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Estate Planning

Virginia Estate Planning

People often say, “I don’t have an estate!” or “I’ll be gone, so what difference does it make?” and we understand where these ideas come from, but the reality is that while most people aren’t rich, everyone has an estate plan in Virginia, even if they don’t know it. This is because an estate plan is a plan for what happens to you when you are incapable of dealing with your affairs and what happens to your stuff, even if you don’t think you have much after you die.

The state already has a plan in place for you in both cases, and if the government’s plan isn’t what you want, it’s essential for you to take control of your estate plan while you still can. This can make a big difference to you and the people you care most about in the event of your incapacity and a big difference to those you leave behind in death.

“Planning for the future means taking action today.”

At Commonwealth Life and Legacy Counsel, we’ve learned that peace of mind comes with effective planning. Your affairs need to be effectively arranged, managed and protected so that you, your family, and other beneficiaries can benefit from your estate both during your lifetime and after your death.

Minimize Taxes and Fees in Virginia

Your estate planning attorneys will work with you to create a plan that minimizes probate and other tax implications, including income and capital gains taxes. If needed, they will collaborate with your CPA or tax advisor to ensure your estate plan provides the best possible tax treatment for your estate and your beneficiaries.

What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will in Virginia?

When someone dies without a valid Will, they are said to have died intestate. Virginia law provides for how a person’s estate will be distributed if they die intestate, and that plan may not be the one you would choose for yourself. If you have minor children, someone will have to go to Virginia Court to ask to be appointed guardian for them. This can result in conflict among family members, each of whom may think they are the best person to care for your children. There are additional costs and fees associated with dying intestate because someone has to step forward to ask the Court to appoint them to administer your estate. More than one person may think they are the best person to this, resulting in Virginia litigation. Your Virginia estate also will have to pay the cost for your administrator to be bonded for them to qualify to settle your estate. Click here to read the Virginia statute on intestate succession. For more information on what happens if you die without a will, click here.

The Importance of Wills and Living Trusts in Central Virginia

A Will gives instructions to the Court about who will receive your assets at your death. It appoints an executor/personal representative to administer your estate and, if you have minor children, your Will appoint guardians for them. You also can provide for your pets in your Will, using a pet trust, and express your wishes regarding burial versus cremation. Your Will is filed with the Circuit Court in the county or city where you were living at the time of your death and is a public document. Probate is the process of filing the Will with the Court, having an executor/personal representative qualified to carry out the instructions in the Will, and having the Court (usually through the Commissioner of Accounts) oversee and approve the process settling your estate. For more information about Probate and Estate Administration, use these links: click here or here.

What is the Purpose of a Living Trust?

A revocable living trust is a private document that directs how your assets should be managed during your incapacity and after your death. While you are alive and can make financial decisions, you have the same access and control over your assets as you would if you did not have a trust in Virginia.

Living trusts provide maximum flexibility with a greater level of control over how assets are managed. The trust document appoints a trustee to manage your assets if you cannot do so yourself and can provide detailed instructions about whether your assets should be distributed outright to your beneficiaries or whether they should be held in the trust for some time until certain conditions are met, or over generations. It is not filed with the Court and can be used to avoid the probate, but only if all of your assets are re-titled into the name of your trust or aligned with your trust by designating your trust as a beneficiary of your life insurance and retirement accounts. This can be a complex and tedious process, and you should consult an attorney to help make sure it is done correctly.

Take the First Steps to a Secure Future with an Asset Protection Plan

A robust Virginia estate plan will help to secure both your future and that of your beneficiaries, as well as offering great peace of mind knowing that everything has been taken care of after passing. With this in mind, the sooner you start, the better. It can be tempting to delay as making provisions for your passing can be uncomfortable. There is no better time than right now, especially if you are a business owner, have a large and complicated asset base, or are the parent of a minor child or a child with special needs.

To get started, call or email us today to schedule your free initial consultation with our experienced and caring Virginia estate planning attorneys: take the first step to create the peace of mind that comes with protecting what matters most for yourself and your loved ones.

If you have questions about whether a Will or a trust in Virginia is best for your particular situation, please call or email us to schedule a free initial consultation. Commonwealth Life and Legacy Counsel have offices in Zion Crossroads, Lake Anna, Troy, and Mineral to best serve our central Virginia community.

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