Estate Planning

Your future and the future of those you love is very important to you, and our knowledge and experience enables us to provide effective legal strategies in probate law and estate administration and planning matters. From helping you structure your estate plan to avoid probate to helping your beneficiaries with the distribution after you are gone, DWS Law Group is ready to provide you with comprehensive estate planning services.


A will or testament is a legal document by which a person, the testator, expresses their wishes as to how their property is to be distributed at death, and names one or more persons, the executor, to manage the estate until its final distribution. In Maryland and D.C., the will must include an attestation clause for the witnesses. In Virginia, if the will includes a notarized “Self-Proving Affidavit,” the will is presumed to be properly executed and is accepted by the court without testimony from the witnesses.

Living Wills and Powers of Attorney

A living will, also known in DC as health care declaration, is a document that allows you to state your wishes for end-of-life medical care. Power of attorney allows someone to make financial decisions on our behalf.


Trusts are simply an arrangement where one party holds property on behalf of another party. In an estate planning context, trusts are created by the person doing the estate planning (the settlor), who authorizes another person (the trustee) to manage the assets for the benefit of a third party (the beneficiaries). There are many reasons for establishing trusts including tax minimization or providing for the needs of underage beneficiaries.

Special Needs Trusts

A special needs trust (SNT) allows you to set aside money for the care of a disabled individual (or your own care if you are disabled), without rendering the disabled person ineligible for any public assistance to which he or she may be entitled. There are two types of special needs trusts, Third-party SNT and Self-settled trusts, in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Both require a trustee who is not a beneficiary to administer and manage the trust estate.

Trust Administration

Trust administration refers to the trustees’ management of trust property according to the trust document’s terms and for the benefit of the beneficiaries after the settlor’s death.

The advantages of a trust administration over a probate proceeding include a potentially quicker distribution of the property to beneficiaries, a greater degree of privacy due to there being no court supervision of the process, and in most cases, a much less expensive manner of distributing property to beneficiaries.


Emergency Planning

Whatever your age, financial situation or size of your estate, you may find yourself in a sudden crisis situation that requires emergency planning. An accident or serious illness could place your life in jeopardy in a short amount of time.

Emergency estate planning allows you to make a basic inheritance plan as well. You can decide who will be able to carry on your business and who will be delegated to sell your assets. If you have assets in a number of states, you'll need to set up an estate plan in each state. Also, if you don't have children or other obvious heirs, you can decide whether you'll leave your assets to other individuals, to charity, or to the US government


Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person by distributing the property of the decedent and resolving all claims that may exist against the decedent. If the decedent owned his or her assets through a well drafted and properly funded living trust, it is likely that no court-managed administration is necessary, though the successor trustee needs to administer the distribution of the deceased’s assets. The length of time needed to complete the probate of an estate depends on the size and complexity of the estate and the local rules and schedule of the probate court. DWS can assist its clients with both large and small estates in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, navigate the murky waters of probate administration.

Premarital and Postmarital (Prenuptial, postnuptial) agreements

A prenuptial agreement (“pre-nup”) is made before the marriage while a postnuptial agreement (“post-nup”) is made after the wedding. In these agreements, you and your spouse disclose to each other all the money and property you own before getting married. Then, you set forth the rights and responsibilities each of you will have during the marriage, including how you will divide your money and property in the event of divorce or the death of one or both of you.

Fiduciary Services

A fiduciary is a person who stands in a position of trust with you or your estate, and your beneficiaries. There are different types of fiduciaries depending on the context: an executor or executrix is named in a will; a trustee is named by a trust; an agent is appointed by a power of attorney.

Other fiduciaries are instead appointed by a court. For example, a court appoints a guardian for a child or incapacitated person and an administrator for someone who dies without a will. These court-appointed fiduciaries are outside the scope of this article and would typically not be needed if proper planning were in place.
DWS attorneys can serve a broad range of estate and probate clients and their families as their personal representative, trustee or trust protector.

Business Succession Planning

Business succession planning will help you:Business succession planning will help you:

• Map an exit strategy based on specific events in your or your business's life

• Determine and provide for the right ownership after your departure

• Determine a fair market value for your business and the value of your ownership interest

• Develop a plan to ensure a proper buy-out of your ownership interest

• Draft and implement shareholder agreements to ensure ownership stays with select individuals

• Identify cost-effective life insurance policies to assist with buy-outs

• Structure the sale or gifting of business interests

• Minimize taxes from the transfer of business ownership