10 Steps to Getting Started on Your Estate Planning

Despite the fact that estate planning is a crucial step in creating a secure financial future, the majority of us put it off as long as possible, some equating the act of creating an estate plan with having a root canal. In reality, working with your Virginia estate planning attorney is not painful at all. You can either hide your head in the sand and hope for the best, or you can plan, and rest easy knowing your wishes will be carried out in the event you become incapacitated or you die.

When you choose to avoid thinking about estate planning, your beneficiaries can be hit with significant costs, it can take a longer time to probate your will, your true wishes may never be known, and those you love can suffer unnecessary problems and heartache. Many people still believe estate planning is only for the very rich, but anyone who has any assets at all—pretty much everybody—should have basic estate planning documents. If you are ready to begin estate planning, the following steps will help guide you through the process:

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What Do Wills Not Do?

While there are many advantages to having a will, there are some things a will simply can’t do. As an example, a will is the perfect document for parents with minor children to designate a guardian for your children, minimizing court intervention. A will is also the right estate document to designate an executor of your estate. You can also, through a will, choose to provide for specific persons who would not otherwise be provided for under Virginia state intestacy laws, such as friends, godchildren or stepchildren.

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What Happens if a Person Dies Without a Will in the State of Virginia?

People avoid having a will prepared for many reasons. Perhaps the most common reason people put off having a will prepared is simply because they don’t think they need it. People who avoid making a will for this reason probably believe they don’t have all that many assets, so the state of Virginia can reasonably be expected to divvy up those assets as they see fit. Other reasons people tend to put off having a will prepared is because they think it is complicated or too expensive or they don’t want to face their own mortality.

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Essential Estate Planning Checklist

Having an estate plan is extremely important, yet the majority of American adults don’t even have a simple will. Some 39 percent of adult men feel like having an estate plan is simply not necessary, while 26 percent of women believe it is too costly. Those who consider themselves Republicans are more likely to have an estate plan (46 percent of all registered Republicans do have some type of estate plan), while only 37 percent of Democrats have an estate plan. Almost a full third of Americans would rather give up sex for a month, do their taxes or get a root canal than to engage in estate planning. Aside from feeling an estate plan is either not necessary or too expensive, other common reasons given for not having an estate plan include:

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There are Many Types of Wills—Which One is Best for You?

Most adults are at least somewhat aware they should have, at a minimum, a basic will. Yet 51 percent of those between ages 55-64 don’t have a will and 62 percent of those between the ages of 45-54 don’t have a will.  When you die without a will, the state gets to decide who will inherit your assets.

Generally speaking, if you have a spouse and/or children, then that’s where your assets will go. If you have minor children and die without a will, the state will choose their guardians. If you are not married and have no children, then the state will determine which relatives will inherit your assets.

If you don’t want to leave the determination of who will receive your assets to the state, then it is probably time to draft a will. Many people are inhibited by the various types of wills available. When they can’t decide which type is right for them, they simply end up doing nothing at all. An experienced estate-planning attorney can help you decide which type of will is best for your individual circumstances, particularly because not all types of wills are legal in all states. Below you will find a description of each type of will.

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What is an Advance Medical Directive?

You may have heard others talking about an Advance Medical Directive documents and wondered whether they are something you could benefit from. An Advance Medical Directive is a legal document which allows you to choose a person you trust to make decisions regarding your healthcare should you become incapacitated. The individual you name as your representative in your Advance Medical Directive should be someone you know would make the same decisions you would make, if you were able. The types of decisions an Advance Medical Directive can cover include:

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