Why you need an attorney experienced in estate planning?
Once you do decide to hire an attorney for your estate plan, make sure you find a lawyer with experience in estate planning. Estate planning laws are like a completely new language – unless your attorney has estate planning experience, the laws will seem foreign, and he or she may apply them wrong inadvertently. Attorneys spend years building their skills in focused areas of the law to provide the best possible service to their clients; do not trust your estate plan to an attorney not well versed in estate planning laws.
What is estate planning and how does it affect intestacy laws in Washington D.C.?
Intestacy laws determine how to distribute property if a person dies without a living will or testament. If you die and do not have a last will and testament, the courts will distribute your property in accordance with the law of intestacy.
If someone is counting on you for support and you have not established a financial power of attorney, there is no guarantee that your loved ones will receive the financial support they need after you pass on.
If you die without a will, your estate will be processed in accordance with District of Columbia intestacy regulations. The laws in Washington DC stipulate:
- If you have children but no spouse, your children receive everything;
- If you have a spouse but no children, your spouse receives everything;
- If you have a spouse and children, your spouse receives 2/3 of your estate and your children receive 1/3; if your children are not the spouse’s children, the spouse receives ½ and the children (of the same generation) receive ½
- If you have a spouse and no children but your parents are still alive, your spouse will receive 3/4 and your parents will receive 1/4.
If you have no surviving spouse, children or parents, your estate could go to your siblings, nieces, nephews, grandparents or grandchildren. If no living family can be found, then your estate will be surrendered to the government.
What happens when someone dies without a will?
Intestacy laws, or laws of intestate succession, are the laws that determine where your property goes if you die without a will or other estate planning instrument. Creating a will or a trust gives you the ability to control where you property goes after you pass on. If you do not create an estate plan in the state of Maryland, the courts will divide and distribute your property based on intestacy laws.
If you die intestate in Maryland, your property will be distributed as follows if you are married at the time of death:
- If you have minor children, your spouse will get ½ of the property and your children will receive the remaining ½, divided equally among them.
- If you have children but they are not minors, your spouse will receive $15,000, plus ½ of the remaining estate, and the children will receive the rest, divided equally among them (if any of your children are deceased, that deceased child’s share will go to his or her children, if any).
- If you have no children, your spouse will receive $15,000 plus ½ of the remaining estate, and your surviving parents will receive the rest, divided equally among them.
- If you have no surviving children and no surviving parents, your spouse will get the entire estate.
If you have no surviving spouse or children, your estate will go to your parents, then siblings, then nieces and nephews depending upon which are still living at the time of your death. If there is none of these, the estate could go to grandparents, great-grandparents and the children and grandchildren of these, including relatives you may not have known you had.
Why do you need an estate planning lawyer?
You need an estate plan tailored to your situation; the online services or DIY sample forms you find do not ask you important questions that need to be in your estate plan. If you don’t understand something on the forms, you might be inclined to skip over it; however, that could invalidate your entire plan. Why would you take a chance to risk so much?
What will an estate plan to do for me?
Your estate plan will help you control decisions about your life including:
- How your property will be distributed after you die;
- How decisions regarding your health and quality of life should be made in the event you are unable;
- How your funeral arrangements will be handled;
- Reducing or eliminating the government’s ability to interfere with your personal affairs.
You can take advantage of an array of estate planning tools, including:
- Wills, including creating a will, contesting a will, Living Wills, revising a will, and updating a will
- Trusts, including different types of trusts, such as Irrevocable Trusts, Revocable Trusts, Testamentary Trusts, and Special Needs Trusts
- Advance directives
- Financial power of attorney
- Letter of instruction
What is estate planning?
Estate planning is a process that involves making important decisions regarding your family, health care, financial and business matters, and property while you are still healthy and able. Planning for these matters while you are still healthy will safeguard your wishes and protect you and your loved ones before a crisis strikes.