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We Help People and Families Find Peace Through Estate Planning in Hampton Roads.

A well-crafted estate plan will ensure that you and your family are protected no matter what might happen in the future. Your estate plan provides the roadmap for honoring your wishes. With a comprehensive estate plan in place, you can rest a lot easier knowing that your family will be spared the emotional and financial hardship of trying to figure out what to do.

At David Burley Law, our Hampton estate planning attorney is a passionate, solutions-focused advocate. We are driven by a desire to help our clients achieve true peace and security through estate planning. Our legal team will take the time to get to know you, your family, and your objectives to create a personalized plan that best suits your needs.

No matter what happens, your estate plan should provide the maximum level of protection and security to you and your family. If you have any questions about estate planning, we are here to help. For a confidential, no obligation initial appointment with a top-rated Virginia estate planning lawyer, please call our Hampton law office today.

How to Build a Comprehensive Estate Plan in Virginia

Estate planning is about far more than deciding who gets what. While property distribution is undoubtedly an important part of the process, an effective estate plan must be comprehensive. It should protect you and your family no matter what happens. Here are four key components of estate planning in Virginia:

1. You Need to Draft a Will

A will is a foundational estate planning document. Using a will, you can provide the roadmap for how your affairs should be handled. Every adult in Virginia should have a will. As a will can be easily revised to account for life’s ever-changing circumstances, you are never too young to have a will. Among other things, you can use your will to:

  • Appoint an executor and successor to handle the legal requirements and oversee the instructions you include;
  • Waive the surety bond requirement to save unnecessary fees, if desired;
  • Provide directions for specific bequests, in which you give certain identifiable assets to beneficiaries;
  • Offer details on how you want the residue of your estate to be distributed, i.e., the assets that remain after granting specific bequests;
  • Name a person to act as guardian and/or conservator for minor children; and,
  • Include other instructions for your wishes.

2. You Should Put a Power of Attorney in Place

A comprehensive estate plan should protect you in the unfortunate event that you become incapacitated and are no longer in a position to manage your own legal and financial affairs. If you are unable to manage your real estate and personal property, someone else must do it for you. That person will need court approval through legal proceedings unless you execute a power of attorney while you are still mentally capable. Like an advance directive, you appoint an agent to act on your behalf as principal; you should also include a successor trustee. Your agent has the power to conduct any and all business that you would yourself, such as:

  • Staying current on your mortgage, auto loans, lines of credit, and other financial obligations;
  • Paying federal and state taxes on income and property;
  • Collecting rents and other amounts owed to you;
  • Keeping your assets in good condition and making repairs to guard against waste;
  • Taking out loans where necessary to preserve your assets; and,
  • Many other tasks that you cannot handle while incapacitated.

3. You May Benefit from an Advance Directive for Health Care

You may have specific wishes regarding your health care treatment. If so, it is highly recommended that you put an advance directive in place. This estate planning document eliminates the need for loved ones to get court permission to make handle health care matters if you become incapacitated. There are three main sections to the document, each of which is optional:

  1. You can appoint someone to be your agent for purposes of making health care decisions for you; it is also wise to name a successor agent. This person will be authorized to interact with your health care providers on medical-related issues according to your wishes as stated in the document. If it is not clear what your wishes would be, the agent will consider your best interests.
  2. The second section involves additional instructions on your intentions regarding health care. If you do not appoint an agent, the information serves as a guide for your physicians when your death is imminent and/or you will not recover with additional medical treatment. For instance, you may want to indicate your preference for or against life-sustaining treatment, resuscitation, or other types of care.
  3. If you would like to make anatomical gifts of organs, eyes, or other tissues, you can include your intentions in the Advance Directive for Health Care.

4. You Should Consider Setting up a Trust for Your Loved Ones

Although a will is often an effective way to pass money or property to your heirs, it is not the best legal tool in every case. There are circumstances under which you should consider different forms of trusts as part of your estate plan. The arrangements vary widely depending on your situation, goals, and eligibility. Our lawyers at David Burley Law can provide additional details on the following:

  • Grantor Trusts: You can create a trust that holds your assets during your lifetime, subject to management by a person you appoint as trustee. One of the key advantages is avoiding probate, when you combine your trust with a pour-over will.
  • Special Needs Trusts: If you would like to provide for someone that qualifies for public assistance, you may consider a special needs trust. This person can receive certain distributions without affecting eligibility.
  • Spendthrift Clauses: When you want to include beneficiaries that are younger or less financially savvy, you might include spendthrift provisions to restrict expenditures.
Estate Planning Matters: The Consequences of Not Having an Estate Plan

Many people shy away from estate planning because the future can be uncomfortable to think about. It is a mistake to put off estate planning. Above all else, estate planning is about protection. A well-thought-out plan will give you peace and security knowing that the right structure is in place. Though it is true that estate planning can be a tough subject to address, you should understand at the outset what happens if you avoid making appropriate arrangements. David will explain in more detail based upon your unique circumstances, but you should be aware of the following consequences:

1. Failing to Plan for Incapacity

Many people assume that estate planning only covers post-death scenarios, so they overlook a critical point: The possibility of becoming incapacitated because of an illness, injury, or other medical condition. When you can no longer make responsible decisions regarding your health care and assets, your loved ones must do so for you. Without the proper estate plan in place, these individuals must go to court to obtain permission to act on your behalf. The legal process can be time consuming and expensive, affecting the health care needs and financial interests of an incapacitated person.

2. Not Considering Long-Term Care

Medicare covers many health care costs for individuals 65 or older, but it will not pay for long-term care (LTC) in most cases. For those eligible, a well-crafted estate plan enables you to legally spend down your assets so that you qualify for Medicaid. Options include gifting, creating a qualifying trust, or other structures.

3. Dying Intestate

All components of an estate plan are important; however, failing to create a will carries some of the most significant consequences. For instance:

  • Your wishes regarding how to distribute your assets are not considered. Virginia laws operate to transfer real estate and personal property to your descendants, starting with a surviving spouse and children; depending on your family situation, further distant relatives may assume ownership of your estate assets.
  • You cannot choose the person who will manage your final affairs. State statutes include an order of preference regarding the individual who can act as personal representative of an intestate estate.
  • Your personal representative will be required to purchase a surety bond as a type of insurance policy to cover losses related to estate administration. The costs can be considerable.

4. Overlooking the Benefits of Trusts

All components of an estate plan are important; however, failing to create a will carries some of the most significant consequences. For instance:

  • Your wishes regarding how to distribute your assets are not considered. Virginia laws operate to transfer real estate and personal property to your descendants, starting with a surviving spouse and children; depending on your family situation, further distant relatives may assume ownership of your estate assets.
  • You cannot choose the person who will manage your final affairs. State statutes include an order of preference regarding the individual who can act as personal representative of an intestate estate.
  • Your personal representative will be required to purchase a surety bond as a type of insurance policy to cover losses related to estate administration. The costs can be considerable.
Contact Our Hampton, VA Estate Planning Lawyer Today

At David Burley Law, David is a passionate, experienced advocate for clients. Our mission is to help people find peace and security through comprehensive estate planning. If you have questions about estate planning in Virginia, we are more than happy to provide guidance and support. Contact us right away to set up your confidential initial appointment. From our Hampton law office, we provide reliable estate planning services throughout Hampton Roads.

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