Wills & Trusts
We counsel clients regarding their estate planning needs and prepare wills, powers of attorney, living wills (also known as advance medical directives), revocable living trusts, life insurance trusts, and other basic tax-planned estate planning documents.
As part of our general practice, we counsel clients regarding their estate planning needs and prepare wills, powers of attorney, living wills (also known as advance medical directives), revocable living trusts, life insurance trusts, and other basic tax-planned estate planning documents.
For the typical person or couple, basic estate planning consists of the drafting of a will, a durable power of attorney, and an advanced medical directive (living will). For those with a more complex estate, or assets in other states (such as real estate), or for those who desire to maintain control or restrict the distribution of assets to their beneficiaries (and save money by avoiding probate), we generally recommend and prepare revocable living trusts.
A will is written instrument by which one specifies the distribution of his or her property at death and names an executor to handle the estate upon death. A power of attorney is a document authorized by a person, called the principal, that grants legal authority to another person, the agent, to act on behalf of the principal. A power of attorney could authorize the agent to write checks, sell property, file tax returns, etc. Under a durable power of attorney, the principal authorizes the agent to make decision on his or her behalf in the event the principal is incapacitated. These actions of the agent may be authorized under all circumstances (a general power) or under specific circumstances (a limited power).
A will takes care of post-death distribution and matters, whereas a power of attorney provides for certain actions during one's lifetime or one's legal incompetency. Lastly, an advance medical directive, also known as a living will is a written instrument by which one declares certain preferences regarding their medical care and natural death. In this regard, one can choose to vest that power of decision in a third party or reserve it unto oneself.
Because of the great deal of literature and discussion on the subject and the many benefits they provide, people will often consider creating a revocable living trust.
Some of the benefits of a revocable living trust are:
- Avoidance of probate upon death
- Prevent court control of assets at incapacity
- Provides for a quicker distribution of assets to beneficiaries upon death
- Assets can remain in trust until you want the beneficiaries to inherit
- Can reduce or eliminate estate taxes (depending on size of estate)
- Inexpensive and easy to set up and maintain
- Fully revocable; provisions can be changed or cancelled at any time
- Difficult to contest
- Prevents the court from controlling a minor's inheritances (you name the trustee)
- Can protect dependents with special needs
- Saves money by avoiding court/probate fees, attorneys fees, and commissioner fees when administering the estate
- Maximizes privacy - no court filed documents that become public record
Our standard revocable living trust packages includes a revocable living trust, a certificate of trust by the attorney, an assignment of personal property to the trust, a pour-over will, a durable power of attorney, an advance medical directive, and funding instructions.
Other information to consider when planning your estate:
- Probate tax in Virginia in and of itself is approximately one hundred dollars per one hundred thousand of value of the total estate.
- Under current law, one need not consider federal or state estate tax considerations unless one's estate exceeds the current unified credit equivalent, which is the applicable exclusion amount of $1,500.000, which is increasing in incremental, but not linear, steps to three and a half million dollars in 2009.
- One need not name attorneys as fiduciaries of their estate. We recommend that a spouse serve with a friend or family member as an alternate so that any money which is spent to hire attorneys or the like can be controlled by the persons receiving the money. And in the average estate one need not spend much on professional help if any at all.
We look forward to assisting you with your estate plan. Please contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys. Feel free to bring a list of all of your estate planning questions and concerns.