In episode five of The Senior Soup Podcast, Stein Sperling Attorney Sarah Broder speaks to Raquel Micit and Ryan Miner about the necessity of Maryland estate planning, trusts, and probate law.
Ask yourself this question: If God forbid, you were to die tomorrow, are your affairs in order?
You might consider contacting Sarah Broder at Stein Sperling to set up an in-person appointment.
Consider the following questions:
- Do you have a will in place?
- Do you want your family to avoid the probate process?
- Do you have young children? What happens to your children if something happens to you?
Disclaimer: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.
Estate Planning in Maryland
Raquel Micit 0:00
Welcome to The Senior Soup Podcast, the DMV senior resource hub and premier senior advocacy platform. My name is Raquel Micit.
Ryan Miner 0:08
And I’m Ryan Miner.
Raquel Micit 0:09
This soup of today is family estate planning.
Raquel Micit 0:13
The spotlight is on our special guest, Sarah Broder, with Stein Sperling.
Sarah Broder 0:19
Thank you for having me!
Raquel Micit 0:20
Ryan and I are thrilled to have you join our podcast today!
Raquel Micit 0:24
Sarah is experienced, obviously.
Ryan Miner 0:26
Raquel Micit 0:27
She’s very knowledgeable.
What we love most about her is she’s super easy to talk to and relatable.
We are excited to help educate our audience and have you help empower them to either start the family estate planning process or maybe even revisit it.
Raquel Micit 0:41
Why don’t we start with you telling us about yourself, what you do, and who you are, and then we’ll go from there?
Sarah Broder 0:47
I’m Sarah Broder, as I was so nicely introduced. I am an estate planning attorney at Stein Sperling in Rockville, so if you ever driving on 270, you can wave to us.
Sarah Broder 0:57
I started out my legal career in family law.
I did divorce and custody and things of that nature and then transitioned my practice to estate planning.
I have an LLM in taxation, which is just a doctor’s degree in tax.
For some reason, I really like tax.
Now, I do estate planning exclusively. But my family law background certainly helps with that, especially dealing with family dynamics of all sorts.
Sarah Broder 1:21
I also do the administration side of things.
So trust administration, estate administration, is when someone passes away, helping their family members administer their estate and kind of get their assets to the places they wanted them to go – and everything in between.
What Is Estate Planning?
Raquel Micit 1:37
Could you define exactly what estate planning is for our audience out there?
Sarah Broder 1:42
Estate planning runs the gambit, right?
Sarah Broder 1:44
So it could be, you know, just planning for incapacity, right?
I could be just a power of attorney, which is a document allowing or nominating somebody to act on your behalf with respect to your finances and your property, and a medical directive, which is just mainly somebody to act on your behalf with respect to health care decisions.
Sarah Broder 2:01
It could be just that.
If you own assets, and it’s a bank account, it’s a house, estate planning can be drafting a document, whether it’s a will or a revocable trust, to direct that asset to where you want it to go upon your death.
It also could be gifting, could be a prenuptial agreement, or a post-nuptial agreement.
If you’re in a second marriage, whether you want your assets to go to your new spouse or your children from your previous marriage, it’s all over the place.
So it really is tailored to whatever the client needs and wants.
How to get around probate?
Ryan Miner 2:30
Sarah, your Stein Sperling bio reads in part, ‘Sarah,’ that’s you, ‘focuses her practice on all aspects of estate planning, from helping clients prepare necessary documents for wealth, asset, and beneficiary protection and succession planning, as well as charitable gift planning techniques.
Ryan Miner 2:46
As you just spoke about, could you walk our audience through a brief documents crash course and the bare minimum protections they might need to have to spare their families and the potentially unpleasant probate process after their passing?
Sarah Broder 3:01
Probate is the process that’s overseen by the court when someone passes away, and it’s the process to transfer the deceased person’s assets from their estate to the designated legatees, which are people named under a will.
It’s a court process; it requires certain filings, like an accounting of all of the income and distributions from the estate.
It requires an inventory of all the assets in the estate appraisals – things of that nature.
Sarah Broder 3:28
As you can imagine, it can be somewhat burdensome for a family member to undergo this process.
Most of the time, people that are nominated to do this, which are called personal representatives in Maryland – they have full-time jobs.
And they don’t have time to do all of that.
Sarah Broder 3:41
Avoiding that court process is, for some people, really important – especially if they’ve served in that role for maybe a parent or another family member, and they know that it’s a lengthy process that they don’t want to burden their family members with.
So in order to do that, what you need to do is have no probate assets left at the time of your death.
What are probate assets?
Sarah Broder 3:59
A probate asset is an asset titled solely to you at the time of your death that doesn’t have a beneficiary designation or isn’t jointly owned.
Think about a bank account, right?
A bank account that’s just in your name; there’s no payable on death or transfer on death designation for it. That would be a probate asset.
What Is A Revocable Trust?
To avoid that, oftentimes, we recommend that people create a revocable trust.
Revocable trusts are not for everyone.
You know, there’s no monetary limit about how much money you need to create a revocable trust, but it really is dependent on a client’s situation.
And that’s why it’s important to have an attorney counseling you through this.
Sarah Broder 4:32
A revocable trust: Think of it as an empty pot, and you’re putting assets into the pot, and all the assets in the pot don’t have to go through probate.
So all of your assets should be titled to your trust, have a beneficiary designation, or be jointly owned, and then you won’t have any probate assets left to go through the probate process.
Sarah Broder 4:51
But a revocable trust operates much like a will.
It can dictate where you want your property to go at the time of your death and operates during your incapacity.
So if you become incapacitated during your lifetime and you can’t manage the assets in the trust, you can nominate a successor trustee who can manage those assets for you – kind of with a seamless transition, no court involvement, nothing like that.
Sarah Broder 5:10
If you don’t have any documents – you don’t have a will, you don’t have a trust – then you die what’s called intestate.
And that means without a will. The last will and testament. So, intestate is without a will. Testate is dying with a will.
Raquel Micit 5:27
I imagine it’s different state by state.
Sarah Broder 5:30
Of course, it is.
Sarah Broder 5:31
The concept is pretty much similar across the board, but you know, the rules are implemented differently in each state.
The court system and the probate system are much different in different states. So Florida has a very complicated probate system. Maryland is actually not terrible compared to other states, but it is still annoying, for lack of a better word.
When should I write a will?
Raquel Micit 5:48
So Sarah, when is a good time to put a will in place?
Sarah Broder 5:51
I would say always – but I’m a little biased.
Ryan Miner 5:53
Even at eighteen?
Sarah Broder 5:54
I don’t know if a will is necessary at age eighteen. It really depends on what the eighteen-year-old has.
But I have seen situations where, let’s say, an 18-year-old has received an inheritance from a grandparent; it’s a lot of money, and they received it in a brokerage account.
They received it outright in a brokerage account only in their name.
And then, if something happens to them, now you have a probate estate that your parents most likely are going to have to administer.
Ryan Miner 6:17
People around here have significant resources and assets, which may make your job more complicated.
Sarah Broder 6:24
It can be.
It depends on how those assets are titled, what they are, you know, if they’re complex family businesses, that’s a whole added element that really creates some complexity and why it’s important when you’re looking for an estate planning attorney that you’re looking for an attorney that has the resources to help you comprehensively – like has business attorneys available, has real estate attorneys available.
Sarah Broder 6:46
In case anyone’s wondering, Stein Sperling has that.
Ryan Miner 6:48
Sarah Broder 6:49
Raquel Micit 6:50
Raquel Micit 6:51
So when people come to you fairly young – I imagine people most at the time when they come to put a will together – how would that benefit them?
Sarah Broder 6:58
When you turn eighteen, you’re an adult, right?
So, if you, so…
Ryan Miner 7:01
You can’t smoke cigarettes until you’re twenty-one.
Sarah Broder 7:04
Right, but you can make…
Ryan Miner 7:06
You can go to war…
Sarah Broder 7:06
You can go to war and make decisions about your health and assets without your parents helping you, right?
Ryan Miner 7:13
But you can’t smoke a Marlboro. I’m not advocating for that.
Sarah Broder 7:16
Probably for the best…
Sarah Broder 7:17
It can benefit you because you need somebody there to make decisions for you if something happens to you, right?
A Maryland Advance Directive
Sarah Broder 7:24
What if you have surgery?
Think about something so basic: You’re being put under anesthesia.
Don’t you think it makes sense to have a medical directive to say, ‘If something happens, I really want my mom to make the decision for me, or I really want my spouse to make the decision for me?
Sarah Broder 7:36
No one wants to think about it, right?
No one wants… and that’s probably one of the reasons people don’t do it, because even when I’m sitting with a client, they’re like, ‘I don’t want to think about this.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I know; no one wants to come to see me.’
Keep in mind that once it’s done, it’s done: You can put it under the bed and forget all about it.
But knowing that there’s somebody there to step in for you if you can’t bring peace of mind.
Reading of a will
Ryan Miner 7:56
Sarah, we talked earlier about complicated family dynamics.
How do you and your role as a legal adviser and an estate planner help families navigate the complexities of those dynamics?
If cousin Timmy is not in Grandpa’s will and Raquel is, and she gets $6 million dollars from you know?
Yeah, you know, Uncle Bobby’s business, that we really never knew what Uncle Bobby did, but he had this business on the side.
Little cousin Timmy didn’t get anything.
And Cousin Timmy, his mother, the daughter of Grandpa, is very upset. She makes a scene right here in this conference room. What do you do?
Sarah Broder 8:31
That would be the administration side, I’m assuming, because otherwise, your kids shouldn’t necessarily know if they’re in the will or not.
Ryan Miner 8:37
Sarah Broder 8:37
I wouldn’t suggest sharing that – unless everybody’s being treated equally.
That just creates what you’re describing now, which is dynamic to follow.
Sarah Broder 8:45
When you’re helping a family through the administration process – and not every family member is treated fairly or treated equally in their eyes under the document – you have to remember who the client is.
That’s really hard when you’re doing family estate planning because there is a client – and it’s not everybody.
Sarah Broder 9:01
For the planning piece, it’s the person making the will or the trust; those are the people who make the decisions.
It’s fine for them to have the input of their family members – if they want it.
The planning is happening alone with one or two individuals that are doing the planning.
And it’s really talking to them about why they include these provisions.
And I’m sure there’s a reason they want to cut out Timmy, and maybe it’s important to give a warning to Timmy about why this has happened.
I’d like to walk them through it and make sure they’re thinking it through. If that’s what they want to do, that’s their choice.
Sarah Broder 9:30
And then on the administration side, I see it all the time: Families fight about what was in the will, what wasn’t in the will; what was in the trust, not in the trust.
Ryan Miner 9:37
Are you the executor? Are you the one who reads it?
There Is No “Reading Of The Will”
Sarah Broder 9:39
There is no reading of the will. That’s a movie thing.
Ryan Miner 9:42
That’s a movie thing?
Okay, no, that’s good to know. That’s really good to know!
Sarah Broder 9:45
I’m rarely named as the personal representative executor.
It’s not always the best role for an attorney, but attorneys can certainly be hired by the personal representative to help with the administration process – and we do that all the time.
Ryan Miner 9:56
I have some things in place.
If something happens to me, God forbid, my wife would know exactly where to go, what to do, and where to put me in the ground.
How to obtain legal guardianship in Maryland
Sarah Broder 10:05
Let me ask you a question, though.
Worst case scenario: If you and your wife are on a trip somewhere, and the plane goes down, what happens to your kids?
Ryan Miner 10:12
You know what…?
Sarah Broder 10:13
Does your wife have documents?
Raquel Micit 10:14
Tell us, but like, what would happen?
Sarah Broder 10:16
That’s a great question – because nobody has a crystal ball.
The Guardianship Process
Sarah Broder 10:18
If you don’t plan for it and plan out what’s going to happen, the question remains, what’s going to happen?
Who’s going to take my kids?
Some family members will probably want them, but they have to petition the court.
And they have to go through a guardianship proceeding, which let me tell you, even when they’re…everybody agrees, it’s not a cheap endeavor; it’s an expensive process, you’re usually going to have to hire an attorney to do that.
And you don’t want to put that on your family.
Ryan Miner 10:41
Sarah Broder 10:41
When it really is pretty simple to plan ahead.
Raquel Micit 10:45
This could be a gift to give a family member.
Hey, I put a will in place, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah!
Sarah Broder 10:51
It also could be a gift to pay for the estate planning!
Raquel Micit 10:55
Ryan Miner 10:56
How would that work? Would they just call your billing department?
Sarah Broder 10:58
Can I Get A Will Online? Yes – But You Shouldn’t!
Raquel Micit 10:59
So why not do this online?
Sarah Broder 11:00
For some people, that’s going to be their go-to.
They’re gonna say, ‘Well, I can do this for free – no problem.’
But you get what you pay for. And it’s easy.
And you know, oh, hey, I did my will, all done.
The problems it creates on the back end for your family can be extensive – and very expensive – and much more money than you would have spent hiring an attorney to do your state planning one time and doing it right.
Sarah Broder 11:21
I will say with services like that, they serve all fifty states.
You put in all of your information, you say what state, and then they spit out a document. And the document sometimes isn’t in compliance with state law.
Sarah Broder 11:33
The biggest problem with that is that you can’t fix it.
Because when the will is being administered, you’re no longer here; you can’t change it anymore.
Sarah Broder 11:41
So now, you’re leaving your family members with a will that says clearly what you wanted – but it’s really not enforceable.
And that’s really bad!
There can be ambiguity in the language because it’s not crafted specifically for your situation and your intentions.
Raquel Micit 11:55
So it could be more expensive and more time-consuming?
Sarah Broder 11:58
Kind of like many things that…you know…
Maryland Estate Planning
Raquel Micit 12:02
So when you’re putting, you know, a plan in place, do you work with other advisors?
Sarah Broder 12:07
Yes, I love to work with other advisors! I think it is the greatest benefit to the client.
Raquel Micit 12:14
Can you give us some examples?
Sarah Broder 12:15
Sarah Broder 12:15
So the advisor I work with most often is a financial advisor.
It doesn’t have to be a complicated or high-asset estate for that to be a good idea.
It’s really the coordination between, you know, you have a financial advisor for a client who’s probably known that client a lot longer than I have, and knows a lot about the family dynamics, has spent a lot of time with them, and is advising them to manage their assets in a way that works with their goals and intentions.
So for me to get that insight from the financial advisor on how they’re managing the assets really gives me a good background on how I’m going to advise them to plan their assets on the estate planning side.
Sarah Broder 12:54
And then, when it comes to implementing these plans, working with a financial advisor or an accountant can really be great because, let’s say, I’ve advised them about beneficiary designations for retirement accounts.
Who’s going to put that into place?
Ryan Miner 13:06
That’s a lot of words!
Sarah Broder 13:07
The client necessarily isn’t going to, isn’t going to be able to do that because their financial advisor probably handles that for them.
So for me to be able to communicate directly with the financial advisor is just a huge benefit to the client.
And I will say a lot of times, clients don’t want to do that.
Again, you get what you pay for – and I think it’s worth the extra time in the beginning to receive that benefit at the end so that everything really works together.
Ryan Miner 13:28
Well, I think we talked about a lot today.
We lightened up this discussion – because it is tough.
These are very difficult subjects to talk about.
Ryan Miner 13:36
When they have an outstanding law firm like Stein Sperling behind them, and you and many of your other colleagues are here to help them guide them through the process, there is no doubt that it’s made so much easier.
Ryan Miner 13:50
And Raquel and I, in our 30s, won’t share how old you are again.
Sarah Broder 13:54
Because you already mentioned it…
Ryan Miner 13:55
I think it’s time that we get serious about what we have in place.
Raquel Micit 13:59
We had a lot of great points in here, a lot of big words.
Sarah Broder 14:04
We’ll put a glossary in…
The Three Takeaways From This Podcast
Raquel Micit 14:06
So, we could talk about some key points that our audience could take away from this podcast that would help empower them to make decisions about estate planning: Give us a few points and takeaways here.
Takeaway 1: It’s Never Too Late To Put A Will In Place
Sarah Broder 14:19
I think the first point is that there’s never a bad time to do your will; you’re never late on your estate planning.
Sarah Broder 14:24
If you’re still alive and thinking about it, there’s time; don’t wait any longer.
It’s really not as hard as it seems. If you have the right person walking through the process, you can have the answers to all the questions – like what happens if this happens.
Put A Will In Place Now; It Doesn’t Have To Be Set In Stone
Sarah Broder 14:38
The other thing to remember is if you can’t make a decision…if you’re holding up the process because you feel like, ‘I don’t know who’s going to receive my jewelry collection or my train collection…’
It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but it’s better to have something than nothing.
There Is No Asset Requirement For A Will
Sarah Broder 14:53
The last point I would say is there’s no asset requirement.
You don’t need to have a lot of money for it to be a useful endeavor to go through.
And I think it really helps people not only get their estate planning done but think about their own family dynamics and why things are the way they are.
It really helps kind of smooth things out in a way.
Raquel Micit 15:09
This is an investment for your entire family and really a gift you’re giving your children and your family members, so they don’t have the burden to do that.
So this is something to really think about investing in – and don’t cheap out on this.
Sarah Broder 15:23
It will pay its dividends!
You may not see it, but I promise your family will.
Ryan Miner 15:26
I want to go back to the train, the train collection.
Ryan Miner 15:29
Is that the choo choo trains or the band train?
Sarah Broder 15:33
Ryan Miner 15:33
Because, ‘Hey, Soul Sister. Ain’t that Mister Mister. On the radio, stereo. The way you move ain’t fair, you know…”
Sarah Broder 15:40
With all due respect, I think Raquel’s jingle was better.
Raquel Micit 15:44
Sarah, thank you so much for enlightening us today – all about family estate planning.
Ryan Miner 15:51
One more question: Where can people find more information about you, Sarah?
Sarah Broder 15:55
Raquel Micit 15:56
Alright, I think that’s a wrap.
Just as a reminder, new episodes of The Senior Soup Podcast are released every Monday at 9:00 a.m.
Ryan Miner 16:03
You can find us on the web at TheSeniorSoup.com.
Ryan Miner 16:06
And guess what, guys?
Now we’re on Amazon Alexa!
So if you say, ‘Alexa, play The Senior Soup Podcast on Amazon music,’ the first voice you will hear is Raquel’s lovely singing voice.
Raquel Micit 16:56
[Singing] The Senior Soup!
Ryan Miner 16:57
She’s a Grammy nominee.
Ryan Miner 17:00
Thank you all!
Sarah Broder 17:02
Raquel Micit 17:02
This was fun!