About James

My practice is and has always been focused on estate planning and estate and trust administration—wills, trusts, and estates.

I help clients create efficient and well-designed estate plans, customized to reflect their intentions. One chief concern of estate planning is how assets will be transferred in the future. Therefore, I advise clients on how their assets should be titled and how their beneficiaries should be designated to ensure the plan works as intended. This includes preparing and recording deeds for real estate nationwide.

Once an estate plan has been established, I advise and assist clients who are interested in gifting to reduce transfer taxes and accomplish other goals, such as seeing their beneficiaries enjoy assets now. Assets can be transferred to beneficiaries outright and free of trust, or in continuing trusts designed to suit the purpose of the transfer, including grantor trusts, life insurance trusts, and other types of trusts. Funds can alternatively be loaned to beneficiaries with appropriate documentation and minimum interest.


A significant part of my practice involves advising and assisting clients serving as executors, administrators, personal representatives, and trustees. I typically create a plan at the outset for how the estate or trust will be administered, giving due consideration to the choices that will be presented during the administration process, and then plan how the work will be divided among the client and assisting professionals. I also help clients who have already started the administration process, including preparing court accountings and gift and estate tax returns.

Under the appropriate circumstances, I serve as an executor, administrator, personal representative, or trustee.


  • Virginia
  • District of Columbia


For the past decade, my practice has been focused on wills, trusts, and estates in the northern Virginia area. Before opening the Law Office of James A. Gillis, I was most recently a partner in a large regional law firm in the Tysons Corner, Virginia office. Prior to that, I was a partner in a boutique law firm located in Alexandria, Virginia.

Prior to entering law school, I worked for several years at a brokerage firm in Philadelphia underwriting and originating commercial real estate loans for apartment buildings, shopping centers, office buildings, and mobile home parks.


  • J.D. (cum laude), Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law
  • B.S. (biology), Villanova University