Does My Virginia Estate Also Need an Explanatory Letter?

An explanatory letter left behind with your will can reduce the chances of conflicts and estate planning disputes and clarify your intentions. This is a formal letter that makes it clear that what you are writing is in addition to or in interpretation of your will and not intended to be the will itself.

This is your opportunity to address multiple different issues that might confuse your loved ones after you pass away, such as:

  • Disparities in gifts.
  • Explain why certain gifts were made.
  • Offering suggestions for shared gifts left behind to multiple people.
  • Expressing negative or positive statements associated with the transfer of your assets.
  • Explaining individual choices about your pets.

An explanatory letter can help to bridge the gap between what you hoped to accomplish in your estate planning and what your loved ones understand about your individual choices. Loved ones might initially be confused if they were cut out of your will or were not clear about the fact that they would not be receiving a particular asset.

This is your letter to write, which means that you don’t have to meet any legal standards in deciding what goes inside of it. However, your lawyer can help you figure out what structure and language makes sense for your needs.

Your explanatory letter gives further clarity to this situation and could help to reduce the chances of an expensive and time intensive will contest. Consult with an experienced Virginia estate planning attorney today.



Can I Use A No Contest Clause in My Will?

It’s a good idea to think about who you want to include and potentially who you want to exclude in your estate planning process. If you are concerned that someone might challenge the validity of your will in court after you pass away, you might be interested in speaking with your Virginia estate planning lawyer about adding a no contest clause to your document.

A no contest clause in a Virginia Beach willl simply states that if a beneficiary under a will or trust challenges the validity of that document that party forfeits his or her rights to take under the trust or the will. According to Virginia law, no contest clauses are strictly construed and strictly enforced. This means that the courts do not interpret them to be any broader than their terms provide but that they are strictly enforced even if numerous people are caused to forfeit their inheritances as a result.

In the event, that a party challenges a trust or a will that includes a no contest clause in Virginia Beach and is successful in that challenge, the court then declares that document to be invalid and of no effect. Any party who is thinking about challenging a will or trust with a no contest clause inside must carefully consider the important choice here.

Not taking any action and taking an estate plan that they believe to have been created due to a lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, duress or fraud or risk challenging the will and potentially lose the inheritance if the challenge is unsuccessful. Including a no contest clause can give you piece of mind in your planning. Find a Virginia Beach estate planning attorney who knows how to help you with your will and other key estate documents today.


How Long Does Probate Take in Virginia?

In Virginia probate is the process of proving before the appropriate court, that any document submitted as belonging to the decedent are legally valid and genuine.

Typically the executor that is appointed in your will presents this document to the clerk of the circuit court in the county or city in which you lived at the time you passed away.

Most people consider using estate planning as a method for avoiding probate in Virginia. Probate can add confusion and time to the closing out of your estate, and you might be more interested in being able to pass on your assets in a timely fashion.

The process of probate can be extremely complicated. This is especially true when one or more parties attempts to contest the will. The executor appointed to probate your estate has a big responsibility to gather all materials related to your estate and to begin filing necessary paperwork and tax returns after you pass away. There is no general answer for how long probate takes in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The complexity and size of the estate will dictate whether it takes longer than usual. An executor is responsible for filing an inventory of assets no later than four months from the date that they qualified as an executor and an accounting typically needs to be filed within 16 months from the qualification date.

Often administration of probate takes as long as it requires the executor to wind up the estate, pay out debts and distribute remaining assets. However, this process can be extended based on challenges to the will, trusts or other estate planning documents. Need a phone call with a Virginia estate planning attorney? Reach out today.



Are You Concerned About Long Term Care Costs?

Does your estate plan account for long-term care costs? If not, you could end up paying out of your own retirement savings to cover necessary expenses for your care or for a spouse’s.

Studies have found that most people over age 65 will eventually need help with daily tasks of living, such as getting dressed, eating or bathing. One of the most interesting facts pulled from the US Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging is that women are likely to need care for a longer period of time than men.

Women will need this type of care on average for 3.7 years, while men will need this form of assistance for an average of 2.2 years. Many people will have little choice but to rely on unpaid care from children or spouses.

However, it’s important to realize that the Genworth 2018 Cost of Care Survey shows that more than one-third of people in need of assistance will spend time in a nursing home. That nursing home care can be extremely expensive and is likely not be covered by Medicare.

This is because private health insurance in Medicare don’t often classify nursing home care custodial expenses which can eliminate a significant portion of your retirement savings. Planning ahead to qualify for Medicaid is extremely important and it’s something that should be done with the guidance of an experienced and dedicated lawyer in Virginia Beach.



How Do I Know If My Virginia Will is Valid?

Certain requirements must be met in every single state for a will to be valid. The following issues should always be taken into consideration when creating your Virginia will, since wills are the most common way for a Virginia resident to take control of how the state manages their assets when the will creator passes away.

Your will becomes a binding legal document that is effective on your death and it determines who will care for your minor children, who will inherit your property and who will be the executor of your Virginia estate. The primary purpose of your will is to assist with the distribution of property upon your death. There are four primary requirements to make a valid will in Virginia. These include:

  • Mental capacity
  • Age requirement
  • Writing requirement
  • Witness requirement

The most important aspect of creating a will is that you must be mentally competent at the time, meaning that you should not create or sign a will if you are of unsound mind due to sickness, age or any other issue. You must be greater than 18 years old to make a will in Virginia and your will must be witnessed by at least two other parties when you sign it.

Furthermore, no will in the Commonwealth of Virginia is valid unless it is in writing and signed by the person who created it or by some person under the testator’s direction and in his or her presence at the time. The will could still be valid if it is in the testator’s handwriting and is dated and signed even if no witnesses saw the original document.



What Role Do Your Pets Play in Your Virginia Estate Planning?

You likely view your pets as part of your family and therefore, you want to ensure that they can be taken care of if something were to happen to you. The most elaborate option, but also the one that gives you the greatest peace of mind and control, is to establish a pet trust.Estate Planning for Dogs

How Does a Pet Trust Work?

When putting together a Virginia pet trust, you establish a certain amount of money that is set aside to care for your pets. In addition to creating the trust, you must fund the trust with assets and name a trustee for the management of these funds. The trustee can either arrange for the pets to be taken care of elsewhere or can take care of your pets directly.

It’s important to realize that anyone you choose to establish as a trustee or to name the new owner of the pets should be comfortable with this decision and willing to serve in this way. It can be a difficult family situation when a loved one suddenly passes and leaves a pet without any plans for care, especially if no family member step forward to help.

Make sure that you have discussed all of your options with not just your estate planning attorney, but with your family members as well so that you can make decision that is best for everyone involved, including your pets.

Do you want to put together a Virginia trust to help care for your furry friends? Talk to a Virginia lawyer today.

When Is an Irrevocable Trust the Right Choice?

Lost wills and testaments in Virginia require a probate process in order to distribute assets to heirs, but the use of a trust can avoid probate. Your personal and lifestyle preferences will help you determine whether or not an irrevocable trust or a revocable trust is most appropriate for your needs. A Virginia irrevocable trust could be used with your other estate planning documents to give you the control and protection you need.

An irrevocable trust is one that cannot be changed. Only a beneficiary is eligible to make and approve changes to the trust document after it has been established. With a revocable trust, however, the creator can update this as necessary.

This is a leading reason why revocable living trusts are more common since there is a greater level of control. You might wish to make updates yourself to a trust after it has been established if your life circumstances change. An irrevocable trust could limit your estate’s vulnerability to creditors, however.

If you intend to pass along your estate to your heirs, an irrevocable trust can be one way of doing this. There are several different options that might qualify as revocable trusts. For example, you could use an irrevocable life insurance trust such that proceeds are paid into the trust before a trustee manages them for the beneficiaries. To learn more about creating an irrevocable trust in Virginia, schedule a meeting with an estate lawyer today.



What Are the Rights of Interested Parties in A Virginia Estate?

Interested individuals is a term that is used to describe the heirs to an estate or the people who have been formally named in a last will and testament as outlined under Virginia law. There are many different common misconceptions associated with interested parties.

One of these includes if an individual is an heir then they are scheduled to inherit from the estate. A person can be named as an heir, but a trust or a will could supersede the passage of any assets going to that individual.

Anyone who is classified as an interested party in a Virginia estate must be kept informed of court required notices and should be notified when a person has been appointed to serve as an executor. A knowledgeable Virginia estate planning attorney can assist an interested person in understanding their role. Just because someone meets the grounds for being classified as an interested person doesn’t mean that they will officially be a beneficiary of the estate. This also does not mean that you are required to be kept informed of all of the details of what is going on with the estate and the assets inside of it.

The person is only entitled to receive notices in accordance with Virginia laws when that notice is required. If you have questions about setting up your estate planning for your future heirs, schedule a consultation today with an experienced estate planning lawyer.  



What Is Required to Open an Estate in Virginia?

Regardless of the size of your Virginia estate, it is critical to establish a plan that can help prepare for the future. Having a necessary framework of your Virginia estate plan in place enables your loved ones to have a comprehensive guide to follow. To formally open a Virginia estate, an individual must first make an appointment with a clerk of the court for the city or county in which the individual owned property or resided at the time of death.

Certain items could be helpful to bring during this initial meeting, including a copy of the last will and testament, a driver’s license, the necessary probate fee, and any last known addresses. The clerk will be helpful in assisting with opening the estate. If the individual is appointed to help manage the estate, that person will receive letters testamentary and records associated with estate administration.

The executor or the administrator who is seeking an appointment in a Virginia estate must be prepared to recognize his or her role. Usually, the person who wants appointment is named as the executor in the last will and testament, but in the event that the executor named in the Virginia estate is unwilling or unable to serve, it could be someone else who is interested in seeking appointment within the state of Virginia. Schedule a consultation with your estate planning lawyer today to discuss how this might affect you.




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.