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.




Tips for Choosing an Executor

An executor is the individual who has the legal responsibility to ensure that your wishes for your estate plan are carried out as well as any taxes, debts and bills are paid. You need to identify someone who is competent as well as trustworthy and someone who can recognize that they might not have all of the answers to the puzzle and will need to ask for outside help from a professional.ThinkstockPhotos-501223220
The key to the executor selection process is choosing someone that you could trust to get the job done. It is a job rather than necessarily a reward to be chosen as an executor. Don’t make the mistake of thinking too far ahead into the future and trying to determine who might be the right person to serve as the executor two or three decades later. You can always change your executor after naming one initially, as this just requires updating your will, but you need to choose someone who is the right choice now because you can never anticipate what may happen to you.
If you are not comfortable with coming up with anyone in your friend or family circle who can handle the executor duties for you, consider appointing someone who can serve in this role as a professional. This can help to minimize family arguments and to ensure that you have the peace of mind provided by an attorney, trust, company or a bank. Usually these individuals will charge a percentage of the estate’s assets. You need to have a consultation with a professional in this case to determine whether or not they are interested in taking on this role.
Talk to your Virginia Beach estate planning lawyer to learn more about what you need to do to protect yourself and your future.

Tips for Choosing an Executor

When approaching the estate planning process, your executor is the individual who has the legal responsibility to ensure that all of your estate planning intentions and plans are carried out to pay out any debts, bills and taxes, and to ensure that your assets are transferred properly. When identifying the right person to choose as an executor, you want to look for someone who is competent and trustworthy to carry through your wishes.
ThinkstockPhotos-99780257This person should also be aware of your intentions to name them as an executor so that they can accept. People often default to choosing a person in their family as their executor. However, it is important for that individual to understand all of their responsibility associated with this role as well as what will happen if this person were to suddenly pass away before you.
Trust and bank companies may also allow you to use them as your executor and attorneys can also serve in this role. Selecting someone who is geographically close to where you live may be beneficial. It is very important to determine the right person to serve as your executor.
If you’re not sure where to start, schedule a meeting with a Virginia Beach estate planning lawyer to get your questions answered.

Duties of Executors More Complex In Digital World

The roles of executors and their agents, which had remained largely unchanged for decades, are, like everything in this digital age, undergoing a transformation.

Financial data analyzing

Financial data analyzing

“Being named an executor by a family member or close friend is an expression of the highest regard and trust, and it is generally regarded as an honor,” according to a recent article on the website ustrust.com
But, like many honors, it brings with it significant responsibilities and, often, unexpected challenges. “Serving as executor is one of the most complex financial roles anyone can undertake. The responsibilities are extensive and often highly technical, and the commitment of time and energy can be daunting. The role demands custody, investment, fiduciary, administrative, accounting, legal and tax expertise and capabilities. Emerging issues related to digital property, not to mention increasingly intricate family structures, add challenges for the executor.”
The site goes on to point out that at one time the search for important documents relating to an estate was largely confined to a few filing cabinets in the home of the deceased or perhaps a safety deposit box at the individual’s bank.
“But today, important papers may have been sent and stored solely in digital forms, which can muddle the search for important information,” according to the piece by Chris Heilmann, chief fiduciary executive for U.S. Trust, and Colin Korzec, U.S. Trust national executive for estate settlement. “And, even if all of these digital locations are known, does the executor have current usernames and passwords to access the information?
“There are also potential legal issues, since most state laws are unclear as to an executor’s ability to gain access to a deceased individual’s digital property. User agreements for online services tend to be equally murky. What about access to email accounts? Can an executor access these accounts without violating the provider’s terms of use agreement? All this is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to grappling with digital assets as an executor.”
One solution for dealing with a particularly difficult and complicated situation, the authors suggest, is to find a co-executor so that the potentially cumbersome tasks can be shared out.

Choice Of Executor Vital Part Of Estate Planning

Making a will and keeping it up to date are only part of what people need to do to ensure their wishes are properly carried out after death.

Wife showing where to sign to her husband

Wife showing where to sign to her husband

Selecting the right executor for an estate is also vital.
That message was brought home in a recent Forbes magazine article, which the writer referred to as a “tale of caution.”
“The cast includes a 73-year-old high-school-educated homemaker named executor of a nonagenarian cousin’s will, an attorney who was battling brain cancer, seven distant relatives and three charities all due a piece of a $12.5 million estate, and an Internal Revenue Service bill for $1.2 million in penalties and interest for failure to file an estate tax return and pay taxes on time levied on the estate,” according to the story. “In an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit filed in February, the executor is trying to recover the $1.2 million. The question at hand: was her failure to file the return and pay the tax on time due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect?”
“What’s the lesson? Even if you have an expert, you have to pay attention to the matters at hand,” the article quotes Jon Hoffheimer, a lawyer who the court appointed to administer the estate as a co-fiduciary with the executor in question after it became clear that she wasn’t up to the task.
Most people, the story goes on to point out, choose a friend or relative as executor, while relying on an estate attorney to ensure a proper will is on file.
“But it’s the executor who bears the ultimate responsibility to make sure it’s done, on time,” the article notes.
The best approach, professionals in the story advise, is to clearly list all the duties of an executor under the terms of the will and have that person sign the document long before these actions have to be taken.

Preparing for the inevitable can be a kindness to others

Along with taxes, we all face one other grim inevitability: We’re all going to die.
No one but tax attorneys and IRS agents likes to think about the former, and possibly only morticians routinely contemplate the latter, but the prudent person sets aside money to pay taxes and wise individuals make some preparations for their passing.
Think of it as a last kindness to the people you love.
The website of the American Bar Association offers a comprehensive list of ways in which people can be as prepared as possible. That address is http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/publiced/practical/books/wills/chapter_11.authcheckdam.pdf.
“You’ll want to minimize your relative’s distress during the trying months after your departure,” the site states.
One of the more important sections of that page on the site is an area entitled “Cushioning the Blow.”
“Many people are as concerned with sparing their survivors grief and stress as they are about dying themselves,” the site states. “Especially in families where one spouse is the primary wage earner, the loss of income from that spouse’s death can be as devastating financially as it is emotionally. For that reason, your estate planning should include some provision for an emergency fund for your survivors, to tide them over the period immediately following your death.”
Among the many other items included are:

  • Final instructions for a funeral and burial
  • Making provisions in a will for the disposal of personal property and even of business property
  • Selecting the proper person to handle the probate of the estate of exploring ways in which probate can be avoided altogether

Selecting an executor requires careful thought

The executor of an estate has a wide array of duties and a responsibility, so making the right choice in selecting one is of paramount importance.
Trustworthiness is crucial, but so is competence.
“Choosing an executor for your will may not feel quite as personal as picking a guardian for your kids, but you should think carefully about who to put in charge of your money after you’re gone,” according to a story by Michele Lerner on the website Dailyfinance.com.
“A common adage in the industry is to name your enemy as your executor as a means of revenge,” John O. McManus, an estate attorney and founding principal of McManus & Associates in New York City, was quoted as saying. “It’s a thankless job. If you appoint someone you love as executor, get your house in order. Otherwise, appoint someone you do not.”
People with law degrees or accountants are often good choices as executors, but it can also be a close relative.
“According to the book, ‘The 101 Biggest Estate Planning Mistakes’ by Herbert Nass, one of the worst things you can do is to ignore your spouse when choosing an executor for your will,” the story by Lerner, a contributing writer to The Motley Fool, states. “Since your surviving spouse will be affected financially more than anyone else by your death, it makes sense for your spouse to be in control. But you should also have a backup executor in case your spouse doesn’t feel up to the task or if you should both pass away at the same time. And if your spouse passes away first, or if you divorce, be sure to update your will and your choice of executor.
“If you ignore this important task and don’t appoint an executor, the court will pick one for you. That person may or may not be a member of your family — and even if it is a relative, it may not be the ideal choice.”
The duties of an executor include collecting assets and information on beneficiaries; determining the legitimacy of debts and other claims against an estate; managing the assets of the estate; paying all taxes; and distributing the estate’s assets in accordance with a will of applicable laws when an individual dies without leaving one.