It may be safe to say that even a little estate planning is better than none. If a person dies without even a will or trust, the decision of who will receive what assets is made for that person regardless of what they may have wanted during life. Therefore, people in the District of Columbia that want to have the power to decide where their assets will go upon death will need to do some estate planning.
One caveat regarding estate planning is that no matter what a will says, titles and beneficiary designations will govern to whom an asset goes. If property is jointly titled, then the surviving owner typically becomes the sole owner of that asset. If a person is designated as a beneficiary on an account, such as a life insurance policy, that beneficiary will inherit the asset. This is true even if the will has provisions to the contrary; therefore, it is important to be sure that titles and beneficiary designations are in line with a will.
Another option is to have a living trust. These documents allow the maker of the trust to determine who will get the assets in the trust and when those assets will be distributed. Also, the assets that are in the trust will not have to go through probate.
When it comes to estate planning, it can be useful to sit down with family to discuss the matter. This can help outline the goals of an estate plan. Once District of Columbia residents have identified what their goals are for their assets, it is then just a matter of having the proper documents drafted and executed in accordance with applicable laws and procedures.
Source: batesvilleheraldtribune.com, Estate planning takes careful consideration, Debbie Blank, Oct. 25, 2013