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.
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 >
A premarital agreement is a contract between persons intending to marry. It determines spousal rights when the marriage ends by death or dissolution. All states enforce properly made premarital agreements. However, laws governing validity vary among the states. What if a couple signs a premarital agreement in Virginia and later moves to Maryland? Will a Maryland court enforce the agreement even though Maryland law of validity imposes a higher standard than Virginia law?
Contract law permits the premarital agreement to choose the law that will govern a dispute about validity of the agreement or enforceability of a specific provision even when the dispute must be resolved in another state’s courts. Can the couple rest easy, knowing the law chosen in the contract—Virginia law in the… MORE >
The trend in recent years has been toward greater creativity in marriage ceremonies, including locations, vows, and officiants. In personalizing the ceremony, it is important to keep in mind that the legal requirements for marriage are set forth in the laws of each jurisdiction, both as to the qualifications for a person to marry and the legal steps necessary to ensure that the marriage is valid.
Historically, marriage has been subject to the control of state legislatures (in the District of Columbia, the City Council). Statutes set forth the requirements for who is allowed to marry, the required procedure to marry, and the legal effects of marriage. Spouses who marry in religious or other ceremonies that do not comply with the statutory requirements may be… MORE >
In the modern world it is increasingly common for an American citizen to marry a foreign national. In some situations, the United States citizen spouse or permanent resident may sponsor the other for permanent resident status (often referred to as a “green card” for the color that the physical document was at one time). The decision to do so can have lasting consequences in the event the marriage ends.
A sponsoring spouse must fill out an Affidavit of Support under Section 213A of the Immigration and Naturalization Act – commonly referred to as a Form I-864. A Form I-864 is a contract between the sponsor and the United States government that requires the sponsor to support the immigrant if the need arises. Spouses commonly sign… MORE >
After a divorce, the last thing on most people’s minds is contacting their estate planning attorney. However, if you fail to revise your estate planning documents after your divorce, your former spouse might still be a beneficiary of your estate and may continue to be a fiduciary under your will, revocable trust, power of attorney, or advance health care directive. Below is a table that summarizes how divorce affects these documents under D.C., Maryland, and Virginia law.
D.C. Maryland Virginia Wills Divorce and final property settlement revokes the entire will. If the testator does not execute a new will, or republish his or her old will, he or she will die intestate. Divorce revokes all provisions of a will relating to the former spouse, unless… MORE >
The word “service” has special meaning at Pasternak & Fidis – and it applies to community involvement as well as to our clients and to our profession. In recognition of the firm’s commitment to community service, we closed our offices on May 9th for a day of volunteer work at Red Wiggler Community Farm. We (gladly) exchanged our briefcases, law books, and business attire for hoes, shovels, and workwear to spend a day outdoors working alongside – and at the direction of – the wonderful, hardworking staff and growers of Red Wiggler, many of whom are disabled members of our community.
Red Wiggler is a working farm located in Germantown, Maryland, which supports youths and adults with and without disabilities with employment and vocational training… MORE >