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Estate Planning and Administration

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Attorneys

Roxy Araghi

Anne W. Coventry

Oren Goldberg

Stephanie Perry

Linda J. Ravdin

Christina K. Scopin

Micah G. Snitzer

Adam P. Swaim

Vicki Viramontes-LaFree

Anne (Jan) W. White

Probate Paralegals

Sharon L. Coop

Anbar A. Hassan

Bettina Ristau

Karen L. Williams

Marla V. Wolff

Family Law Paralegals

Cassandra E. Murphy

Administrative Staff

Mary A. Nelson

Nicole A. Ryder

Kimberly Young

Estate planning and administration services above and beyond the ordinary. We have the breadth of knowledge and depth of experience to help our clients accomplish their estate planning goals. Our seven trusts and estates lawyers provide comprehensive estate planning for individuals, couples, families, and family businesses. Each of our senior estate planning attorneys brings decades of experience to wealth transfer planning, offering a coordinated approach that goes well beyond simply drafting legal documents.

We give special attention to real estate interests, closely held businesses and other enterprises. We combine tax expertise, business knowledge and common sense to help protect and preserve wealth for generations to come. Many of our clients have done well and are interested in giving back through charitable contributions. We counsel our clients as to the most effective and tax-efficient ways to benefit charitable organizations. We have significant expertise in establishing private foundations, assisting with the creation of donor-advised funds, and forming charitable trusts of all kinds.

We are attuned to the need to protect and preserve assets so that our clients’ hard-earned resources can be distributed as they wish. We regularly counsel clients on the best ways to avoid unneccessarily exposing assets to claims of creditors. Using trusts and other legal arrangements, we provide for the protection of assets from claims in divorce. We also counsel clients about appropriate arrangements to benefit a family member who is unable to manage his or her own affairs, including the use of special needs trusts. The ever-changing estate tax laws present both challenges and opportunities. We keep abreast of federal and state estate and gift tax developments so that we can employ the most up-to-date tax planning strategies.

We are experienced in working with all kinds of families, including blended families, domestic partners, and same-sex couples. We work closely with our clients’ other advisors to insure that their overall plans are well-coordinated.

There are a host of matters that require attention after the death of a family member. The deceased person’s will must be probated. The personal representative of the estate must identify and value the assets of the estate and evaluate claims of creditors. A trust may need to be administered or wound up. There may be claims for life insurance or retirement benefits.

Our experienced attorneys, along with our five probate paralegals, handle all aspects of estate administration, including the preparation of estate tax returns and, when necessary, estate tax audits. We work closely with our clients’ accountants to coordinate the preparation of all required income tax returns.

We know that the period just after a family member’s death can be stressful. Many people find the process daunting.  We explain and coordinate the process and we keep our clients informed about what the next step is going to be, each step of the way. We assist the fiduciary to carry out his or her obligations, advising as to the legal requirements for administering the estate or trust. Our services include advising fiduciaries about their legal obligations regarding managing an estate’s assets and paying its creditors.

Our services include:

  • Preparing wills and trusts that incorporate specific estate planning needs, including generation-skipping trusts, special needs trusts, charitable trusts, marital trusts, and asset protection trusts
  • Advice on selecting appropriate fiduciaries, including personal representatives, trustees, and guardians
  • Comprehensive guidance on designating beneficiaries of life insurance policies and retirement accounts
  • Business succession planning, including setting up the business structure during one’s lifetime and preparing for the disposition of the business at death
  • Charitable gift planning, including charitable lead trusts, charitable remainder trusts, private foundations, and other transfers to charity
  • Asset protection planning, including advice about titling assets, designing trusts to protect assets from creditors, and implementing other transactions designed to preserve the family’s wealth
  • Planning for potential incapacity through the use of revocable living trusts, powers of attorney, standby guardians for minor children, and advance health care directives
  • Assisting clients with the transfer of vacation homes from one generation to the next, in ways that are tax-efficient and designed to promote family harmony
  • Working with our divorce and family law attorneys to provide comprehensive premarital planning as well as post-nuptial and domestic partnership agreements for opposite sex and same-sex couples
  • Comprehensive representation of personal representatives in the administration of decedents’ estates
  • Preparation of estate and gift tax returns
  • Representing clients in connection with estate and gift tax audits
  • Advising trustees on the proper administration of trusts
  • Modification and termination of trusts that no longer serve the beneficiaries’ needs or circumstances

Publications

Recognition

  • Washingtonian – Top 30 Lawyers in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area
  • Washingtonian – Top Financial Planners in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area
  • Super Lawyers – Estate Planning & Probate Law (Maryland and DC, 2007-2019); Top 25 Women Attorneys in Maryland (2007-09, 2011); Top 50 Women in Washington, DC (2008-09, 2011)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers; Estate Planning & Probate (Maryland, 2009, 2012-2017)
  • Bethesda Magazine – Top Wills & Estates Lawyers in Montgomery County
  • Marquis Who’s Who in American Law
  • Marquis Who’s Who in the World
  • Maryland State Bar Association Section of Taxation Tax Excellence Award (2004)
  • Accredited Estate Planner Designee of the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils
  • Chambers & Partners, High Net Worth, Notable Practitioner (Washington, DC, 2016-2021)
  • Best Lawyers – Lawyer of the Year in Trust and Estates (Washington, DC, 2017)
  • Best Lawyers – Trusts & Estates Law (Maryland, 2015-2020)
  • Super Lawyers – Rising Stars – Estate Planning & Probate (Maryland and DC, 2017-2021)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 100 Lawyers (Maryland, 2012-2014, 2017)
  • Super Lawyers – Top 50 Women Lawyers (Washington, DC, 2017)
  • Best Lawyers – Trusts & Estates Law (Maryland, 2006-2020)
  • Best Lawyers – Tax Law (Maryland, 2014-2020)
  • Best Lawyers – Trusts & Estates Law (Maryland, 2018-2021)
  • Super Lawyers – Estate Planning & Probate Law (Washington, DC, 2007-2018)
  • Super Lawyers – Estate Planning & Probate (Maryland and DC, 2015-2021)
  • Super Lawyers – Rising Stars – Estate Planning & Probate (Washington, DC, 2015-2018)
  • Bethesda Magazine – Top Estates Attorneys in Montgomery County (2018)
  • Bethesda Magazine – Rising Stars – Top Estates Attorneys in Montgomery County (2018)
  • Super Lawyers – Rising Stars – Estate Planning & Probate (Maryland and DC, 2019-21)
  • Super Lawyers – Estate Planning & Probate Law (Maryland and DC 2015-2021); Top 100 Attorneys in Maryland (2018-21); Top 100 Attorneys in DC (2019-21); Top 50 Women Attorneys in Maryland (2018-21); Top 50 Women Attorneys in DC (2019-21)
  • Super Lawyers – Estate Planning & Probate Law (Maryland and DC, 2007-2019)
  • Washingtonian – Washington’s Best Lawyers: Trusts and Estates (2018, 2020)
  • Washingtonian – Top Financial Advisers (2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2021)
  • Washingtonian – Top Financial Advisers (2019, 2021)

Blog Posts

October 7, 2021

The Uniform Cohabitants’ Economic Remedies Act and Cohabitation Agreements

In July 2021, at its annual meeting, the Uniform Law Commission adopted the Uniform Cohabitants’ Economic Remedies Act (UCERA). Cohabitants already have the right to enter into a written or oral contract under general contract law principles. If enacted, UCERA would create statutory recognition of these rights and would expand the bases for cohabitant property claims.

UCERA has not been adopted, or even considered, by the legislatures of Maryland, Virginia, or the District of Columbia. It seems unlikely that it ever will. However, it addresses a problem that will continue to exist when two people live together, acquire property, make promises to each other about sharing assets upon death or dissolution, or when one party believes they have done so.  Whether UCERA is ever adopted,… MORE >

October 7, 2021

COVID-19 and the Rise of Electronic Signatures

Since early 2020, fewer face-to-face transactions have been possible because of mandatory social distancing. These restrictions changed the way lawyers and clients handled contracts and other business and personal transactions. The remote work environment reduced ink-to-paper signatures and increased the use of electronic signatures for contracts. Parties to a contract use the click of a button, sign on an electronic notepad, add their signature to the end of an email, or upload a picture of their signature to software. This development has led to questions about authenticity, validity, and enforcement of contracts.

Although an oral contract can be valid, with some exceptions, most contracting parties prefer a written agreement with signatures. In the family law area, a premarital agreement must be in writing and signed… MORE >

October 7, 2021

Avoiding Probate with the Right Plan

Often, when meeting with a client to discuss their estate planning, one of the first questions is, “How can I avoid probate?” Probate can be a source of anxiety for clients who want to avoid imposing on their loved ones what they envision as a long list of cumbersome tasks after their death.

Probate is the process by which a decedent’s will is carried out and, depending on the nature of the assets involved, requires varying levels of court involvement. Typically, probate assets are those assets a decedent owned in his or her sole name that do not go to a designated beneficiary. The probate court appoints the personal representative of the decedent’s estate, and monitors payment of the decedent’s debts, compliance with mandatory notification… MORE >

July 6, 2021

Virginia Adopts the Uniform Collaborative Law Act

Virginia has joined Maryland and D.C. in passing the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (the UCLA).  The Virginia UCLA will apply to all Virginia family law Collaborative cases starting July 1, 2021.  Begun in 1990 as a newcomer to the array of Alternative Dispute Resolution options, Collaborative Law was introduced in the DMV area in 2005 and has become a popular choice for couples who prefer an out-of-court process to settle their divorce and family law issues.  Collaboratively trained family law attorneys, including those in our firm, welcome the adoption of this Act.

May 26, 2021

Lifestyle Analysis in Divorce

In some divorces, the family law attorney may have concerns about an opposing spouse who is not forthcoming about income or the existence and value of assets.  In some cases, the attorney may need to use cash flow to establish the couple’s marital standard of living.  This article addresses these issues, highlighting a book by Tracy Coenen, Lifestyle Analysis in Divorce Cases: Investigating Spending and Finding Hidden Income and Assets, Second Edition (American Bar Association 2020).

What is a Lifestyle Analysis?

Coenen defines lifestyle analysis as the “process of tabulating and analyzing the income and expenses of the parties.”  This analysis includes tracking missing documents, identifying regular and one-time family expenses, tracing cash flow, calculating gross and after-tax income and projecting future income and expenses…. MORE >

May 20, 2021

Is Your Estate Plan Consistent with the Terms of Your Premarital Agreement?

A premarital agreement addresses a couple’s rights and obligations to one another when their marriage ends by divorce or death.  A recent Virginia Circuit Court case, In re: Algabi v. Dagvadorj, et al., highlights the importance of ensuring that a decedent’s estate plan is consistent with the terms of his or her premarital agreement; or, in the case where a decedent intends to depart from the terms of his or her premarital agreement, the importance of making this intent clear in the testamentary document.  In Algabi v. Dagvadorj, the parties executed a premarital agreement in which they each waived all claims to the other’s estate at death.  After the parties were married, husband executed a will under which he arguably intended to leave a share… MORE >

May 18, 2021

The Secure Act: Elimination of the Stretch Option for Certain Beneficiaries of Inherited Retirement Assets

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (the “SECURE Act”) took effect January 1, 2020, revising federal rules that govern the administration of qualified retirement plans (e.g., 401(k) and 403(b) plans) and IRAs.  Among the changes effected by the new law is the shrinking of the class of beneficiaries who can stretch out their required minimum distributions (RMDs) from such accounts over their expected lifetime.  This stretch of RMDs was a tax benefit, because it allowed the beneficiary to defer income tax, keeping assets in the tax-favored vehicle as long as possible, where they could grow without diminishment; it is only upon distribution that the assets would be subject to income tax.

The SECURE Act imposes a maximum 10-year payout rule for retirement accounts… MORE >

November 12, 2020

Premarital Agreements and the Gray Divorce

With boomers living longer and marrying multiple times, the argument for premarital agreements for these couples is compelling. A premarital agreement defines the property rights of the parties when the marriage ends at death or divorce. Not all marriages between mature people will last until death.

Property Rights at Dissolution. A premarital agreement will typically provide for each party to retain exclusive rights to existing assets and assets acquired during the marriage by gift or inheritance. Parties must decide whether they want a title-controls type of agreement, so that each retains exclusive rights to all property he or she owns, or whether they want to share the fruits of their labor. When both parties have substantial assets and both are still working, with the ability… MORE >

November 10, 2020

Raising the Bar for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Having served for 10 years on the Council for the Estate and Trust Law Section of the Maryland State Bar Association, I became Chair at the end of June. It is both an honor and a privilege to serve, and it is not lost on me that my term takes place during a worldwide health crisis that has disrupted how we work, and at a time of public and private reckoning with what a history of unjust choices has wrought in our communities.

As to the latter, my goal is to focus this year on concerted efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Section and on the Council. Our first step, unanimously adopted at our June meeting, was to expand by 10 the… MORE >

November 9, 2020

Maintaining the Effectiveness of Your Estate Plan: Is Your Plan Up to Date?

One question that clients frequently ask is “How often should we review our estate planning?” Although a comprehensive estate plan should not require frequent, extensive review, we recommend regular, periodic reviews of your core estate planning documents (will, revocable trust, financial power of attorney, advance health care directive) to ensure the documents accomplish your current objectives, especially if your circumstances or wishes have changed.

You should also consider the potential impact of changes in tax laws on your estate plan. Under a 2017 law, the federal estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax exemption amounts were temporarily doubled (see “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: Impact on Estate and Gift Planning,” Pasternak & Fidis Reporter (Spring 2018)). For 2020, the exemption amount is $11.58 million and… MORE >