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Washington, D.C. estate planning: Don't let the state handle it

Statistics show that only about 44 percent of Americans have an estate plan. Even though many Washington, D.C. residents will acknowledge the necessity of estate planning, many still fail to do it. People without an estate plan are agreeing to let the state handle their estate.

Estate plans can be as simple or as complex as a person's situation requires. One of the first things that should occur before starting to draft documents is to have all assets valued. This can help to determine which direction the estate plan needs to go since one of the goals is to ensure that beneficiaries aren't saddled with a large amount of estate tax to pay.

With a threshold for individuals at over $5 million and over $10 million for couples, most people won't have to worry about estate tax. The second thing to consider is not only who certain assets and amounts will be left to, but also whether each person will be able to handle the inheritance. For instance, amounts left to minors may be better off in a trust until it is believed that person can handle the inheritance on his or her won.

Once some of these basic questions are answered, estate planning can begin. The next step would be to find professionals in the Washington, D.C. area that are able to structure an estate plan in accordance with what needs to be accomplished. Considering that estate planning may be one of the most important things a person will ever do, trying to draft and execute the appropriate documents alone can be problematic. If the documents aren't done correctly, there is the possibility that they could be contested and even found to be invalid.

Source: Northwest Herald, "Five steps to take in devising an estate plan," July 6, 2013

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