When it comes to estate planning, there are numerous legal strategies to consider. These include wills, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, durable powers of attorney, and health care documents such as health care powers of attorney, advance medical directives, or living wills. Many new clients are often unaware that they already have an estate plan in place. However, without proper legal planning, their assets will be distributed according to Virginia's laws of intestacy after their death. This may not align with their intended wishes. To ensure your own preferences are followed, it is important to create a well-crafted estate plan with the proper guidance of an experienced estate planning lawyer.
Your last will and testament is just one component of a comprehensive estate plan. In the absence of a will, a person is considered to have died "intestate," and state laws dictate how their assets will be distributed. Here are a few key points to know about wills:
Trusts come in various forms and serve different legal, personal, investment, or tax planning purposes. At its core, a trust is a legal entity involving three parties: the trust-maker, the trustee (trust manager), and the trust beneficiary. In some cases, these three roles may be fulfilled by a single individual or a married couple. For instance, with a revocable living trust, the trust-maker can create the trust and act as the current trustee, managing the trust assets for their own benefit.
Establishing a trust can offer numerous advantages, including the potential to bypass probate court. Assets held in a revocable living trust often pass directly to the beneficiaries without the need for probate. Additionally, certain trusts may offer tax benefits for both the trust-maker and the beneficiary, protect assets from creditors, or provide professional management of property. A well-drafted trust remains effective even if the trust-maker passes away or becomes incapacitated. Contact our estate planning lawyers to explore the benefits of establishing a trust for you and your family.
A power of attorney is a legal document that grants another person (referred to as the agent or attorney-in-fact) the authority to act on your behalf. The powers granted can be broad or specific, depending on the terms of the document. Powers of attorney expire upon the maker's death and may also terminate if the maker becomes incapacitated. To designate a backup decision-maker in the event of incapacity, a durable power of attorney is recommended. It's important to update durable powers of attorney regularly, as financial institutions may be reluctant to honor those older than a year.
An advance medical directive or living will is a document that outlines the medical and personal care preferences you wish to be followed if you are unable to make or communicate decisions. This document, legally binding in Virginia, can specify the individuals authorized to make decisions on your behalf and the circumstances under which you would not want your life prolonged. To accompany your advance medical directive, it is essential to grant authorization to your medical providers, allowing designated individuals to access your medical information.
Book a call with us today to learn more and see how we can help in getting your estate planning in order!
Certified Elder Law Attorney Robert W. Haley and staff are ready to help you with estate planning and medicaid planning. Let our firm put our experience and diligent legal representation to work for you. Contact us today to learn how The Estate & Elder Law Center of Southside Virginia, PLLC can help you.