In District of Columbia, "estate planning" broadly refers to the process through which someone determines what is to be done with their assets after death.
The first step in any estate plan is to figure out what you actually want to be done with your assets after your death. This is a very personal decision, and you should discuss it with your family, and others who might have a direct interest in your decisions. As for actually implementing your goals, you should probably speak with a legal and/or financial professional to figure out the best way to accomplish these objectives.
In addition to decisions regarding the disposition of your property, you should decide how you want to spend your final days. For instance, many people have a strong preference about whether and to what extent they'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Whatever your preference on this matter is, you should make it clear to the people who will be positioned to make such decisions for you, if you are unable.
A qualified estate planner in District of Columbia may also help you maximize the percentage of your assets that go to your chosen beneficiaries, by minimizing the impact of taxes and court fees. Furthermore, preventing a will or other estate plan from being litigated in court will save your survivors an incalculable amount of time, money, and energy - and the better an estate plan is, the lower its chances of ending up in court.
Common Elements of Estates in District of Columbia
Estate plans in District of Columbia almost always have these elements:
Will: A will permits you to control what is done with your property after your death. You can generally give your property to whoever you want, and make these gifts conditional. However, a will can only control another person's behavior insofar as placing conditions on gifts ("you don't get this money unless you spend the night in a haunted house"). The beneficiary doesn't HAVE to do anything if they don't want to, and are willing to surrender the money or property you left them.
Power of Attorney: Sometimes, people fear that they may become incapacitated (because of injury, illness, or mental deterioration), and that they won't be able to make their own decisions. Thankfully, if you want, you can grant a family member or close friend (or someone else you absolutely trust) legal authority to make important decisions for you, if you are ever incapacitated. This is known as "power of attorney."
Funeral Arrangements: Your wishes on this matter should be made clear to whoever is in a position to implement them early on in the estate planning procedure, and should not be included in a will. Because a will is generally read days or weeks after the person dies, it may be too late by then to carry your wishes out.
Do I Need a District of Columbia Estate Planning Attorney?
To most people, these issues are crucial to their peace of mind during life. Therefore, it's very important to make them with the help of a reputable District of Columbia attorney, to make sure that they have the best possible chance of being implemented.
Interesting Facts About District of Columbia
Washington, D.C., or the District of Columbia ("D.C."), is a federal district controlled by the U.S. federal government. It is the nation's capital and not part of any U.S. state. Congress approved the creation of D.C. in 1790. All three branches of the federal government have their centers in the District, and the area is full of historical museums and U.S. monuments.
The District of Columbia has powers of self-governance, as it has an elected mayor and a city council. The Home Rule Act of 1973 allows the District to operate a municipal government. However, the U.S. Congress ultimately has authority over the city and is empowered to overturn local laws as necessary. Residents of D.C. are subject to federal taxation, although they have no voting representative in the U.S. Congress.
Washington D.C.'s court system revolves around the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Most claims are filed through the Superior Court, which oversees local criminal and civil cases. There is also a U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which only presides over federal cases. D.C. maintains a Metropolitan Police Department, and several federal enforcement agencies operate there as well.
Lawyers in Washington D.C. understand the complex interaction of federal and state rules that govern the region. Washington, D.C. attorneys are members of the District of Columbia Bar Association, created in 1972. Legal claims may be directed to a D.C. lawyer, who can provide counseling and other services.