estatePassing the Torch

Every family needs to plan regularly for the two constant factors in life: DEATH and  TAXES!   Basic estate planning is crucial to make certain that minor children are provided for and raised by guardians selected by their parents in the event of the untimely death of the parents.  As adults age and accumulate assets, they need to create and regularly review the plans they have made for passing on those assets after death.   Beneficiaries change, families are blended, and divorce or death of a spouse can create unintended consequences for those that do not take the time to create or review their wills and/or trusts on a regular basis.  If you do not act, by law, the State of Virginia will create a will for you and preside over the determination of takes care of your children when you are gone!   “Canned forms” available on the internet or at the office supply store are not much better than dying without a will!   Nothing can take the place of having your individual estate plan created, tailored and regularly reviewed by an attorney with experience in the area of wills and trusts.

At the law firm of Pittman and Anderson, P.C. in Virginia Beach, Virginia, our estate planning attorneys offer the information and advice you need to create an estate plan for every stage of your life. The typical documents in a Virginia estate plan include:

  • A last will and testament that determines who will receive your property after you die and names a guardian for minor children
  • A durable power of attorney, which allows you to name a trusted person to make decisions for you, manage your property and pay your bills if you are incapacitated
  • An advance medical directive, which allows you to tell loved ones and health care providers whether you want artificial life support such as feeding tubes if you are in a vegetative state with no hope of recovery and allows you to appoint an agent to make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated.

In addition, many families will want to use a document called a TRUST to maintain some planning and control over how their assets are managed after their death and given to the next generation at the most beneficial times.  Trusts can also help protect the privacy of your estate and significantly reduce the expenses of probate – a procedure by which an estate must be registered and an Executor or Administrator appointed by the local circuit court.

We strongly recommend the use of trusts, also known as Revocable Living Trusts (RLT’s) and sometimes irrevocable trusts to help accomplish other goals in addition to avoiding probate.   Certain specialized Trusts, used in a timely fashion, can save your heirs significant taxes and the forfeiture or reimbursement to the government of portions of your estate for Medicaid and other programs.   Life time gifting and the use of trusts can help you become eligible for government aid in the event that you become incapacitated and need intensive care or treatment.   Powers of Attorney and Trusts can also help preserve family harmony or at least prevent expensive litigation and power struggles over assets in the event of the onset of mental or physical disability.

After death, our attorneys also guide executors and administrators through the Virginia probate process and advise these fiduciaries in the event of probate litigation such as will contests and inheritance disputes.