- Wills and Trusts
- Medical Directives
- Probate Administration
Attorney Bradley A. Thomas is a member of the D.C. Bar’s Estates, Trusts and Probate Law (ETP) Section.
The ETP Section is the Bar sanctioned affiliation of D.C. licensed attorneys with knowledge, expertise and/or experience in practicing in the area of estate planning for individuals, families, associations, foundations, partnerships and corporations.
For more information about the D.C. Bar’s ETP Section, log onto www.dcbar.org/for_lawyers/sections/sectionSites.cfm and click on the link for the Estates, Trusts and Probate Law Section.
Some A, B, C’s of Estates, Trusts and Probate Law
(frequently used terms and some of their common definitions)
A – attorney-in-fact – one who is designated to transact business for another; also referred to as an “agent” or “legal agent”
B – bond – a long term, interest bearing debt instrument that is issued by a corporation or governmental entity
C – capacity – the mental ability to understand the nature and effects of one’s acts
D – decedent – a dead person, especially one who died recently
E – estate – all that a person owns, including both heritable and movable property
F – fiduciary – one who owes to another the duties of good faith, trust, confidence and candor
G – guardian – one who has been given the legal authority to care for another’s person or property because of the other’s incapacity or disability
H – heir – one who is entitled, by law, to receive all or some portion of the property of another who died without a valid will
I – intestate – having died without a valid will
J – joint – common to, shared or owned by two or more people or entities
K – kin – a relative, usually by blood but sometimes my marriage
L – living will – an instrument by which a person states the intention to refuse medical treatment and to release health care providers from liability if the person becomes both terminally ill and unable to communicate with his or her health care providers
M – marital property – property that is acquired from the time a marriage begins until the time either party files for divorce; sometimes referred to as “community property”
N – nuncupative will – an oral will made in contemplation of imminent death from a recent injury
O – operation of law – the manner in which a right can be created or forfeited regardless of the intention of the parties affected
P – power of attorney – an instrument by which a person gives authority to another to act on his behalf as his or her agent or attorney-in-fact
Q – quitclaim deed – a deed that conveys a person’s complete interest in real property but does not warrant that the title is valid
R – real property – land and anything growing on, attached to, or erected on it
S – specific bequest -the gift, by will, of a specific item of personal property or amount of cash to one or more specific persons or entities
T – trust – a property interest held by one person (the trustee) at the request of another (the grantor) for the benefit of a third party (the beneficiary)
U – undivided interest – an interest held through the same title by two or more persons
V – vested interest – an immediate, fixed right of present or future enjoyment
W – will – a document by which a person directs his or her estate to be distributed upon death; sometimes referred to as a “testament” or “last will and testament”
MYTHS USED TO PUT OFF MAKING A WILL
Myth #1: I don’t have anything.
Fact: If you are a homeowner, have a bank account, or own a car, jewelry, or even a CD player, you have something that your “loved ones” could fight over after you’re laid to rest. More importantly, if you have children or grandchildren for whom you are legally responsible, your will can designate who will take care of them in your absence.
Myth #2: I’m young. I have lots of time.
Fact: Most well meaning people who died intestate (that is, without a will) thought the same thing. It’s never too early to plan for the inevitable. You can always change your will later, as your circumstances change. But once you become physically or mentally incapacitated, it’s too late. You’ve lost your right to decide.
Myth #3: I can’t afford a will right now.
Fact: A simple will typically costs $400 to $600; about the cost of a new set of tires. Basic estate planning packages, which include wills, durable general powers of attorney and living wills or health care powers of attorney, start as low as $1,000. Getting by without a valid will is like driving on bald tires: Not smart.