Estates, Trusts and Probate Law

Estates, Trusts and Probate Law January 2014 Newsletter

Estates, Trusts and Probate Law Luncheon Series 

September 2013 - December 2013 September saw the beginning of this year's 10-part luncheon series covering various topics of interest to estate planning and probate attorneys practicing in the District of Columbia and surrounding jurisdictions. Each session is held at the D.C. Bar Conference Center and begins at 12:00 p.m. Sessions last for approximately two hours, and a catered lunch is provided to those in attendance. For those individuals who are unable to attend in person, the sessions are broadcast as a webinar. Interested persons can register for the entire series or for specific sessions. Recent topics have included the District of Columbia's new Uniform Real Property Transfer on Death Act, estate planning considerations for same-sex couples after United States v. Windsor and Revenue Ruling 2013-17, ways to help your clients obtain the health insurance that is right for them, and estate planning tips and techniques for high net worth individuals and couples. Below is a brief recap of the first four parts of the series.

The first part of the series, "Dropping like a Rock," was presented by David H. Cox and William E. Davis, both of Jackson & Campbell, Manus Holmes of First American Title Insurance Company, and Ida Williams of the D.C. Recorder of Deeds. The session was moderated by Mark G. Griffin of Murphy Moldenhauer & Wiggins and covered the recently enacted Uniform Real Property Transfer on Death Act ("URPTD"). The URPTD became effective on March 19, 2013 and recognizes a Transfer on Death (TOD) deed for real property.Thus, the URPTD effectively authorizes another form of a will substitute in the District of Columbia. The TOD deed is fully revocable and there are no transfer/recordation taxes due at the time of execution as no interest in the property is transferred at the time of signing. A TOD deed must be recorded inorder to be valid; it should be noted that, unlike TOD and POD account registrations, the URPTD does not provide for a substitute beneficiary if the designated beneficiary predeceases the transferor. Therefore, the interest will lapse if the designated beneficiary fails to survive the transferor. To revoke a TOD deed, an instrument is required. Revocation of a TOD deed by an "act" is not permitted.

Part two of the series discussed important estate planning considerations for same-sex couples in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor, which held that Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA") was unconstitutional. The session was presented by Brenda K. Jackson-Cooper of Ivins, Phillips & Barker and L. Laurel Lea of Furey, Doolan & Abell, LLP and was moderated by Mattie Little also of Ivins, Phillips & Barker. The panel discussed the responses of several federal agencies to the decision, planning opportunities that are now available to same-sex couples and tax issues that may arise in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage. One item of particular importance that was discussed is Revenue Ruling 2013-17, which was issued on August 29, 2013.This ruling declared that legally married same-sex couples will be treated as married for federal tax purposes, regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage. Thus, the relevant consideration is whether the couple entered into the marriage in a jurisdiction whose laws authorization same-sex marriages. It is of no consequence for federal tax purposes if the laws of the jurisdiction where the couple is currently domiciled do not authorize or recognize same-sex marriages.

Part three of the series, presented by Chris DeYoung of the GWU Health Insurance Counseling project and Ron M. Landsman of Ron M. Landsman, PA, addressed Medicare, Medicaid, and the D.C. Alliance and how to help clients get the health insurance that is right for them. The session was moderated by Giannina Lynn of Crowley, Hoge & Fein, PC and provided an overview of the eligibility requirements and benefits of each of the programs as well as planning techniques and drafting tips to ensure that clients' estate planning objectives are properly carried out.This session also provided important information about special needs planning and the interplay between such planning and public benefits,retirement benefits, Social Security Insurance (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and/or Medicaid and Medicaid waiver programs.

The fourth part of the series, titled "Mind the Gap!" set forth various ways of maximizing tax planning for individual clients with a net worth of $1 million to $5.25 million and couples with a net worth of $2 million to $10.5 million.The event was presented by Jennifer A. Birchfield and Molly B.F. Walls both of McArthur Franklin PLLC and was moderated by L. Laurel Lea of Furey, Doolan & Abell, LLP. The session began with a review of gift, estate,and inheritance taxes in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Other topics discussed included portability of the unused portion of the predeceased spouse's Federal Exemption Amount("DSUE" election), disclaimers, lifetime gifting to minimize the value of the client's estate, deathbed gifting, and various trust vehicles.

For more information about the topics discussed above, or to learn more about upcoming Estates,Trusts and Probate Law luncheon sessions, please visit the Estates, Trusts and Probate Law Section's index page on the Bar website. 

  • Thursday,January 16, 2014 - "Can They Have That? Secured and Unsecured Creditors' Rights in Decedents' Estates
  • Thursday, February 6, 2014 - "How Does That Trust Thing Work Again? A Primer on Being a Trustee and Review of The Uniform Trust Code
  • Thursday, March 20, 2014, "Where Does My Ward Legally Reside? Initial Jurisdiction and How to Transfer Intervention Cases
  • Thursday, April 17, 2014, "Should You Take The Case? Recent Case law on Potentially Incapacitated Clients
  • Thursday, May 15,2014, "Disclaiming, Assigning, and Releasing Interests in Trusts and Estates
  • Thursday, June 19, 2014, "VA/MD/DC Update – Co-Sponsored with Tax Section

Easing into E-filing
As many are well aware,effective November 1, 2013, e-filing became mandatory in the Probate Division.

All probate documents must be e-filed except:

  1. Initial pleadings;
  2. Petitions to Reopen;
  3. Requests for Extension of Personal Representative's Appointment;
  4. Bonds;
  5. Verification and Certificates of Notice where additional court costs are assessed;
  6. Documents under seal;
  7. Form 26;
  8. Accounts;
  9. Inventories; and
  10. Exhibits presented in a format non-conducive to e-filing.

For those who regularly file pleadings in the Civil Division the e-filing process is similar. However, the Probate Division requires that all proposed orders (including the list of individuals who are to receive copies of the orders) must be submitted in WORD format to a separate e-mail address upon e-filing the document. Form orders downloaded from the Probate Division website may be submitted in PDF format to this email address.

Missing proposed orders, email addresses and electronic signatures are the most common mistakes when e-filing.

For more information, all e-filers should read Administrative Order 13-15. Attached to the Administrative Order are procedures for e-filing.

Frequently Asked Questions with respect to e-filing can be found here.


Upcoming Events
Registration for the Annual Guardianship Conference begins 1/27/2014

Bench/Bar 2/6/2014 


We Need Volunteers!
If you ever want to put your probate knowledge to helping others in our community, here are your options:


The Advice & Referral Clinic
The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program Advice & Referral Clinic offers pro se individuals an opportunity to discuss their legal issues with volunteer attorneys. The Clinic is limited to providing general information, advice and brief services to pro se individuals, and does not provide representation. Clinic volunteers do not appear in Court or otherwise establish an extended attorney-client relationship unless they wish to do so and discuss the matter with Pro Bono Program staff.

Role of Probate Practitioners - Probate practitioners serve in two vital roles in the Clinic. First, they counsel other attorney volunteers from law firms, government agencies, and other organizations on matters dealt with in the Probate Division. In addition to this valuable mentoring, probate practitioners also directly serve Clinic clients. Qualified volunteers should have at least 3-5years of relevant experience and be capable of counseling other attorneys in their subject area.

Volunteer Commitment-The Advice and Referral Clinic is held on the second Saturday of every month from 10:00 a.m. until noon. Volunteers should arrive at the Clinic by 9:30 a.m. and should be prepared to stay until the last client is served (usually around1:00).

Probate practitioners interested in volunteering should contact Ed Varrone

Probate Resource Center - Estate Administration
The Probate Resource Center's estate administration service provides pro se assistance to unrepresented parties in matters relating to the administration of large estates in the District of Columbia, including legal and Court information and assistance with completing some Court forms. The Resource Center does not provide legal advice or representation.

Role of Probate Practitioners - Probate practitioners serve in two vital roles at the Resource Center. First, they counsel other attorney volunteers from local law firms,government agencies, and other organizations on large estate administration issues. In addition to providing this valuable mentoring, probate practitioners also directly serve individuals who are seeking services. Qualified volunteers should have at least 3-5 years of relevant experience and be capable of counseling other attorneys on issues of estate administration.

Volunteer Commitment - The Probate Resource Center's walk-in service for large estate administration issues is open to the public on Tuesday afternoons from 12: 30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. in Room 319 in Building A of the Superior Court, 515 5th Street NW. Volunteers should arrive no later than 12:30 p.m. and should be prepared to stay until the last client is served (approximately 4:30 -5:00).

Probate practitioners interested in volunteering should contact Skip Mark, Managing Attorney, D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program, by email or at (202) 737-4700, ext. 3354

Probate Resource Center - Intervention /Adult Guardianship
The Pro Bono Program offers information and legal assistance in intervention proceedings and adult guardianship cases. Assistance is provided in preparing pleadings to open a new intervention proceeding seeking the appointment of a guardian and/or conservator for an incapacitated adult, or with the preparation of filings to bring matters to the attention of the court in an existing intervention proceeding.The Resource Center does not provide legal advice or representation.

Role of the Probate Practitioner - Probate practitioners meet with individuals seeking services directly. There are four appointment slots per session so that a practitioner will meet with a maximum of four individuals per session. Individuals seeking assistance are urged to schedule an appointment, as walk-in appointments are only provided where an appointment slot has not been previously reserved. Qualified volunteers should have at least 3-5 years of relevant experience on issues of guardianship and intervention.

Volunteer Commitment - The Probate Resource Center's service for intervention and adult guardianship is open on the first four Wednesday afternoons of each month from 1: 00 p.m. until 5:00p.m. in Room 301 in Building A of the Superior Court, 515 5th Street NW. Volunteers should arrive no later than 12:45 p.m. and should be prepared to stay until the last client is served.

Probate practitioners interested in volunteering should contact Skip Mark, Managing Attorney, D.C.Bar Pro Bono Program, by email or at (202) 737-4700, ext. 3354.

Wills Clinic
The Pro Bono Program partners with Bread for the City to offer a free Wills Clinic to income­eligible D.C. residents on a quarterly basis.The Wills Clinic assists eligible D.C. residents with preparing estate planning documents, including wills, durable powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney, and medical directives.Each clinic is divided into two nights. On the first night volunteer attorneys complete an intake interview with their prospective clients. Exactly two weeks later, the volunteer attorneys meet with their clients again to review,finalize and sign the prepared documents.

Role of the Probate Practitioner - Probate practitioners do not meet directly with clients at the Wills Clinic. Instead, they provide supervision to volunteer attorneys from the federal government who provide direct services to clients. Supervision at the Clinic may involve document review, answering general estate planning questions, and analyzing estate planning issues. Practitioners are also asked to make themselves available to volunteers outside of the clinic in the event that issues arise with the preparation of the documents. Qualified volunteers should have at least 3-5 years of relevant experience on issues of estate planning.

Volunteer Commitment - The Wills Clinic is held quarterly from 5:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. and operates out of Bread for the City's Northwest Center at 1525 7"' Street, NW. Volunteers should arrive at the Clinic by 6:00 p.m. for a brief orientation of Clinic operations and should be prepared to stay until the last client is served. Consultations with volunteers outside of the clinic may be required.

Probate practitioners interested in volunteering at the Wills Clinic should contact Gina Lynn.


Getting Involved

We encourage our membership to get involved with Section activities.If you would like to participate, here are some ideas:

Community Outreach: This committee facilitates community service projects such as the"Planning Ahead" program that is given to community groups such as churches and senior centers. Co-chairs: Katie Wiedmann and Larry Frazier.

D.C. Practice Manual: The D.C. Bar publishes the D.C. Practice Manual, which is a basic how-to for different areas of D.C. law. Our section revises the chapters on Wills and Intervention cases each year, and sometimes adds new materials. Chair: Jennifer Concino.

Probate Digest: The section is putting out the previously published probate digest which will make a digest of D.C. probate cases available electronically. Co-chairs: Laurel Lea and Chris Guest.

Section Newsletter: We try to publish our newsletter quarterly.We always need articles or help digesting recent cases. Editor: Jennifer Concino.

Guardian & Conservatorship Discussion Group: This informal group meets every other month on the second Wednesday at 12 noon at the courthouse. The forum alternates between a back and forth format and presentations by outside speakers. Co-chairs: Gina Lynn and Kimberly Edley.

Legislation: This group monitors legislation relevant to our practice areas and considers making legislative changes. Chair: Nicole Stevens.

Pro Bono: See above for a list of the pro bono activities supported by the section. Chairs: Ed Varrone and Gina Lynn.

Membership: This group reaches out to estates, trusts and probate practitioners to try to increase ourmembership.Our goal is to reach 1,000 members. Co-chairs: Mark Griffin and Katie Wiedmann.

Attorney Directory Project: The section is working towards publishing an attorney of probate and intervention practitioners who may be willing to take "low bono" cases. Co-chairs: Katie Wiedmann and Ed Varonne.