Pasternak & Fidis provides sophisticated, comprehensive estate planning for individuals, couples, families, and family businesses. Our seven estate planning attorneys bring experience and skills that enable them to effectively represent clients and their descendants for many years to come. Together, our estate planning attorneys offer a coordinated approach that goes well beyond wills and trusts.
Effective tax planning is a critical part of estate planning. We structure estate plans to take advantage of all available tax-saving strategies. Real estate interests, closely held businesses, and other enterprises require special attention. We combine tax expertise, business knowledge, and common sense to help protect and preserve our clients’ wealth for future generations.
Planning for incapacity is an important part of the planning process. We work to ensure our clients’ needs are met and their wishes honored, both with respect to their financial affairs and their health care decisions.
We are experienced in working with complex family structures, including step-families and domestic partners.
Pasternak & Fidis has cultivated strong relationships with other professionals. We work regularly with our clients’ accountants, insurance agents, appraisers, financial planners, and investment advisors.
If you are interested in our estate planning services, we invite you to contact us for an appointment. We ask our new estate planning clients to complete an estate planning information form in advance of our initial meeting. Our two forms are listed below. The long form is recommended for clients with complex assets, such as investment real estate, closely held business interests, multiple life insurance policies, and the like. The short form can be used by clients whose asset categories are more straightforward, such as bank and brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, and personal residences. Please complete the form electronically and return it to our office before your initial meeting.
A postmarital agreement is a contract governing property and support rights between spouses who have no immediate intent to divorce; by contrast a separation agreement settles economic issues between spouses who expect to divorce. Some spouses may want to use a postmarital agreement to address property issues during an ongoing marriage. A postmarital agreement may be appropriate when estranged spouses want to attempt a reconciliation but want to know in advance what their economic rights and obligations will be if the reconciliation does not come to pass. A variety of other circumstances may also cause a spouse to seek a postmarital agreement, such as when parties intended to sign a premarital agreement but ran out of time before the wedding.
Recent cases from the District,… MORE >
In 2020, in a case called Sherman v. Rouse, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals had to decide whether a 2003 Vermont civil union, which pre-dated marriage equality, should be treated the same as a marriage for purposes of granting a divorce and related rights, including spousal support and equitable division of property. One aspect of the problem presented to the trial court was that, unless the parties’ legal status could be treated the same as a marriage, the Maryland court would have no authority to dissolve it; and, because the parties were not residents of Vermont, a Vermont court would have no authority to dissolve it either, leaving them in a rather awkward spot. The other aspect of the problem is that, unless the… MORE >
Common options for families to save for their children’s education are through custodial accounts and 529 savings plans. When a couple divorces, the treatment of these resources needs attention. A recent unreported case from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals points this up. This article highlights issues that should be addressed as part of a settlement agreement or, if necessary, in court.
UGMA and UTMA Custodial Accounts
There are two types of custodial accounts, UTMA (Uniform Transfers to Minors Act) and UGMA (Uniform Gifts to Minors Act). UTMA accounts have replaced UGMA accounts in most states and the District of Columbia. Each allows for creation of an account for a specific minor child. An UTMA can hold cash, securities, real estate, and other property. Often… MORE >
Parties to a premarital agreement are free to make decisions during the marriage that alter their financial circumstances so long as they meet their contractual obligations. Post-execution actions can strengthen the validity of the agreement, result in a claim that the agreement has been revoked, or leave the agreement intact but change the economic outcome.
Conduct that Strengthens Validity
The low standards for validity create opportunity for a claim of duress, especially when a proposed agreement is presented close to the wedding or a weaker party does not get legal advice. (These claims rarely succeed.) Contract law acknowledges that a party may ratify a contract, thus waiving a duress claim. Acceptance of the benefits of a contract is generally considered ratification. When the agreement requires… MORE >
The value and popularity of cryptoassets – a term that comprises everything from Bitcoin to other cryptocurrencies and includes nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and utility tokens – has grown exponentially in recent years. In November 2021, Bitcoin reached an all-time high of over $65,000. In March 2021, Christie’s sold a fully digital, NFT-based work of art for $69.3 million. Many people are paying attention to the increasing value of cryptoassets and are acquiring cryptoassets to hold for their own investment. It is now easier than ever to obtain cryptocurrency through popular apps, such as Venmo or PayPal. The internet has made available step-by-step guides teaching how to acquire NFTs and other tokens. Whether you currently hold any cryptoassets or plan to acquire them in the future,… MORE >
In July 2021, at its annual meeting, the Uniform Law Commission adopted the Uniform Cohabitants’ Economic Remedies Act (UCERA). Cohabitants already have the right to enter into a written or oral contract under general contract law principles. If enacted, UCERA would create statutory recognition of these rights and would expand the bases for cohabitant property claims.
UCERA has not been adopted, or even considered, by the legislatures of Maryland, Virginia, or the District of Columbia. It seems unlikely that it ever will. However, it addresses a problem that will continue to exist when two people live together, acquire property, make promises to each other about sharing assets upon death or dissolution, or when one party believes they have done so. Whether UCERA is ever adopted,… MORE >
Since early 2020, fewer face-to-face transactions have been possible because of mandatory social distancing. These restrictions changed the way lawyers and clients handled contracts and other business and personal transactions. The remote work environment reduced ink-to-paper signatures and increased the use of electronic signatures for contracts. Parties to a contract use the click of a button, sign on an electronic notepad, add their signature to the end of an email, or upload a picture of their signature to software. This development has led to questions about authenticity, validity, and enforcement of contracts.
Although an oral contract can be valid, with some exceptions, most contracting parties prefer a written agreement with signatures. In the family law area, a premarital agreement must be in writing and signed… MORE >
Often, when meeting with a client to discuss their estate planning, one of the first questions is, “How can I avoid probate?” Probate can be a source of anxiety for clients who want to avoid imposing on their loved ones what they envision as a long list of cumbersome tasks after their death.
Probate is the process by which a decedent’s will is carried out and, depending on the nature of the assets involved, requires varying levels of court involvement. Typically, probate assets are those assets a decedent owned in his or her sole name that do not go to a designated beneficiary. The probate court appoints the personal representative of the decedent’s estate, and monitors payment of the decedent’s debts, compliance with mandatory notification… MORE >
Virginia has joined Maryland and D.C. in passing the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (the UCLA). The Virginia UCLA will apply to all Virginia family law Collaborative cases starting July 1, 2021. Begun in 1990 as a newcomer to the array of Alternative Dispute Resolution options, Collaborative Law was introduced in the DMV area in 2005 and has become a popular choice for couples who prefer an out-of-court process to settle their divorce and family law issues. Collaboratively trained family law attorneys, including those in our firm, welcome the adoption of this Act.
In some divorces, the family law attorney may have concerns about an opposing spouse who is not forthcoming about income or the existence and value of assets. In some cases, the attorney may need to use cash flow to establish the couple’s marital standard of living. This article addresses these issues, highlighting a book by Tracy Coenen, Lifestyle Analysis in Divorce Cases: Investigating Spending and Finding Hidden Income and Assets, Second Edition (American Bar Association 2020).
What is a Lifestyle Analysis?
Coenen defines lifestyle analysis as the “process of tabulating and analyzing the income and expenses of the parties.” This analysis includes tracking missing documents, identifying regular and one-time family expenses, tracing cash flow, calculating gross and after-tax income and projecting future income and expenses…. MORE >