Does a New Virginia Resident Need to Update Their Wills?

Welcome to the Commonwealth of Virginia. This is a wonderful and beautiful place to live and it’s easy to get caught up in the hubbub of moving and forget some of the most important aspects of your personal life that should be handled properly as soon as you wind up in Virginia.

You’ll need to sign your lease or store the deed ownership documents for your new home and consider updating your vehicle’s registration, your car insurance, permanent address and your driver’s license. But don’t neglect some of the most important things that need to be updated when you relocate to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Federal tax laws remain the same, meaning that some aspects of your estate plan might not be affected at all. However, there are substantial differences in the laws from one state to another.

Unintended consequences and unexpected expenses can often occur when estate planning documents that were specifically created for another state are used in another. Certain states across the country have their own state’s estate tax, for example.

If your estate plan was created in accordance with that and you have recently relocated to Virginia, scheduling a consultation with a competent estate planning attorney can help to verify that your estate planning documents are updated with proper addresses and other critical details.



How Does Someone Qualify as A Personal Representative in The Commonwealth of Virginia?

Each state has specific rules about who can and cannot serve as a personal representative. Being mindful of this and thinking carefully about who you want to serve in this role, who is eligible to serve in this role, and who has the necessary skills and organization to serve in this role, can all help point you in the right direction to selecting the right personal representative in Virginia.

The general duties of a personal representative include collecting all assets, paying any legally enforceable debts, filing tax returns, and distributing remaining assets to beneficiaries. An executor, administrator or personal representative in the Commonwealth of Virginia has to be a person at least 18 years old.

If bonding is required, this person must also be capable to be bonded to serve as a special administrator. A qualified person could be a non-resident or resident of Virginia but will be required to use a resident of Virginia to co-qualify. Furthermore, the personal representative in a Virginia probate case has to establish to the clerk of court that they meet the grounds for fulfilling the duties of a personal representative. In certain situations, institutions like trust companies or banks might also serve as personal representatives.

An individual should consider whether or not they will qualify for this appointment prior to filing a petition to be appointed as a legal representative. The selection of your personal representative has an important impact on your overall estate case and should therefore be taken seriously. If you need to update your personal representative in VA, schedule a meeting with a Virginia estate planning attorney now.



What Is the Role of Using A Trust in Virginia Estate Planning?

Most people know that the basic core component of an estate plan is a will, but not everyone understands why trusts can also be a critical component of a clear and comprehensive estate plan. This means you must understand the state rules surrounding wills and trusts, and this process can be explained to you by an experienced Virginia estate planning lawyer.

The role of trusts in the Virginia estate planning process cannot be understated. Trusts serve numerous different purposes, such as saving you money in taxes, providing for controlled wealth for your loved ones, and shielding your assets.

Trusts are a formal arrangement in which a trustee holds and manages income producing assets on behalf of a beneficiary. If you own any assets that are producing income, such as mutual funds, stocks or bonds, a trust could be a powerful tool for you with Virginia estate planning. This gives you financial protection and long term flexibility.

Trusts can also help your loved ones avoid the probate process which is a common reason why many people sit down with a Virginia estate planning attorney. Assets that are formally inherited through a will have to go through the probate court process. This probate process could cost your loved ones money and time after you pass away. Probate courts could even drain your estate by as much as 7% of the value of your assets.

Assets that are placed inside a trust, not just in name but having their title transferred, could help you avoid the probate process altogether, meaning that your beneficiaries can obtain these assets quicker and save money. Sit down with a knowledgeable Virginia estate planning attorney to discuss more about what this looks like in your specific case and why trusts might be beneficial for you as well as your heirs.



Are There Any Problems with Having Multiple Versions of a Will in Virginia?

Estate planning that transfers into estate administration and probate can be especially complicated in cases involving multiple wills. Many area residents have taken the time to draft a will, because these estate planning documents serve as an important way to determine how assets are distributed after the creator passes away. Multiple wills can be a shock for a family, however, especially when they are discovered by different people in Virginia.

No matter where you live in Hampton Roads, you should understand the importance of keeping their planning documents updated throughout the course of their life, such as with a new marriage, the birth of a grandchild, or a divorce.

Virginia wills can also be updated to alter the recipients of certain assets, so it is not unheard of to have multiple versions of a will.

However, the issue, as far as probate administration when it comes to multiple wills, is that the testator might not have all their assets distributed according to their individual wishes. It is the court’s responsibility to analyze these various versions of a will and to determine the most recent version for distribution of assets. Anyone who has multiple versions of a will should destroy the previous versions to eliminate the possibility of confusion on their death. A will contest can still be raised by an applicable family member when multiple wills are in existence.

These issues can occur within a family due to claims of undue influence, fraud or other valid reasons. This can be an emotional time that causes further family conflicts and problems. Scheduling a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney about your Hampton Roads will is important for moving forward with your next steps.

Nothing’s Changed in My Life- Do I Really Need Updates to My Estate Plan?

There are plenty of reasons to put off estate planning. One common response is “I’m still married to my first spouse and we have not had any more children since we last updated our estate plan.”

This thinking, however, discounts the other changes that have happened in the world. The passage of time or certain people you previously appointed to serve as agents might no longer play the role you thought in your life.

Remember that when you are young you might have named your siblings or parents in a position of trust in your life. However, these individuals might have aged or even moved out of your life entirely. Furthermore, these people might not be able or interested in fulfilling this role anymore. Some of the people you put as contingent beneficiaries might no longer be alive.

Changes to the law also occur at the state and federal level that might require updating your previous strategies in your estate plan.

Plenty of estate plans were created many years ago, for example, with the intention of minimizing the federal estate tax. However, plenty of these plans are now out of date because they are years old and those strategies are no longer applicable to your current needs.

Need help with your Virginia estate plan? Contact an experienced Virginia estate planning attorney to learn more about how to update your plan as your life changes.

Do I Need A Written Fee Agreement with My Estate Planning Attorney?

Are you thinking about hiring an estate planning attorney in Virginia Beach, but are curious about whether or not you need an upfront fee agreement? Most people who work with an estate planning attorney ask these questions in their initial consultation. This first consultation is your chance to get your questions answered and to clarify what is expected of you.

If you have not worked with a Virginia Beach, VA estate attorney before, you might leave your initial consultation with an engagement letter.

What is an Engagement Letter?

Most estate planning lawyers use an engagement letter to introduce the basics of what the lawyer will do, following the initial consultation. This letter also details how much it costs. The basic terms of the engagement letter should include:

  •               Who should be contacted when there are billing legal questions?
  •               How often will you receive a bill?
  •               Additional costs, such as expenses.
  •               Ending the relationship.

Knowing your rights and responsibilities via the written fee agreement can help to clarify expectations and understand the terms. There are two primary terms based on the kind of fee arrangement with your lawyer. These include:

  •               Hourly billing
  •               Flat fee agreements

Make sure that you ask questions about what these mean for you individual situation during your initial consultation. An hourly billing agreement explains the hourly rate for the attorney or the legal assistant who could work on your probate or estate planning matter. A flat fee agreement will detail the total amount of the fee that you are responsible for and how it must be paid. Asking these questions during the initial consultation can make it easier for you to clarify what you need to do and what you are responsible for when working with a Virginia Beach lawyer.



How Honest Do I Need to Be with My VA Beach Estate Planning Attorney?

In order to create the most comprehensive and effective estate plan for you and your family in Virginia Beach, you’ll need to give your attorney detailed info about your financial arrangements and your assets. This can be a confusing process and one you might not feel comfortable with. Remember that estate planning is all about setting goals for your family, so what you own, how you hold title to these items and what it’s worth is all important to establishing your estate plan.

Your Virginia Beach estate planning attorney should have some recommendations about ways they handle difficult family situations, such as if you have blended family from a previous marriage or if you have concerns about leaving money behind to particular children or grandchildren inside a trust.

One of the most common issues raised with estate planning attorneys today is how to leave money behind unequally to members within the same family. Rather than leaving money outright to a child who might not be financially capable of handling it, you could establish a trust and appoint someone else to manage money for the child’s benefit so that the assets are still passed down while reducing the possibility of heartache down the road.

Educating yourself is one of the most important things you can do in the process of hiring an experienced estate planning lawyer in Virginia Beach. You can get many of your questions answered by retaining an attorney who is familiar with this area of the law and who will advise you over the course of your life.



Incorporating the Unique Concerns of Special Needs Kids in Your Estate Planning

Special needs children require careful consideration in the estate planning process. Whether you are planning to manage trusts or talk about who will step in to assist with the care of this minor child if you were to pass away, you need the support of an estate planning attorney in Virginia who is familiar with some of these common challenges.

Not knowing what type of care the child may need in the future or how their government benefits could be jeopardized means that many people are confused by the process of special needs planning. Not having a clear picture of what your child might need in the future can make it all too easy to put off estate planning overall. However, you need to sit down with your estate planning lawyer and discuss your child’s capabilities, health, and prognosis.

This will allow your estate planning attorney to put together a plan that is right for your child, while still allowing for as much flexibility as is possible. Sometimes people who have sufficient assets do not want their child with special needs to get government benefits at all. However, if government benefits are an important component of enabling your adult child to continue receiving care and remain in a lifestyle to which he or she has become accustomed, then you need to put together a special needs trust, which might be the first step in ensuring your loved one receives the benefits he or she needs.



Do Blended Families Need Different Estate Planning Options?

If you are on your second or third marriage and you have any form of blended family, you need to make estate planning and regular updates to it a top priority. Far too many people neglect this step and then end up in entangled arguments and put their loved ones in position for nothing but confusion.

Unique estate planning needs apply to blended families, which is why it is more important than ever to speak with a knowledgeable attorney.

Writing a will and using tools such as trusts are extremely important for blended families. A robust estate plan ensures that your wishes are carried out and that every party that you intend to receive something gets their fair share. There are three primary areas to think about when it comes to blended family estate planning.

These include legal guardianship, how you will choose to pass on assets to minor children and dividing your estate among remaining family members. If you pass away with no will, the child’s other parent will typically get full custody. If you want your child to remain with your current spouse or if you and your former partner are estranged, you should make this clear in your will. There are many other different types of issues that could be addressed in your estate planning documents and a consultation with a lawyer can help to illuminate you about some of the most common pitfalls and challenges faced when establishing an estate plan.    



Does A Trust Offer Asset Protection?

There are numerous different reasons why it might make sense to establish a trust for the purpose of meeting your estate planning goals. Far too many people misunderstand how trusts can be appropriately used and this means that the trust never gets funded and therefore is never able to pass on the assets to the intended beneficiaries.

Because of all the complicated issues involved in crafting a trust that addresses all of your issues and is followed through so as to be viewed as valid under state law, you must work with an estate planning lawyer.

One of the most common reasons that people choose to use trust is because these enable asset protection. A revocable trust established during your lifetime becomes irrevocable after you pass away. If the assets are still inside the trust for the lifetime of your children, those assets are protected from litigation that could be filed against your children.

Another good reason to use a trust is because it can help to provide for children from multiple marriages. A trust is an outstanding tool to provide assets for your spouse during the course of his or her lifetime after you pass away, then enabling any remaining assets to be passed on to your children from your first marriage. This helps to protect your children as well as your grandchildren who might ultimately receive your assets.