Estate Planning in the District of Columbia
People who live in Washington, D.C. or who have property in D.C. are often concerned with what will happen to their assets when they die. The number one concern is that their property will be passed on to the recipient of their choosing with as little burden and bureaucracy as possible. Fortunately, there are many options available to accommodate a family’s needs and wishes. The trusted Washington, D.C. tax and estate planning attorneys at Thorn Law Group help clients understand and their options.
Wills, Trusts, and Advanced Directives
One common question people ask is, “do I really need a will?” The short answer isyes. Anyone who owns real or personal property and cares about how it is distributed when they die should have a will. A will can also provide for the care of minor children after your death, and offer instructions for final arrangements such as burial or cremation. When someone dies without a will, their property is distributed in accordance with the law of the jurisdiction in which the decedent resided at the time of his or her death. How the law distributes the decedent’s estate may or may not comport with that person’s actual wishes, so a will is an important first step in estate planning.
Under the laws of D.C., a will must be in writing in order to be valid, and there are specific procedures which must be followed in order for a will to be considered valid. Thus, people who have moved to D.C. from another state will need to determine whether their existing will is still valid, depending on whether it was signed and witnessed in a manner consistent with D.C. law. A will can also be amended through a supplemental writing known as a codicil, which must be executed in the same manner as a will. However, careful analysis is necessary to determine whether it is best to amend the existing will or revoke it and replace it with an entirely new document.
Wills only become effective, however, upon death. Estate planning can also include planning for lifetime transfers of assets and administrative powers. Gifts and trusts are common methods for distributing assets while still alive.
Other important estate planning tools include advanced directives, such as execution of a living will or healthcare proxy. A living will provides directions to next of kin and healthcare providers with respect to what types of extraordinary efforts should be made to preserve someone’s life when he or she is terminally ill and unable to express themselves. A healthcare proxy designates someone in advance to make these decisions for a patient who cannot communicate on his or her own behalf. These two documents are often used together, since a living will may not anticipate every situation which the patient may encounter. Also, many people select personal representatives to make financial decisions and handle personal affairs while they are still alive but unable to care for themselves.
Depending on the size of the estate involved, it may be subject to an estate tax. Although D.C. currently has no inheritance tax of its own, a decedent’s estate is still liable under Federal statute for a tax on any assets in excess of the applicable threshold. Therefore, affluent individuals should consider whether an estate tax may apply to their situation. A qualified attorney or tax professional can assist with this assessment, and can also offer advice as to whether it makes sense to include certain other tax instruments, such as a Revocable Living Trust, in any estate planning.
Trusted Estate Planning Attorneys
At Thorn Law Group, we understand that estate planning involves dealing with issues that are complicated and often unpleasant. Our experienced estate attorneys understand the benefits and uses of many estate planning tools, and work with clients to select the best estate plan for their particular needs. Thorn Law Group attorneys are based here in Washington, D.C., and have experience handling such matters. Our staff is comprised of former IRS attorneys, estate planning professionals, and litigators who are positioned to help our clients plan for an uncertain future with confidence.
For a consultation and to learn more about how a Washington attorney from the Thorn Law Group can help you with your estate planning, contact Kevin E. Thorn, Managing Partner, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (202) 349-4033.