Estate Planning in DC: The Basics

Estate planning is the process of planning for the disposition of a person’s assets after their death or the management of their assets in the event of their incapacity. Often, it includes the preparation of a last will and testament, power of attorney for financial and legal matters, and medical power of attorney or advance medical directive. A Washington, DC estate lawyer will be able to provide further information on the details of estate planning. Call today and schedule a consultation to begin.

Process of DC Estate Planning

Generally, after a client contacts an attorney, the attorney sends them an estate planning questionnaire. The questionnaire is intended to help the client begin to think about the important decisions that he or she will make during the initial estate planning meeting. If possible, the questionnaire should be completed and returned to the attorney prior to the initial meeting so that it serves as a guide for the estate planning meeting. The discussion is tailored to the client’s specific goals, assets and family dynamic.

During the initial meeting, the attorney gives the client a brief overview of estate taxes, inheritance taxes if applicable, and the probate process. That overview is used as a base to determine the available options for the client regarding their estate plan.

Typically, the attorney discusses the last will and testament, the incorporation of any trust for children, spouse, and children or family members who have special needs. The attorney discusses the drafting of a financial power of attorney and a medical power of attorney or advance directive.

At the initial meeting, the client and attorney review all of the options available and the client decides what option is the best fit for them. The attorney begins to draft the documents necessary to create the estate plan. The client and attorney go back and forth a few times on the draft to make sure that the document meets the client’s needs and best expresses the client’s wishes. Once the documents are finalized, the client returns for a meeting with the attorney to execute his or her documents.

How DC Estate Planning Is Unique

Currently, one of the key differences for estate planning in the District of Columbia is the DC estate tax. The DC estate tax for 2015 has a one million dollar filing threshold or exemption. There has been some legislative movement to change the DC estate tax filing threshold, but the implementation of the change is not expected until 2017. Planning for District of Columbia residents must contemplate the changing estate tax laws.

The DMV is a unique place to plan because clients often move between Maryland, DC, and Virginia or they may own property in multiple jurisdictions. Knowledge of all three jurisdictions is helpful when creating an estate plan in the District of Columbia.

Benefits of Having an Experienced Lawyer

A person should consult with an attorney who is familiar with the law of the District of Columbia regarding the preparation and proper execution of the estate planning documents as well as the tax laws that are specific to the District of Columbia. If an attorney prepares a person’s documents and he or she was not barred in the District of Columbia, that person may consider having their documents reviewed by a DC barred estate and trust attorney who is familiar and experienced in practicing in the estates and trust field.