District of Columbia Estate Planning Considerations
DC is a Common Law jurisdiction, which means the rules governing the ownership, division, and inheritance of income and property acquired by a husband or wife during the course of their marriage holds that subject to various qualifications, each spouse owns and has complete control over his or her own income and property.
Last Will and Testament
The minimum age of a person competent to make a will is 18.
The number of witnesses necessary to execute a will is two.
The custodial arrangement terminates when:
- The minor child reaches age 18 for custodial transfers made by irrevocable lifetime gift, will, trust, or exercise of a power of appointment (although the person transferring the property may extend this age to 21).
- The minor child reaches age 18 concerning other custodial transfers.
- The minor child dies.
Dying Without a Valid Will, the DC Laws of Intestacy
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The estate goes to the surviving spouse or domestic partner (DP), as follows:
If there are no surviving descendants or parents, —100% of the estate
If surviving descendants are also descendants of the spouse or DP and there is no other surviving descendant of either—two‐thirds of the estate
If the parent(s) survive, but there are no surviving descendants, —75% of the remaining estate
If the spouse or DP has descendent(s) other than those also related to the decedent, —50% of the balance of the estate
If there are surviving descendants, at least one of whom is not a descendant of the surviving spouse or DP—50% of the balance of the estate
If there is no surviving spouse or DP, or if a portion of the estate does not go to the spouse or DP:
100% (or applicable portion) of the estate goes to children equally, with children of deceased children taking the deceased parent’s share. Every other descendant alive at the decedent’s death stands in the deceased ancestor’s place, with those of equal degree taking equal shares. “Standing in the place of” is not defined in the statute, but usage suggests per stirpes. See DC Code §19‐307 and §19‐310.
If there is no surviving spouse/DP, child, or descendant:
100% to surviving parent or parents equally
If there is no surviving spouse/DP, child, descendant, or parent:
100% to siblings or their descendants, equally, with descendants standing in deceased parents’ place. “Standing in the place of” is not defined in the statute, but usage suggests per stirpes. See DC Code §19‐307 and §19‐310.
If none of the above:
Intestacy laws outline further distribution steps to the level of “collaterals,” then grandparents and related individuals. See DC Code §19‐311 and §19‐312.
If no legally described recipient can be found, estate assets go to the District of Columbia.
Death with Dignity
Washington, D.C. was the sixth jurisdiction in the U.S. to enact an assisted dying statute. The D.C. Death with Dignity Act went into effect on February 18, 2017; implementation started on June 6, 2017.
The District of Columbia does not automatically grant access to digital assets to executors or personal representatives of estates. The District has introduced, but not yet passed, the Revised Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.
The District of Columbia does not impose an inheritance tax.
Credit Estate Tax
The District of Columbia’s estate tax exemption is $5,762,400 (2020), and the top tax rate is 16%. DC Bill B22-0685 was introduced in the DC City Council on February 8, 2018. This proposal cut the DC threshold to $5.6 million adjusted for inflation retroactive to January 1, 2018. The DC City Council enacted this change on September 5, 2018, as part of the Budget Support Act.
The District of Columbia does not impose a GST tax.
The District of Columbia does not impose a gift tax.