Our firm’s trust and estate practice helps clients preserve their wealth and ensure that their assets pass as intended. This planning often includes wills and trusts.
It also involves drafting health care directives and durable powers of attorney. Without these documents, family members might struggle to determine your wishes regarding medical care and financial and legal affairs during any period of incapacity that you experience.
Wills and Trusts
The acquisition, preservation and transfer of family wealth involves complex and highly personal legal issues. It also requires an in-depth understanding of changing federal and state trust and estate laws and the ability to resolve complex tax controversies.
Trusts allow individuals to pass on assets to beneficiaries outside of probate. They can also protect assets from a spouse’s creditors and preserve privacy by keeping the contents confidential. However, trusts can present challenges when deeds to real property and titles to vehicles have to be reissued in the trust name and names on financial accounts have to be changed.
Our trusted attorney for estate planning in Washington DC can help you select the right combination of wills, trusts and health care directives to ensure your loved ones are well-cared for during life and your wishes are carried out after your death. We can also help you set up a living trust to provide protections in case of incapacity, making sure that your assets are carefully managed and protected during any period of incapacity.
Health Care Directives and Powers of Attorney
A basic component of estate and emergency planning is having powers of attorney to handle a variety of activities. Powers of attorney can include financial or health care, but they both allow for a trusted agent to act on your behalf.
A medical (or healthcare) power of attorney allows you to outline your preferred treatment options for an agent to carry out. Almost all states recognize these, also known as advance directives or living wills.
It is important that you create these documents early, and make sure that your family knows of their existence. In addition to appointing agents, you can also express your wishes on end of life procedures in a document known as a “do not hospitalize” or “do not resuscitate” order. It is possible to revoke any of these documents at any time by making a written statement that clearly and unmistakably expresses your intention. However, you should always make sure your powers of attorney are updated as circumstances and your preferences change.
Durable Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone else (your agent or attorney-in-fact) broad authority to make financial, medical, and legal decisions for you. The legal power can be limited or extended to cover specific matters. A durable power of attorney can remain in effect even if you become incapacitated or have a lapse of memory, but it must contain language that specifically indicates that it is “durable.”
You can also specify in the document that the legal authority passes to your agent only when one or more doctors determine that you are mentally incompetent. This is called a “springing” durable power of attorney. If you name more than one person as agent, it is a good idea to include alternate agents so that if the first choice is unable or unwilling to serve, the second can step in. Powers of attorney are not subject to ongoing court supervision, unlike a conservatorship or guardianship.
A living will is a type of advance directive that states the specific types of medical care you want to receive should you ever become terminally ill or permanently unconscious. These documents often include instructions about the use of various treatments, including CPR (which uses force on the chest to try to revive a stopped heart), dialysis, breathing tubes and feeding tubes. The document may also address your preferences for other medical decisions, like pain management.
You can specify who you would like to manage your financial and legal affairs during a period of incapacitation, as well as how you would like to leave property when you die. This allows you to avoid probate, a court-supervised legal process that can be costly and time-consuming.
We can help you create all of these documents and ensure they meet the requirements of Maryland and Washington DC law. You will need to keep the original copies of these documents in a safe place where someone can find them.