Estate Planning

Virginia, D.C., and Maryland Attorneys

Estate Planning

You’ve spent a lifetime building your estate. Our experienced legal team is dedicated to helping you ensure your legacy is preserved, your family is properly provided for and your interests are protected – both now and into the future. Find peace of mind with estate planning services from the experienced team at Cook Craig & Francuzenko.


Are you a first responder, law enforcement or military service member? We offer a special discount on estate planning for retired and active individuals.

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Areas of Concentration

Planning for lifetime gifts and the disposition of assets at death is the essence of preparing an estate plan. This process includes reviewing your life insurance, ownership interests in assets, businesses, real estate, and beneficiary statements, then preparing a will or a revocable trust with a will that either directs your desired outcome or supports prior decisions made with regard to your assets.


Here are some common questions when considering your estate plan:

  • Do you have minor children? If so, have you named a guardian for them in the event that both parents pass away?
  • How do you own your assets and have you named a beneficiary for any or all of your assets?  Do you want to?
  • Do you want to avoid probate? will your plan avoid probate?
  • Have you executed a will or trust that you downloaded or accessed online? If so, does it do what YOU want it to do?  Is it complete?  Have you followed YOUR state’s formalities?
  • If you have a will, are you sure that it is valid and will achieve your desires?


These are just some of the many questions we address when working with our clients in preparing their estate plan. We often work with our client’s financial advisors, accountants, and other professionals to craft the plan that they want. 


If you’re an executor or trustee, then you are a fiduciary with important rights and obligations. The responsibility of executing an estate can be daunting, but we can help. Depending on the facts and circumstances, and how your loved one arranged his or her finances and ownership, your service as executor or trustee can be complicated and involve certain liabilities that you most assuredly would rather avoid.


Unsure how to execute an estate plan? We can help.

Creating your estate plan can involve many moving parts. It often includes adopting an Advanced Medical Directive, Power of Attorney and Will.  It may also involve creating trusts, family partnerships and sometimes marital agreements (prenuptial and post-marital agreements). Each of these items involves serious legal decision making and can affect other parts of your financial or other planning.


Revocable Living Trusts


While you are alive, a revocable living trust can provide for the smooth management of your assets, especially in your declining years when you either can not, or would rather not manage your assets by naming a trustee who can step into your shoes to manage, invest, sell, and liquidate your assets as you desire. You can decide how you want your estate managed, including restrictions, conditions or intentions you wish to make known. 


After your passing, trust assets are not subject to probate, saving your heirs time, effort, and money in settling your estate. Other savings may involve avoiding extensive attorney assistance, avoiding court costs associated with the probate process (e.g., preparing and filing inventories and accountings) and distributing the assets. By avoiding probate, your heirs will not be required to disclose any assets owned by the trust as it is a private document not open to the public that continues after your death, with income and principal distributed as described in the trust instrument.


While there are many benefits to creating a revocable living trust, it does take time and resources to create one. That’s why it’s essential that you have a skilled, trustworthy attorney to honestly guide you through the process of creating and managing a trust.


Is a living trust the right choice for you? We’ll help you decide.

When an adult loses his or her capacity and cannot make important decisions, and has not executed a proper Powers of Attorney or Advanced Medical Directives, it may be necessary to institute legal proceedings to appoint a guardian who can handle the health care needs of the incapacitated adult. Likewise, a conservatorship may be necesary to handle the incapacitated adult’s financial needs. 


The guardianship and conservatorship process is a complicated legal proceeding involving the Court, and unfortunately can be detrimental to the incapacitated adult’s privacy and emotional stability. These proceedings are often necessary to provide the incapacitated adult’s agent or loved ones with proper authority to support the adult. Receiving the proper guidance and counsel can go a long way in easing a family’s path through the proceedings and providing peace of mind. Our attorneys offer compassionate, skilled legal counsel during these proceedings so you can focus on those entrusted to your care.


Facing guardianship proceedings? You don’t have to do it alone.

As we age, it becomes more important to ensure that we’re planning . One way we help clients plan is by drafting Powers of Attorney. In a Power of Attorney you name someone to make financial  decisions for you. It can be narrow, giving someone the right to make limited decisions or constrained by time, or it can provide your agent with broad powers to make decisions in your name. 


There is more to drafting a Powers of Attorney than simply picking someone you trust. It’s a relatively complex process and there is a lot at stake, so it’s best to seek the guidance of a compassionate, skilled attorney to walk you through the process.


Similarly, when we prepare an Advanced Medical Directive, we work with our clients to create a “roadmap” of health care decision-making powers, rights, and responsibilities that the client wants for their agent. We often recommend broad-based powers be given to a trusted loved one, but we understand that every client is different, and some clients are interested in very specific language and limitations. 


Get peace of mind about your end of life care.

Technology is more prevalent in our day-to-day lives than it ever has been before.  We cannot downplay the importance of “digital assets” when planning estates.   Digital assets can include: 

  • Hardware and software
  • Passwords and usernames
  • Social media accounts
  • e-Mail accounts
  • Bank and tax records

Technology can be helpful, but it can also be a stumbling block when helping loved ones who are unable to handle their own affairs. We suggest taking a proactive approach and cataloging, organizing and protecting your digital assets. Then, provide your agent under a power of attorney or the executor of your Will with proper authority to access those assets. Finally, think about how you want these assets dealt with after your passing and incorporate your wishes into your will and power of attorney. We can help you make sure that your digital assets will be protected in the same as all other property.


Don’t disregard the importance of digital assets in estate planning. We’ll help you make a plan.

Asset Protection is a term used to describe methods for limiting exposure to unforeseen liabilities or tax burdens due related to your property.  Sometimes it involves titling (or re-titling) assets so that ownership minimizes liability exposure. Proper asset protection planning must be done prior to the onset of a claim or lawsuit, or even the threat of such action.  It’s important to plan ahead. Asset protection may involve adopting a trust designed specifically to protect assets, retitling your assets or securing proper insurance. 


Asset protection planning may, at times, conflict with estate, tax, and other financial planning. For example, it may be beneficial to own an asset jointly for one purpose, and separately for another. When such conflict arises the client will be required to prioritize which planning option is most important. We can help you sort through what’s most important to you and protect what matters most.


You’ve built a life that deserves to be protected. We can help.

What is probate? The answer to that question is far more complex than most people realize, and not every estate goes through probate. Why? How? It all depends on how you own your estate assets. But if and when a loved one dies, and you find yourself in charge of the “probate estate” will you be prepared for the time and effort involved? We are prepared . . . we regularly handle probate matters from simple, well organized estates to complex estates, working with local Commissioners of Accounts and in the court system, as well as helping client work with beneficiaries and creditors.

Estate and trust litigation is a complex, almost esoteric area of dispute resolution requiring a deep understanding of fiduciary duties, accounting and proper administration. The stakes involved in estate and trust litigation often go beyond the money and other financial matters related to inheritance and distribution, to delicate and discreet matters related to family legacies affecting future family generations. Because our firm focuses its practice on both estate/trust administration and probate matters and litigation, we are uniquely positioned to handle your estate or trust litigation needs.


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