You may have gotten married or divorced, blended a family, gotten your dream job, bought a house or started a new business, even had twins.
You own assets now, and you have people that depend on you and for whom you need to provide. So, let’s ask the hard questions… what happens if/when you die or become incapacitated? How do you make sure that your assets are distributed according to your final wishes?
No matter how old you are or your financial circumstances, everyone should have peace of mind that his/her loved ones and dependents will be taken care of into the future.
It’s time to talk about wills:
What is a will?
A will is a legal document which does three important things:
- It details the instructions as to how your assets will be distributed at your death,
- Names the person or people who will be responsible for carrying out these instructions, and
- Specifies a guardian and/or caregiver for minor children
What are the legal requirements to create a will in Virginia?
- You must be at least 18 years of age.
- You must be of sound mind and mentally competent.
- Your will must be in writing. Oral wills are not valid in Virginia
- You must have two witnesses present when you sign your will, and your witnesses must also sign in your presence. It is not a requirement in Virginia that a will be notarized.
What types of property can be included in a will?
- Real property, such as your home and other real estate, land, and buildings
- Cash, including money in checking accounts, savings accounts, and money market accounts, etc.
- Personal property, such as stocks, bonds, businesses, and intellectual property, royalties, patents, and copyrights
- Valuables like cars, boats, artwork, jewelry, collections, and furniture
What happens to my assets if I do not have a will?
If you die without a valid will or intestate, then the intestacy laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia will decide who receives your assets.
What is an executor? What is his/her responsibilities?
An executor, sometimes called the personal representative or administrator, is someone named in the will or appointed by the court who has the legal responsibility to take care of the deceased’s remaining financial obligations. Choosing a trusted executor is essential to having your final wishes carried out. The executor is usually the spouse, partner, or adult child of the deceased, but can be a trusted friend, relative, or even a professional advisor. His/her duties include:
- Inventorying and maintaining the estate until it is distributed
- Filing appropriate documents with the court and/or making court appearances
- Paying final debts and filing tax returns
- Cancelling credit cards and closing other active accounts (newspaper, gym membership, etc.)
- Notifying Social Security
- Distributing the estate per the will or Commonwealth of Virginia if there is no will
Do I need an attorney to create my will?
There is no legal requirement that a will must be drafted by an attorney. But the importance of a properly drafted will cannot be understated. Your will details how to handle your affairs after death, who will inherit property, and who will be the guardians of your minor children. Unfortunately, you don’t get a second chance to get it right. By creating a DIY will, you take the most important component out of the picture…the advice and counsel of a Virginia estate planning attorney. Mistakes, omissions, contradictions, and faulty language may have consequences that you never intended. Your wishes may not be fulfilled, and your beneficiaries may suffer because of your unintended mistakes.
Do I need other estate planning documents besides a will?
The short answer is yes. You may need other documents to complete your estate plan, including a revocable trust, durable power of attorney, and advance health care directive. The best way to ensure that your wishes for taking care of your loved ones and distributing your property are carried out after your death, is to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced Virginia estate planning attorney who will work to understand your specific situation and draft the appropriate documents to make sure your intentions are fulfilled. Remember, if you don’t have an estate plan…the Commonwealth of Virginia has one for you.
Northern Virginia Trusts & Estates
Northern Virginia Trusts & Estates provides affordable estate planning services for Virginia families. Our firm understands the intricacies of estate planning and offers a range of services from simple, a la carte pricing for single items, to comprehensive offerings that cover a variety of preparations.