Estate Planning FAQs

December 3, 2014 in FAQs | MARTIN WREN, P.C. | LEAVE A COMMENT

Virginia Estate Lawyers

What does estate planning mean? 

Estate planning is the process of addressing the possibility of your mental and/or physical incapacity and the certainty of death and taxes.  By taking some time to carefully and thoughtfully plan for these events, an estate planning attorney can help you ensure that your wishes are honored, your assets are protected, and your loved ones receive as much of your estate as legally possible.

A skilled estate planning attorney will implement strategies to minimize potential estate taxes while coordinating what will happen with your home, your investments, your business, your life insurance or employee benefits, and your personal property in the event of your death or disability.

The experienced Virginia elder law attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. can help you establish a comprehensive estate plan that will limit your tax liability, disperse your property and assets according to your specific plan, and include directions to carry out your wishes regarding health care matters should you be unable to do so yourself.

What is included in my estate? 

The term “estate” can often conjure up pictures of massive homes, luxurious furnishings, and large bank accounts.  However, the legal term “estate” simply refers to everything that you own.  This includes your home, other real estate that you own, any interests you may have in a business, your share of joint accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and your own personal property.

What happens when someone dies without a will? 

When someone dies without having executed a valid will, they are said to die “intestate.”  Without a will, the Virginia laws of intestacy will determine how your assets and property are distributed and to whom (assuming, of course, that you die in Virginia).  The probate court will appoint a representative to act on your behalf and distribute your property according to Virginia laws.   Virginia laws of intestate succession simply provide that property is distributed to the deceased’s next of kin in accordance with a set statutory priority list.  This list may be different than what the person desired for distribution of their property.  However, without a will, the Virginia intestate laws will govern.

What is probate?

Probate is simply the legal process that “proves” a will valid.  Generally, this is the simple part of probate if the decedent left behind a validly executed will.  In addition, the probate process will include identifying and inventorying the decedent’s property, having the property appraised, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the property as the will directs or as Virginia intestate law dictates if the decedent did not have a valid will.

How can I ensure my children are taken care of if I die or am disabled?

One of the most important concerns for any parent with minor children is considering who will care for them should the parent die or become disabled.  At a minimum, this plan will include naming a person (or persons) who you desire to act as the guardians of your minor children.  However, a comprehensive plan is really necessary to ensure your children are fully and adequately protected upon your death or incapacitation.

The Virginia estate planning attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. can help you develop this sensitive plan.  By nominating an appropriate guardian for your children, you can provide for the physical care of custody of your minor children upon your death.  Additionally, however, the estate planning attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. can explain the value of establishing a trust to provide financially for your children and appointing a trustworthy conservator to handle the money for the children which can apply upon your death or upon your incapacitation.

What are the benefits of a trust?

Establishing a trust can have many benefits.  Any property held in a trust can be protected from claims of creditors, bypass the normal process of probate, and resist challenges of property characterization in a divorce contest.  A trust designed to manage your assets provides for a smooth transfer of property if you become ill and identifies a trustee to manage and carry out your wishes according to the terms.

The experienced elder law attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. are able to explain the different types of trusts and how a trust may be a very valuable component of your estate plan.

Contact Our Virginia Lawyers

We serve clients throughout Virginia — from Charlottesville and Central Virginia to metropolitan Richmond; Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley to Roanoke; and the cities of Hampton Roads to the Northern Virginia cities of  Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington.

To speak with one of our attorneys, please call us at (434) 817-3100.

Our Virginia personal injury lawyers at MartinWren, P.C. have a statewide practice and offer free consultations at a time and location that is convenient for you.  We will gladly meet with you at your home or at the hospital, even on nights and weekends.


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