Sometimes disputes arise under a will or trust, such as a contest about the validity of a will, a dispute about the meaning of the terms of a will or trust, or an action against a trustee. When that happens, we work to resolve the dispute out of court, if possible. When the dispute cannot be resolved by settlement, the firm’s seasoned trial lawyers work with our experienced trusts and estates lawyers to take the case to court.
In 2011, we won a ground-breaking ruling in the highest court of the District of Columbia. In this case, the personal representative had relied upon the estate’s attorney to file an estate tax return on time, but the attorney had failed to do so. The appeals court held that the personal representative was not personally liable to the heirs of the estate for the mistakes made by the attorney. Our advocacy led to this important ruling that clearly delineates the duties of the personal representative and the attorney for an estate.
B22-0169, the Electronic Signature Authorization Act of 2017, is pending before the DC Council, and it is dreadful. The Uniform Law Commission (ULC), relevant sections of the DC Bar, and a number of DC Fellows of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) have submitted, formally or informally, written opposition to the bill. We have it on good authority that this bill is unlikely to pass, and we hope that is the case.
Are electronic wills coming? Of course they are. Last year in Australia, an unsent text message was accepted for probate as someone’s last will and testament. (Unsent! With an emoji in it!) In July of this year, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court decision to accept for… MORE >
Family lawyers are increasingly hearing from divorced clients who are getting ready to retire or have retired and who have a spousal support obligation or a right to receive support under a court order. A court order may result from a trial or as part of a settlement agreement adopted by a court in the judgment of divorce. Some payors think alimony payments automatically end at retirement, or that a court will decide to terminate payments at retirement as a matter of course, but this is not necessarily so.
Court-ordered spousal support terminates automatically only on the death of either party or—in Maryland and Virginia, but not the District—upon remarriage of the recipient. When a court orders indefinite spousal support, i.e., support without a predetermined… MORE >
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has eliminated the tax treatment of alimony that has been in place for more than 75 years. Under the old law, alimony is deductible from the income of the payor and includible in the income of the recipient, provided the parties comply with the specific requirements of the Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C.). Effective January 1, 2019, under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, parties will no longer have the option to enter into an agreement for taxable alimony nor will court-ordered alimony be deductible from the payor’s income and includible in the recipient’s income. Some alimony obligations created prior to January 1, 2019, may receive alimony tax treatment under the old law; others may not.
An existing premarital agreement… MORE >
In December 2017, Congress rushed to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: a 503-page document that drastically alters several of the popular tax credits and deductions around which many divorcing families structure their financial planning. This first major tax reform in decades affects taxes beginning in 2018 and will have a significant impact on divorcing families. Family lawyers are still working on understanding the nuances of the changes and figuring out how to settle cases while some of the uncertainties in the application of the new law are being resolved by the Treasury Department.
Even the most amicable divorce can be expensive; it simply costs more to maintain two households. Through effective use of the tax code, however, family law attorneys, often working alongside… MORE >
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Act”), signed into law at the end of December, includes major changes to the Internal Revenue Code. The Act is the most sweeping tax legislation to be enacted in decades and affects nearly all American taxpayers. Under the Act, the federal estate, generation-skipping transfer (GST) and gift tax exemption amounts have increased dramatically.
The estate tax exemption amount is the amount that an individual can pass at death to anyone without incurring estate tax, and the GST tax exemption amount is the amount that an individual can pass to grandchildren and more remote descendants without incurring GST tax. In addition to the estate tax exemption, there is the unlimited marital deduction, which permits an individual to transfer an… MORE >
The doubling of the federal estate tax exemption under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has moved many wealthy Americans away from the impact of the federal estate tax. However, state estate taxes and inheritance taxes remain a factor in estate planning for residents of a number of states, including Maryland and the District of Columbia. Moreover, a state level estate or inheritance tax may be imposed on real estate located in a state with a tax even when the decedent resides elsewhere.
Currently, only a handful of jurisdictions have an estate tax. These include the District of Columbia and Maryland as well as Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The District of Columbia’s estate tax exemption… MORE >
The District of Columbia Death with Dignity Act allows an adult D.C. resident who is terminally ill (i.e., medically confirmed to have less than six months to live) to request medication to voluntarily end his or her life.
In order for a patient to participate in the Death with Dignity program, the following requirements must be met:
The Maryland General Assembly recently took several actions impacting domestic relations that will increase ease, efficiency, and consistency for those navigating the family court system.
Domestic Violence Orders Admissible in Maryland Divorce Suits
Protective orders (a form of domestic violence order) are designed to end and prevent abuse between family or household members. Current or former spouses, people who have lived together in an intimate relationship for at least 90 days during the past year, people who have been in a sexual relationship within the past year, people who share children together, people who are in a caretaker-vulnerable adult relationship, and family members can file for a protective order 24 hours a day in Maryland. In a protective order, a judge can order the abuser… MORE >
Years ago, I described to a close friend (let’s call her Cathy) the difference between a division among descendants per stirpes and a division among the same descendants per capita at each generation. In the midst of my explanation, Cathy suddenly exclaimed, “Oh! You mean like the Packers’ tickets?” This was a Eureka! moment; yes, it’s exactly like the Packers’ tickets.
One very important lesson I learned attending college in Wisconsin is that Packers’ tickets are a sacred thing. The population of Green Bay is 105,000. After recent expansions, Lambeau Field now seats 81,435, but season tickets are still very hard to come by. For many, the surest way to get them is to inherit them.
Back in the days of Bart Starr and Vince… MORE >
Spousal support is an important element of many divorces. When couples have been married for a long time, have supported each other’s careers, and have made sacrifices in their own lives in order to provide that support, alimony is often essential to afford former spouses financial security as they rebuild their lives as individuals outside of marriage.
A major concern those receiving support may have is: “what happens if my former spouse dies?” In Maryland, D.C., and Virginia, spousal support obligations terminate upon the death of either party. When married, life insurance helps to protect people from the financial devastation that can result from losing a spouse. Divorce can affect life insurance beneficiary designations. In Virginia, divorce automatically divests a former spouse of any interest… MORE >