So, you finally got around to having a will drawn up—congratulations on taking an important first step in the estate planning process! Although there are some people for whom a will can comprise the entirety of their estate plan, there are certain things that a will simply cannot do. It is very important to be aware of the issues which cannot be addressed by a will, then to take steps to include estate planning documents that can address those issues.
If you are a relatively young parent with minor children, a will allows you to designate a guardian for your children, ensuring the person you would want to raise your children in your absence will do so. A will also allows you to name an executor to your estate, and to leave assets to beneficiaries of your choice.
So, while a will can accomplish many important estate planning tasks, there are others that require additional documents. Under your Virginia will you may not:
- Put conditions on gifts left to others (you may not leave a gift that is contingent upon change of religion, marriage, or divorce of the recipient)
- Leave money for any purpose which is illegal
- Leave money to your pets (pets cannot own property, therefore, you must leave money to a person to be used for the benefit of the pet)
- Leave property held in joint tenancy, “tenancy by the entirety,” or “community property with rights of survivorship”
- Leave life insurance proceeds for which you have named a beneficiary
- Leave money in a payable-on-death bank account
- Leave property transferred to a living trust
- Make arrangements for a special needs’ individual (should be done through a special needs’ trust)
- Leave money in a pension plan, a 401(k), an IRA, or another retirement plan for which you have named a beneficiary
- Leave funeral instructions (remember, wills may not be read, or even found until weeks after your funeral, making it impractical to leave funeral instructions in your will)
- Reduce estate taxes (A trust can often reduce or postpone taxes, but a will cannot)
- Avoid probate (wills are required to go through probate, which can often take months, or even a year before assets will be distributed to those named in the will).
Distribution of Your Estate Will Rarely Be Done According to Your Wishes Without a Will
f you die without a will—and, according to Forbes, about half of all adults in the U.S. over the age of 55 do not currently have a will—then the state of Virginia will distribute your assets in a manner you would almost certainly not approve of. Despite the fact that so many adults do not have a will, most of those same adults believe it is important to have their affairs in order by the age of 50. This indicates a sort of “disconnect” between what we know we should do and what we actually do.
While many people in the survey indicated they wanted to be remembered for memories shared with loved ones rather than just the assets they leave behind, failing to have an estate plan in place can cause considerable hardship and grief to those who must deal with the aftermath of the death of a loved one.
Having an experienced, knowledgeable Virginia estate planning attorney in your corner can make the entire process much less complicated and confusing. Your estate planning attorney will look at your specific circumstances, then will help you put together a comprehensive estate plan which will give you peace of mind while protecting those you leave behind.
Contact Our Northern Virginia Trust and Estates Law Firm
An experienced Virginia estate planning attorney can help you draft a will and an estate plan. This process can be complex and difficult without the help of an experienced attorney. To learn more about estate planning services, contact our Northern Virginia Trusts & Estates law firm. We provide affordable estate planning services for Virginia families.
For more information about trusts, wills, estate planning, or our services and packages, contact our office today at 703-938-3510 or Click Here to Get Started With a Free Consultation!