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To keep our clients and readers up to date on the legislation passed during the 2022 Maryland General Assembly Session, we have compiled a list of relevant developments and changes with further context and explanation. This year brought significant changes to the administration and notarization of estate planning documents, as well as greater freedoms and protections for certain businesses and the inheritors of real estate properties. Naturally, the scope of the new legislation cannot be fully explored in the space of a single blog post. Thus, if you have any further questions regarding any of the recent legislative updates, please contact our office at 443-589-5600 for more information.
New Title 18 – Supported Decision-Making Agreements
Arguably one of the biggest changes to Maryland’s laws that will affect the estate planning and special needs planning processes results from the authorization of “supported decision-making agreements.” Under the new law, any adult over the age of eighteen, regardless of disability, can name someone as their legal “supporter” to help with general decision-making and communication processes. Adult supporters are permitted to be present at meetings with lawyers, doctors, bankers, or others at the request of the adult and can assist in gathering pertinent information for the disabled adult. The goal of an adult supporter is to delay the need for or limit the scope of guardianship proceedings and to provide the disabled adult with greater autonomy. Supporters cannot make any decisions themselves, nor take independent action on behalf of the adult they are supporting. Adult supporters do not replace or supersede any active Guardianship, or the agents named in a Durable Power of Attorney and/or Advanced Directive and Designation of Healthcare Agent; instead, the supporter can supplement these roles by encouraging greater agency for the disabled adult.
Restructuring for Estate Administration Fees
Depending on their size, new estates opened after October 1, 2022, may be subject to changes in the probate fees due to the Register of Wills. Following the passing of House Bill 187, small estate proceedings, generally, those estates valued at $50,000 or less, will no longer be subject to probate fees. Conversely, larger estates opened after the 1st of October will see an increase in probate fees. Estates valued at $1,000,000 or more will be subject to higher probate fees, with estates valued above $5,000,000 seeing a significant increase.
Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act
Also, effective October 1, 2022, the passing of the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act will enhance protections for co-tenants in partition actions taken in court. This bill was passed to help preserve generational wealth passed down in the form of real estate property by establishing procedures that preserve the value of the property inherited by the tenants-in-common (the heirs of the property). This act provides certain due process protections including notice requirements, appraisals to confirm the value and determine the reasonableness of offers, and the “right of first refusal” for co-tenants of the real property, ensuring that all co-tenants receive a measure of control over the real property when it is ready to be sold.
New Abilities for Businesses to Transfer Interest
The General Assembly has also passed a bill that guarantees the right of certain businesses to direct a transfer of ownership interests upon the death of one of the owners under the terms of an operating agreement or partnership agreement. These agreements can direct the disposition of the owner’s interest upon death without following the statutory formalities of a will. Contact us to help determine if your business succession plan would benefit from this type of agreement.
Remote and Electronic Notarization
The legislature amended certain laws to allow for the electronic and remote notarization of wills, trusts, and financial power of attorney documents so that such documents will be legally recognized by Maryland courts under certain circumstances. The new allowances are retroactive for documents produced before October 1, 2022, provided specific requirements are satisfied. Please note that at Sessa & Dorsey, we are often not inclined to provide electronic or remote notarization services due to various considerations.
Looking Ahead to the 2023 Session
As of this writing, the 2023 Maryland General Assembly Session is expected to bring further changes to estate planning and administration. The agenda for next year’s session will likely consider revisions to the state’s statutory power of attorney forms, as well as guardianship statutes, and reformation of inheritance tax statutes and intestacy statutes, among other items. At Sessa & Dorsey, we strive to keep our clients as informed as possible on any new legal updates in Maryland that may affect their families, estate, and business. Contact our office today to learn more about any of the new legislature discussed above.
At Sessa & Dorsey, we consider the bigger picture at hand and advise our clients on the best estates and trusts for their specific needs and desires. If you have questions, please contact us at (443) 589-5600.
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Understanding the Ins and Outs of Charitable Giving
Estate Planning 101: Who Should I Choose as My Trustee?