formalities of the guardianship...

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TO SPRING OR NOT TO SPRING

June 2022. “Your power of attorney is drafted to be effective as soon as you sign it. Your agent … your children acting on your behalf … don’t have to prove you’re incompetent before writing checks for you or directing your medical care.” The client raised her eyebrows: “Why would I want that? I don’t want them taking money out of my bank account while I’m still ‘with it.’ I really don’t want this at all, but if I must have a power of attorney, I only want them to be able to get at my money if I can’t ‘do’ for myself.” The attorney nodded. “I understand that. What you’re asking for is a ‘springing’ power of attorney. But what we’re talking about isn’t really whether your kids can get into your money. What we’re trying to do is make it...

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MOM JUST WENT INTO A NURSING HOME

May 2022. They buttonholed the attorney as he was eating lunch. “Mom just went into a nursing home. We’re worried about the bills. Can the State pay for this? How do we make sure Dad doesn’t spend everything on the nursing home?” The attorney explains, “Medicaid is the welfare program that pays for long-term nursing home care. To get Medicaid, Mom must be ‘medically needy.’ She has to need skilled nursing care, the care usually delivered only in a nursing home, and not just custodial care such as reminders to take medications or help transferring out of bed. “Her income has to be less than the cost of care, which is usually not an issue – the average monthly cost of nursing home care in Maryland is currently just under $10,000. “Finally,...

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WHY DO I NEED A LAWYER?

April 2022. “Why do I need a lawyer?  I can just download a will from the Internet.”  The technology has changed, but the question has been around seemingly forever.  Twenty years ago, the will was a “freebie” on tax software, or was included in a software package bought at an office supply store.  Before that, it was a form purchased at the stationery store, with blanks to be filled in by hand or on a typewriter. The comment misses the point.  Lawyers don't provide wills, anymore than doctors sell pills or accountants, 1040s.  What professionals sell is wisdom – knowing how to spot the issues and problems, and approach them in the most efficient way to get the job done best. The story is told that Henry Ford's assembly line broke one...

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DIRECT BENEFIT

March 2022. “We need to update our wills,” he said. “Yes,” she added, “and we need powers of attorney, and medical directives.” The attorney nodded toward her. “Actually, those documents are at least as important as your wills. Your POAs and directives are used for you while you’re alive. Your wills don’t become effective until you’re deceased.” They pondered and he affirmed, “Never thought of it that way, but of course. Where do we start?” After discussing who would serve as agent under the POA and directive, and the reasons for the length of the POA (see last month’s article), we discussed the terms of the directive. “The directive is both a POA for medical purposes, and a statement about your future care. Because I’m not a medical...

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I OBJECT! THE ART OF DRAWING UP ESTATE DOCUMENTS

February 2022. When I draft documents, I’m always trying to anticipate who might object and what they might object to. Then we draft around the anticipated objection. When we’re drafting a will, the rules are fairly clear and part of the public record – laws and statutes. When we’re drafting trusts or powers of attorney, though, we’re not just dealing with the law; we’re also dealing with corporate policies and personalities, and both of these are less clear and subject to change without notice. This leads to a kind of over-caution, always worrying about “things that might go bump in the night,” and wondering how to protect against them. This in turn leads to very long documents, as we try to ward off possible problems that might never be...

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RESOLUTION

January 2022. It’s a New Year! Does your Will still reflect your reality? Do your Powers of Attorney still empower the right people? Do you still trust your trustee? Do you still need that trust for your little children (who are now in their thirties)? If the answer is “no,” or if you don’t have these documents at all, then it’s time to “Talk to Tim!” And if you need a trust now more than ever (the kids having grown up, but with special needs or just with delayed adulthood), “Talk to Tim!” 301-829-3778 or schedule online See you soon! = Attorney Tim Barkley The Tim Barkley Law Offices One Park Avenue P.O. Box 1136 Mount Airy Maryland 21771  (301) 829-3778 Wills & Trusts | Estate Planning | Probates & Estates Elder Law | Real...

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THE LAST WORD

By Tim Barkley. November 2021. It was a bright and airy day a quarter-century ago when a mild-mannered young reporter for the Mt. Airy News purchased the paper from her employer. A reporter was transmogrified into an editor, a newspaper’s name was changed, and the Messenger was born. On the other side of town, in a dimly-lit rented flat, an intrepid young attorney sought the answers to life’s persistent questions as he struggled to provide a living for a growing family. The attorney met the editor, and a columnist was born. Like good news reporting and good editorial style, good legal advice is never out of style. The increasing availability of information on the Internet doesn’t obviate the need for wisdom … knowing how to apply that...

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PROBATE AVOIDED

By Tim Barkley. October 2021. We all sat down, appropriately distanced at opposite ends of the conference table. They began: “Our folks both died earlier this year, and we’re trying to sort things out. We really don’t know where to start.” “Sorry to hear,” responded the attorney. “May they rest in peace. Losing your parents is a tragedy, especially losing both so closely together. I hadn’t seen them in years, but I do remember them.” “Thanks. It was time, but yeah, we miss them. They told us that if something happened to them, we should ‘talk to Tim,’ so here we are … so … where do we go from here? Do we have to do ‘probate’? What is ‘probate,’ anyway?” “Well … not to be blunt, but probate is the legal way to move deceased people’s stuff...

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POWERLESS

By Tim Barkley. September 2021. “I don’t need a power of attorney. My spouse and I own everything jointly.” “My daughter is on all my accounts, so I don’t need a power of attorney.” “I’m not letting anybody take control over me! I’m not signing that paper!” “I don’t want my power of attorney to be active unless I’m unable to take care of myself.” “This long power of attorney form doesn’t apply to me. I just have a bank account and a car!” All of these all-too-common misunderstandings can create havoc for you and your loved ones. It’s true, if you and your spouse own your bank account jointly, either one of you can sign a check or make a deposit, no questions asked. But it takes both signatures to sell your car or your mutual funds, or to...

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PROBATE AVOIDANCE ON A BUDGET

By Tim Barkley. August 2021. We shook hands and sat down. “Now, if I understood you correctly when you called to set the appointment, you are here to talk about wills.” “Well,” ventured the husband, “wills or trusts – I’m not sure what we need. We hear a lot about trusts.” The wife nodded. “My brother has a trust and says everybody should have one.” The lawyer pondered. “Trusts are a good tool, but not everyone needs one. May I ask a few questions, so I understand your situation?” The clients indicated assent. “Do you have children?” “Yes,” answered the wife, “two daughters, both grown.” The lawyer nodded, “Is everyone mentally and physically healthy?” The husband gave a “thumbs-up” and ventured, “As far as we know.” “Good,” the lawyer...

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