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The Consequences of Not Having a Will or Trust in Central Virginia

Although estate planning is vitally important, it’s a task that is often overlooked or avoided. You can enjoy peace of mind when you know that you are leaving clear instructions for your loved ones, but many people put off the process. 

So what happens if you don’t create a will or trust?. In Central Virginia, if you pass away without a will or trust, you are considered intestate. This means Virginia laws will dictate how your property will be distributed and who will be in charge of your estate. Without a will or trust, your assets could be completely mismanaged and end up in the hands of unintended beneficiaries. If you have minor children, their guardianship could be assigned to someone you believe to be completely inappropriate. 

Who Inherits Your Estate?

In Central Virginia, if you don’t have a will or trust, your estate will be divided according to the intestacy laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia. These laws generally prioritize your surviving spouse and children, granting them the majority of your assets. But what if you’re not survived by a spouse or children? In such instances, your assets could be distributed to your parents, siblings, or, in the absence of close relatives, to more distant relatives such as cousins or grandparents. 

This all sounds fairly straightforward, but it’s important to understand that intestacy laws operate on a one-size-fits-all basis. This means that your wishes and the status of  your personal relationships are not taken into consideration at all. As a result, significant people in your life, such as unmarried partners, stepchildren, or close friends, could be left without any inheritance.

Potential for Conflicts and Legal Challenges

Another downside to not having a will or trust is the potential for conflicts and legal challenges among those you leave behind. When family members feel that they have been promised heirlooms but the intestacy laws say otherwise, disputes can arise. Disagreements often lead to bitter family battles and potentially long and expensive proceedings in probate court. 

Without a trust-based estate plan, probate court can also become a financial burden. It’s common for a significant portion of your estate to be consumed by legal fees and court costs, effectively shrinking the inheritance you leave behind.

Risk of Losing Control Over Your Legacy

Arguably, the biggest risk of not having a will or trust is the loss of control over your legacy. When you pass away without a comprehensive estate plan, you’re leaving the management and distribution of your assets up to state law, rather than your personal choices and values. This loss of control may lead to your assets being managed by individuals you wouldn’t have selected and distributed in a way that goes against your wishes. Guardianship of minor children would be established by state preferences rather than your preferences. 

Moreover, the lack of estate planning could result in unnecessary tax burdens or financial hardship for your loved ones, who might be forced to sell assets quickly to settle debts or pay taxes. In effect, without a will or trust, your personal wishes and the financial well-being of your loved ones are left to chance, creating potential challenges and uncertainties during an already difficult time.

A properly structured estate plan can avoid these potential issues. Whether through creating a will, establishing a trust, or both, you can ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes without unnecessary delays and administrative burdens. Proper planning helps reduce potential conflicts, ensures the right individuals inherit your estate, and can provide potential tax savings and other advantages.

Commonwealth Life & Legacy Counsel Securing Your Legacy in Virginia

We at the Commonwealth Life & Legacy Counsel believe everyone deserves the peace of mind that comes with effective estate planning. If you’re in Central Virginia and don’t yet have a will or trust, we’re here to help. 

Our team can guide you through the process, ensuring your wishes are honored and your legacy secured. Call us in Central Virginia at (434) 589-2958 or in Powhatan at (804) 598-1348 or reach out online to set up a free consultation to discuss your estate planning needs.