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Key Differences Between Estates in Maryland and Estates in Pennsylvania

estate planning md pa

By: Dennis M. Twigg, Esq.
Hoffman, Comfort, Offutt, Scott & Halstad, LLP

More and more, people are moving between Maryland and Pennsylvania. This article highlights a few major differences between Pennsylvania and Maryland from an Estate Administration. It’s important to be aware of the differences when draft a will or work on your estate planning documents.

1.     Execution of a will: When drafting a will, it is important to execute in a manner that makes it as easy as possible for your family to probate your will.  All wills should be witnessed by two competent and reliable parties, but in Pennsylvania you will save your heirs some paperwork by using a self-proving will. A self-proving will requires extra signatures and a notary.  Maryland does not have any provision regarding self-proving wills so if you executed a will and Maryland moved to Pennsylvania you may want to do a new document.

2.     Estate Tax: Prior to 2019, Maryland taxes some decedents who have assets less than the Federal Estate Tax exemption. In 2015, if you pass away with more than $1.5 million in assets you may have to file a Maryland Estate Tax Return. That number goes up each year until it matches the Federal Exemption in 2019. Pennsylvania has no Estate Tax for decedents that fall under the Federal Estate Tax Exclusion.

3.     Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax: With a few exceptions, Pennsylvania imposes an inheritance tax on inherited assets. Spouses do not owe inheritance tax and life insurance is exempt. The taxes apply on all assets: both probate assets in an estate and non-probate assets inherited by beneficiary designation or title.  Depending on the relationship between the decedent and the beneficiary, this rate can 4.5%, 12%, or 15%. This means that plenty of decedents need Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Returns filed upon their death.

If you move between any two states, it’s important to consult with an attorney licensed in the state where you’re moving. In the case of Maryland and Pennsylvania, it’s important to know about the differences in death taxes and the execution of documents, along with other matters that may be important for your own estate planning situation. In some instances, if your estate planning implications have great financial impact

 

 

 

Disclaimer – Blog Not Legal Advice – No Attorney-Client Relationship Formed by These Posts or By Any Comments, or By Comments Replying to Comments, on This Blog.

The information and materials on this blog are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Being general in nature, the information and materials provided may not apply to any specific factual and/or legal set of circumstances.  No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. Nothing on this blog is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Past results are no guarantee of future results.

How to Manage a Divorce in Maryland

Maryland divorce attorney

A divorce is one of the most stressful times in anyone’s life. At times, it can feel like your human rights are being taken away from you.

How do you protect yourself during a divorce? What steps can you take to make sure your rights stay safe? Here are some tips that will help you do exactly that.

Immediately Contact an Attorney

Every day, family attorneys across America get calls from worried men and women saying something like this:

“I was just served divorce papers. What do I do now?”

Family law attorneys often specialize in divorce law. If you can find a good divorce law specialist, you should contact them immediately after you decide (or discover) you’re getting a divorce.

The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner you can take steps to protect your assets. One of the interesting things about divorce law is when couples have the same family attorney: the first person to contact that attorney and ask for their legal services will gain access to that attorney while locking out the other partner in the marriage. If you have a good family lawyer you like, contact them immediately before your spouse (or ex-spouse) does the same thing.

Here Are Questions You Need to Consider:

In regards to the marital home you share:

  • Who stays in the home?
  • Can one party buy out the other’s interest?
  • Should the property be sold?
  • What happens if one party puts a significant down-payment of their individual funds into the purchase of the property?
  • What if the home is titled only in one party’s name?

In regards to retirement benefits:

  • Are the benefits a “defined benefit plan” like a 401K or a 403B, or a “defined contribution plan” like a pension which provides monthly benefits over the life of the employee?
  • When were the benefits earned – before or after the marriage?

In regards to personal property:

  • How is the personal property going to be divided?

In regards to vehicles:

  • When was the vehicle purchased?
  • How is it titled?
  • Is there a loan outstanding?

In regards to debts:

  • How are debts going to be handled – loans, credit cards, etc.?

In regards to bank accounts:

  • Are they join or individual?
  • How many bank accounts?
  • How are each account used?

In regards to alimony:

  • What are the respective incomes of the parties?
  • What is the ability of the dependent spouse to become self-supporting?
  • What are the ages of the parties?
  • Are there any health issues?

In regards to health insurance:

  • Who holds the current coverage?
  • Will that party continue to provide coverage for the other party up to the date of divorce?
  • Is there an ability for the other party to stay on the coverage after the divorce?

In regards to tax returns:

  • Will the parties file jointly or individually?
  • How should any refund be divided?
  • Are there any advantages to filing jointly?

Keep Records of Everything

During a divorce, a single missing paper or document could instantly jeopardize your case against your spouse. If you want to have the best possible chance of preserving your rights in court and out of court, then you’ll want to keep careful track of all documents. Make copies, take pictures, and have backup copies in cloud storage.

Don’t Agree to Anything You Don’t Understand

One of the most important rules of divorce law is that you should never sign anything you don’t understand. Once you’ve signed a divorce settlement agreement, there’s no turning back: you’ve locked into the conditions of that agreement. Something as simple as your signature on a piece of paper could take your kids and house away from you forever – so make sure you have a competent lawyer read over everything long before you put the pen to paper.

Looking for a competent team of family lawyers in Carroll County, Maryland? Whether you’re looking for a family law attorney in Westminster or anywhere else in Carroll County, the law firm of Hoffman, Comfort, Offutt, Scott & Halstad LLP specializes in protecting its clients’ rights and assets during even the most complex divorces.

You Slipped and Fell in Maryland – What Legal Rights Do You Have?

slip and fall maryland

If you slip, fall, and injure yourself in Maryland, are you owed compensation?

Not necessarily. Maryland slip and fall law is based on a fault system. This fault system means businesses and property owners are not automatically liable whenever someone falls and injures themselves on private property.

Instead, property owners are only responsible for dangerous conditions they are aware of, or should be aware of, but did not correct or warn guests about.

Every day, someone in Maryland is injured in an indoor or outdoor slip and fall accident.

Common reasons for indoor falls include sticky or slippery substances on the floors, unleveled flooring, torn/raised/worn carpeting, poor lighting, narrow stairs, defective escalators, obstructions like cords, boxes, fallen debris, etc.

The most common causes for outdoor falls include cracked, broken, or uneven sidewalks, slippery conditions due to snow, ice, or water, inadequate lighting, the absence of handrails, holes or depressions, and debris.

All slip and fall cases typically boil down to two things: proving liability and identifying damages.

Proving liability in slip and fall cases

When someone is liable, it means they’re responsible for whatever conditions caused the accident.

An individual or business may be liable for maintaining the sidewalk in front of their shop. Failure to clear snow from that sidewalk could cause a visitor to slip and fall.

Of course, as mentioned above, you can’t automatically assume that a third party is liable when you injure yourself on private property. In Maryland, that’s not always the case.

Instead, Maryland law requires private property owners to take “reasonable” steps to provide a safe premises for visitors.

One of the first steps of a premises liability case is determining the class of the visitor. Visitors typically fall into one of two different classes:

-Invitees: Invitees are on the property for the benefit of the property owner. A friend may be coming over for coffee, or a customer may be entering your business. You owe these visitors the highest level of care under Maryland slip and fall law.

-Trespasser: You owe trespassers very little under current law. In fact, your only obligation is to not create conditions which intentionally injury the trespasser.

Ultimately, it comes down to the injured individual proving liability in order to win compensation. Typically, this is done with the help of a lawyer.

The strongest slip and fall cases are when the property owner knew of the problem or should have known of the problem.

A parking lot may have numerous burned out light bulbs, for example, or the sidewalk in front of the store may have a large crack which has gone unfixed for years. These problems have been around for a long period of time. The private property owner either knew about these problems, or it’s safe to assume they should have known about these problems.

But this leads to a grey area and some difficult-to-prove situations.

If you’re walking through a grocery store, slip on a puddle of milk, and hurt your back, you may think you’re owed compensation.

But the puddle of milk was spilled by a customer just 30 seconds before your arrival. The grocery store cannot have reasonably known about this issue in such a brief period of time, which means they’re not liable for your fall under Maryland slip and fall law.

Defending liability claims

Property owners (or more likely, their insurance company) will typically defend liability claims using two different defenses:

-Contributory Negligence

Maryland is one of four U.S. states with this harsh rule. Contributory negligence will immediately defeat your claim. This rule means that if you contributed to your fall and injury in any way – even just 1% – then you are not entitled to receive any compensation under Maryland slip and fall law. You may have worn high heels when walking around on a skating rink, for example.

-Assumption of Risk

Similarly, assumption of risk means that you put yourself in a dangerous situation voluntarily and assumed the known risk, which can also defeat your claims to compensation. You may have walked outside on a below-freezing day, for example, which means you’re assuming the risk of walking on slippery surfaces.

To give your case the best chance of success, identify any possible witnesses – especially in the moments immediately after the incident. Write down all the details of your fall, including the shoes and clothing you were wearing at the time and the lighting in the affected area.

How much are you owed?

Your compensation amount depends on a few different factors, including the seriousness of your injuries, the length of time you’ve suffered (or are expected to suffer) from your injuries, and whether or not you will ever fully recover.

Typically, with the help of a good lawyer, you can win full compensation for your medical bills, the full amount of income lost as a result of your injury, and additional compensation for pain, suffering, and inconvenience.

Conclusion – How to proceed and win compensation

Maryland slip and fall cases can be complex. Because of Maryland’s slip and fall law, injured individuals are not automatically owed compensation.

Instead, you and your lawyer must prove that the property owner was aware of the condition (or should have been aware) and took steps to avoid fixing, alleviating, or warning visitors about that condition.

If you can do that, then you may be able to win compensation for your slip and fall case in Maryland. Since 1936, Hoffman, Comfort, Offutt, Scott & Halstad LLP has provided intelligent and thorough legal support to residents across Maryland. Contact us today to schedule your case review session.

Five End of Year Giving Tips

By: Dennis M. Twigg, Esq.
Hoffman, Comfort, Offutt, Scott & Halstad, LLP

With 2014 drawing to a close, it’s important to consider your tax situation. The holiday season brings a commendable impulse to give gifts and be charitable, but it’s important to consider the law to make sure your gifts help everyone they are intended to. Consider this a start, but if you have questions or complex situations be sure to consult an attorney for legal advice.

  1. The annual gift tax exclusion for 2014 is $14,000.00. This means that you can make cumulative gifts to one person of $14,000.00 without any tax consequences.
  2. Remember, the gift tax exclusion is per recipient. This means that both you and a spouse are eligible to make gifts to a single person.
  3. Be careful of making gifts to people with special needs. Many government assistance programs are need-based and recipients can be disqualified for having too many assets.
  4. If you want to set aside assets for a person with special needs, consider funding a trust for their benefit. A properly crafted trust can be used to financially supplement someone’s life without endangering crucial government assistance and benefits.
  5. Charitable giving can reduce your tax burden and help a worthy cause. When you donate, make certain that you follow IRS guidelines so that your good deed is justly rewarded. Keep records to prove that your donations went where they were supposed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer – Blog Not Legal Advice – No Attorney-Client Relationship Formed by These Posts or By Any Comments, or By Comments Replying to Comments, on This Blog.

The information and materials on this blog are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Being general in nature, the information and materials provided may not apply to any specific factual and/or legal set of circumstances.  No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. Nothing on this blog is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Past results are no guarantee of future results.