Benjamin Franklin’s observation that nothing is certain but death and taxes is a little less true in Maryland, where the estate tax itself is virtually dead. Under a measure passed in this year’s legislative session, Marylanders will be able to leave behind more than $5 million in assets with no tax liability. This is good news for the rich and middle class alike.
For the last decade, any portion of a Maryland resident’s estate that exceeded $1 million in value was taxed at a rate of up to 16 percent. Under the bill Governor O’Malley recently signed into law, Maryland’s estate tax exemption will gradually increase to match that of the federal government, which currently stands at a hefty $5.34 million.
1. You probably don’t have one.
If you’re like most Americans, you’ve been putting off having a Last Will & Testament prepared for too long. Most of us have strong feelings about who should inherit our money, real estate, personal possessions, and other assets—and who shouldn’t. But the sad truth is that we usually fail to put our wishes in writing. By preparing a Will, you can leave the people you care about with clear instructions as to your final wishes and save them time, money, and a lot of stress.
The right to marry now extends to more Marylanders than ever before. Under the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which took effect January 1, 2013, same-sex couples can obtain marriage licenses knowing that their unions will be recognized by the state. Federal recognition came some six months later with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor.
These are exciting developments for the LGBT community, and couples who choose to marry will now enjoy many important benefits. Among these are the right to file joint tax returns, to receive Social Security and other government benefits, and to obtain health insurance from a spouse’s employer.
Most Americans do not have a Will. They haven’t prepared a financial Power of Attorney, and they aren’t even sure what an Advance Directive is. If you are among them, then preparing an estate plan should be at the top of your to-do list.
But even if you have an estate plan in place, it may be missing a crucial element—provisions for your digital assets. These include the electronic data stored on your computer or smart phone, your Internet accounts like LinkedIn and Gmail, and your online pictures and documents.