YOUR HOME, YOUR DEED, YOUR LEGACY: ENSURING COMMUNITY STABILITY IN BALTIMORE CITY THROUGH LEGAL SERVICES
By Olivia R. Holcombe-Volke (firstname.lastname@example.org), Partner, Elville & Associates, P.C. and Richard (Ricky) Adams (email@example.com), Associate, Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP1 Understanding the intricacies and applications of estate planning and administration, and how it may impact individuals and families, is important for all adults2, regardless of age or level of wealth. Complicated issues may arise – and often do – regardless of how much wealth is at stake. These complications are much more likely when there is a lack of proper estate planning. More important than considerations of wealth or the financial value of an asset is whether one’s wishes are followed. Estate planning helps control asset and health management decisions while alive, set forth end-of-life wishes, and ultimately dictate how one’s estate is administered and assets are distributed upon death. Proper planning and awareness of the options can help ensure peace of mind during life, and simplify the process after death, which is equally important to people at all asset levels.
It is common, particularly in Baltimore City, for homeowners to die without an estate plan to dictate what happens to their house, and for the surviving family members to fail to have the necessary information, awareness and funds to administer the deceased homeowner’s estate. These factors often result in situations where the intended or default beneficiary of the house – often a family member who has been living there for years – is not the owner of record, and is therefore ineligible for certain property tax exemptions and home repair assistance. For low-income individuals, this can be particularly devastating, at worst resulting in the complete loss of the property through tax sale. Planning for the transfer of ownership to the next generation (or whomever the intended beneficiaries may be), and ensuring such transfer of ownership actually takes place after someone dies, is vital for the stability of families and communities.
One of the biggest issues that can result from a lack of estate planning, and, often, the corresponding lack of estate administration, is the legal ownership of property, and the impact this can have on the stability of local communities. This is especially true for real property.
PLANNING FOR LIFE AND AFTER DEATH
The first step is to prepare a list of assets, how they are titled, and their current value. Beneficiary designations should also be included. It is also important to create a list of debts and liabilities,
The authors are Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service CAN (Community Advocacy Network) members. For the purposes of this article, anyone 18 or older.