Despite the majority of Americans agreeing that an estate plan is important, only about 32 percent of American adults have an estate plan established. Yet, if you die without any legal planning, your estate enters the arduous probate court system, allowing the state to decide who receives assets and who takes guardianship of your children. Avoid letting this happen. If you live in the Virginia Beach area, talk to our estate planning lawyers at Montagna Law to start planning for the future and protecting your loved ones.
For any estate plan in Virginia Beach, there are three essential elements that all individuals over 18 need to include.
A will designates who will carry out your last wishes (known as the executor) and also spells out what those wishes are. These expressed wishes can include beneficiary designation, asset distribution, guardianship of minor children, conservatorships, and special requests for funeral proceedings. To help you determine what will be most beneficial to include in your will, seek the legal advice of an experienced estate administration attorney to get started.
Powers of attorney assign responsibilities to someone like a spouse, adult child, or attorney to administer your financial affairs when you cannot. Within the financial power of attorney document, you will not only designate an individual but also grant what powers they are to have concerning your financial matters. For instance, do you want them to be able to write checks on your behalf, deposit funds into accounts, manage or sell real estate, or conduct tax planning or filing?
You can grant broad authority here or be as specific as possible depending on your particular needs and wishes.
In Virginia, a durable medical power of attorney is often called an advanced medical directive. It designates who you want to make your health care and medical decisions should you become incapacitated. It can also contain instructions on how you would like those decisions made.
While it is not a subject most people enjoy discussing, it can bring you peace of mind knowing that someone else understands your preferences based on your beliefs. It can also bring peace of mind to a loved one who must make decisions for you in sudden medical situations or during long-term care.
Before getting started, or when reviewing the estate planning documents you already have in place, it is essential to understand the underlying goals. With these, you can more efficiently plan and create legal documents that meet your needs. Here are three top goals of any estate plan.
A significant component of estate planning is naming the people you trust to be responsible for financial and medical decisions when you are incapacitated. Similarly, choosing a trustworthy executor to settle your estate offers a sense of peace that they will respect your wishes.
To delegate responsibility, you must consider who will most effectively follow your directions and meet your wishes in the best way possible. Make that person your fiduciary, executor, or trustee.
By naming your beneficiaries and outlining how your assets should be divided among them, you can avoid the possibility of someone else making the decisions for you. If left up to the probate courts, the distribution of assets may occur in a way you do not want and result in potential infighting among your beneficiaries.
Estate planning can keep your assets from dwindling in the wake of necessary decision-making by others. In other words, a well-constructed estate plan can help save overall court and attorney fees.
In addition to the three essential documents listed above, establishing a living trust can increase asset protection from specific tax considerations and preserve government benefits like Medicaid. An initial investment in creating your estate planning documents can minimize expenses further down the road and preserve your assets for those you intend to have them. For guidance, consult with our trusts and wills attorneys at our law office.
Along with knowing the goals of estate planning, it is also crucial to recognize the most common mistakes. These three mistakes can impact both you and your family members if you should become incapacitated or pass away suddenly.
Putting off your estate planning and saying you will get to it one day soon can devastate loved ones and even rob you of peace of mind.
All capable adults should consider developing an estate plan. Waiting until you are old means risking the possibility that you become incapacitated or die without a plan in place, burdening your beneficiaries with the probate process as they grieve. Avoid procrastination by determining what you need in your estate plan and scheduling time to take care of it with the help of a dedicated Virginia Beach estate planning lawyer.
An estate plan is only as good as how well it fits your current life. As such, failing to update an existing plan can lead to problems. In other words, updating your estate plan to reflect significant life changes, such as marriage, divorce, and parenthood, is crucial. For example, if you have a child, you should update your estate plan to name a guardian for if you die while they are still a minor. You may also need to consider adding longer-term special needs planning or a special needs trust if your child is disabled.
If your level of assets changes, you will want to revisit your estate plan to determine where you need to make revisions. Make time to regularly review your plan to see if it still meets all your needs.
Failing to provide easy access to your estate documents can delay actions and cause problems for your loved ones. You should inform your executor where to find these documents to prevent this issue. If you die or become incapacitated unexpectedly, your executor will need quick access to these documents, and that will be nearly impossible if no one knows where to find them.
A knowledgeable estate law attorney can help you draft a plan that fits your particular assets and wishes. They will know Virginia estate planning and probate laws and can advise you on the best ways to preserve your assets for loved ones. In addition, an estate planning attorney can advise you on how to minimize expenses and prevent the potential strain of your estate having to undergo probate.
Now is the time to start or review your existing estate plan and take charge of your future. Our team at the Montagna Law law firm knows how to protect your assets, avoid unnecessary estate taxes, set up trust administration, and help avoid the probate process. Contact our law office serving Virginia Beach families today at 757-622-8100 or submit our online contact form to learn more.