Is There Any Property That Should Be Left Out of a Will?

Not all property will be passed on as a result of what’s listed in your last will and testament. You’ll need to consider including and excluding the right assets by partnering with a trusted estate planning lawyer to help you.

There are several different kinds of property that you should expressly leave out of the last will because it must be designated or managed in another way. These assets don’t go through the formal Virginia probate process. This includes:

  • Transfer on death property such as vehicles, real estate, bonds and stocks, which will pass automatically to a named beneficiary if you have taken that step.
  • Annuity proceeds or life insurance policies, since the individual listed as your beneficiary will automatically receive these payments.
  • Proceeds from retirement plans, 401(k)s, IRAs and pensions, which will pass directly to the beneficiary named on forms.
  • Pay on death bank accounts.
  • Property held inside a living trust.
  • Property held with a right of survivorship.

The general answer for what goes into your will is everything outside of these expressly named assets. If you are curious about what to include in your overall estate planning inventory and what other documents besides a will you might need to support you, set aside time to speak with a trusted estate planning lawyer. Our Virginia Beach law office can help you keep everything organized when it comes to your estate plan and the assets inside.

Can My Executor Change My Will?

Your will is referred to as a “last will and testament” for a reason: so long as it’s legally valid, in the vast majority of cases, it cannot be changed by an executor after you pass away. Your will is your opportunity to share your plans and intentions so that they can be handled properly and quickly after you pass away.

Getting that “final say” is a big reason why most people do estate planning in the first place. Although your executor will be responsible for handling the terms of your will and managing assets that pass on to your beneficiaries through it, your will can only be handled and administered by the executor, not rewritten or updated per the executor’s wishes.

The executor does still play a critical role in the management of the estate, however. For example, this person must gather all of the assets and inventory to determine how many assets there are left over for beneficiaries in the first place. If there are substantial debts, this might mean that the amount passed on to heirs is less than the heirs expect.

Furthermore, if the will is not entirely clear, it falls to the executor to determine what the will means. This is a big reason why many personal representatives or executors end up hiring outside probate help in the form of an attorney to ensure that they handle these important responsibilities under the ethical and legal guidelines for estate administration.

Although your executor will not be someone who rewrites, tears up, or amends your will, this should still be an individual you trust and one in whom you’re willing to place your confidence. Discuss your needs with a Virginia Beach estate planning attorney today.



What Is Guardianship in Relation to Estate Planning?

Guardianship is often referred to, in conjunction with your plans inside your will, to the process of naming another person to take responsibility for your minor children if something happens to you and your partner. Guardianship, however, is not limited to children alone. It is a legally recognized status that is used when a person can no longer make safe decisions regarding the care of their person or property or has become exposed to undue influence and fraud.

A guardianship proceeding is important legally because it essentially removes an individual’s legal rights.  A person must make an application to the court in order to appoint a guardian.

After the court appoints a guardian, that individual has many different responsibilities when it comes to the other person’s care and wellbeing. The guardian will oversee any medical treatment, consent to this treatment, and can make end of life decisions on behalf of this other person.

Because of the broad scope of authority that is frequently associated with guardianship, it is very important to consider all aspects and potential problems when approaching the guardianship process. Schedule a consultation today with a dedicated estate planning lawyer to learn more about protecting your interests. If you have concerns about setting up guardianship care for a minor or an adult, a Virginia Beach guardianship attorney can guide you through that process so that you understand all of the most important elements.



Should You Use a Funeral Planning Declaration with Your Estate Planning Documents?

Do you want to make things as easy as possible for your loved ones? While it’s an uncomfortable topic to think about your own mortality, an easier way to approach these concepts includes thinking about how you want to help your family members adjust.

Estate planning involves all of the different documents that help to address your care while you’re alive, such as a power of attorney but also what happens to your property after you pass away.

Some of these issues require management after you have passed away, such as moving your case through probate. This process can be long and can extend for many months or even years for very complex estates. There are some urgent pressing matters, however, with regard to your estate plan immediately after you pass away. It is not a good idea to store some of the long-term information, such as your will in the same place that you might keep a document, such as a funeral planning declaration.

A funeral planning declaration is a document that should be easily accessible by key family members immediately after you pass away. It concerns your wishes about whether you would like to be buried or cremated and any other specific instructions that you have. Since this needs to be located very quickly after you pass away, family members or friends should know where to find it so that they can carry out your wishes.

Some of the most critical decisions that are made in the hours or days after you pass away cannot be undone and, therefore, if you have specific wishes about what happens with your body, you need to be sure that you have not only documented this but made sure that that information is accessible to your family members.

Having a relationship with a VA Beach estate planning lawyer is the first step towards ensuring that you have covered all the bases and set your loved ones up to get help when you pass away.


Why Women Have to Take Control Over Their Finances and Their Planning

Women hold significant power when it comes to finances in some respects and yet many of them defer plenty of decisions to their spouses. Failing to take control of your finances as a woman means that you couldn’t neglect important long-term care planning opportunities and many of the important financial issues that surround the fact that women have greater longevity in the United States.

A recent research study completed by the Boston College Centre on Wealth and Philanthropy found that of the inter-generational wealth transfers that are anticipated in the next 40 years, women stand to inherit $41 trillion of it. The PEW Research Centre studies, however, have shown that women are more likely across generations to allow men to take control of finances, whereas women are more likely to take the lead role in investment decisions and in household financial decisions.

Asking these important questions and creating an open dialogue with a team of professionals can help you to identify your financial blind spots. When it comes to estate planning women often primarily on the caregiving aspect of their own children or their parents and then think about how this impacts the overall financial plan.

It is very important to ensure that you think about other opportunities within estate and financial planning and having advisors, such as an elder law attorney and estate planning attorney and a financial professional like a CPA to guide you through this can be instrumental in helping you to accomplish these goals. Schedule a consultation today with a trusted estate planning attorney.

What Does It Really Mean to Be a Fiduciary?

The financial and estate planning world is filled with important terms that must be properly understood in order to make educated decisions to protect your interests. The concept behind a fiduciary is relatively simple but very important to understand. A fiduciary is a corporate entity or a person who has been appointed to act on behalf of someone else.

This includes actions in situations that require trust, good faith and honesty. It is a significant obligation to be named as a fiduciary, and likewise, if you are naming a fiduciary to manage your estate or your trust, you will need to think carefully about who you can rely on in this role. This is because fiduciaries must meet a standard known as duty of care.

A professional appointed as a fiduciary has to stay current with life changes of beneficiaries and assets so that they can provide a high and professional level of ongoing care. Fiduciaries are responsible to the beneficiaries they serve, meaning that a fiduciary cannot legally act in their own best interests.

It is their responsibility to act only in the best interests of the party they represent. If you are thinking about who to instill in a fiduciary role as part of your estate, spend some time thinking about this before scheduling a consultation with an estate planning lawyer.

Any abuse of an elderly person under a power of attorney or other similar document could lead to that person being removed from their role. This is why it’s important to understand the distinctions in the law and to work with a qualified lawyer in Virginia Beach to take action if and when a fiduciary has crossed the line.



Do I Really Need to Be Concerned About Probate?

You might have heard other people mention probate and their desire in engaging with the right estate planning attorney to avoid it. Probate might also be referred to as estate administration and references the different types of tasks that must be done in order to close out your estate.

A probate case can be required if the decedent, also known as the person who passed away, did so without a will. In these situations, an executor or personal representative must be appointed and handle the affairs and act in accordance with management of closing out the estate.

With estate planning there are many different ways that you can approach your individual strategies to decide what is most appropriate for your loved ones and your wishes. Having a trusted estate planning lawyer to guide you through this will assist you in deciding whether or not avoidance of probate is right for you.

There are five primary ways that you can pass on your property and these include selling the property while you’re still alive, making gifts during your life, creating a revocable living trust so that you can update, amend or cancel the trust later, using beneficiary forms such as those provided by a life insurance policy or elsewhere and joint property ownership.

A combination of some of these strategies might be used to help you accomplish your estate planning goals.       

A Virginia Beach estate planning attorney is there for you from day one when you need an estate plan and when you need a plan that evolves with you. At our Virginia Beach estate planning law office, we work with you to create the customized plan you need.



How Should I Choose My Trustee?

You know that a trust empowers you to accomplish a broader range of your estate planning goals, but a trust is only helpful as a tool when it’s been funded the right way and is managed by a knowledgeable trustee.

It’s an important decision to select the person who will be responsible for managing your trust on your behalf.

Depending on the kind of trust that you create with the help of your estate planning lawyer, the trustee will oversee the assets and the assets that will ultimately belong to your loved ones. Many people immediately default to choosing a family member or a friend as a trustee, but it can also make sense to choose a professional trustee, such as an accountant or an attorney.

One of the most important things to take into consideration as you select the person to serve in the trustee role is their individual traits. It goes without saying that a trustee should be trustworthy. He or she should also have a background in understanding your individual goals in creating the trust and what you hope to pass on or give to your family members as a result of establishing this estate planning vehicle. This person should also have some experience with financial management or handling legal instruments and documents, such as a trust.

Because this person will be so intricately involved in the management of your affairs when you are no longer around to dictate what that looks like, you need to feel confident in his or her ability to step in and manage them. Furthermore, the trustee that you select for your estate should be good with money and financially astute.

Make sure that you have an individual conversation with those people that you are thinking about appointing as a trustee so that they understand the roles and responsibilities and are comfortable serving in that manner.  For more help, contact our Virginia Beach law office today.



How Do You Account for Loans and Gifts to Your Children in Your Estate Plan?

Most parents want to do everything they can to minimize the possibility of conflict among their loved ones after the parents pass away. Unfortunately, conflicts can arise if you have loaned or gifted money to certain children and not others.

Having a solid strategy inside your estate plan can minimize the possibility for conflict and a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer can help you to guard against these future disputes. If you give money to one child, then the other siblings might argue that that child should get a reduced share of your estate when you pass away. You can block such disputes by making the intent clear in your estate planning documents.

Your document might state, for example, that you will not make any adjustments based on gifts, which would make it clear to other siblings and family members that no one should be receiving a reduced share. You also could specify that gifts have been made if you intend to account for the fact that loans or gifts were already made to one child so that he or she understands why they are receiving a reduced share. Loans are another issue that can be addressed in a couple of different ways.

Verbal loans are very difficult to prove, so make sure that you update your estate planning documents to reference that verbal loans are a gift. If you have current verbal loans that you don’t want to be treated as a gift, you’ll need to put these in writing. It is very important that your estate planning documents convey your intent. This is a common challenge that emerges when you have made the loans or gifts to one member of your family and not others.

Many of our clients set up a trust to manage a smooth transfer of assets to the next generation in the way that works for them.

Need help with creating a trust or administering an existing trust? Contact our Virginia estate planning law office to learn more.



How Long Does It Really Take for an Estate to Be Settled?

If someone passes away in Virginia there are many different details that must be handled by the person appointed to take over administration of the estate. This can also be complicated if the person’s information or assets can’t be easily found.

If it has been several years since someone that you knew passed away and the estate still isn’t completely closed out, there could be complicating factors that are forcing the estate administrator to keep the claim open.

This is especially common when there are any conflicts over the estate planning documents or if there is ambiguity in the person’s will. If you are an interested beneficiary in an estate, you can get further information by contacting the estate administrator who has many responsibilities, including one to keep you updated. Most estates will be settled in a shorter period of time.

You can do your own due diligence for your loved ones by making sure that your estate is written clearly, has strategies in place to help you avoid probate and makes it simple for your estate administrators to take action as soon as possible after you pass away. A lot of the work making things easier for your loved ones can be accomplished now with the help of an attorney who has been practicing in this field of law for some time.

Schedule a consultation today with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer to learn more.  Our Virginia Beach estate planning office is still open and helping clients by phone and virtually; let’s talk today about how we can help you set up your estate so that your loved ones will know what to do if something happens to you.