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  • Northern Virginia Trusts & Estates

Estate Planning Explained: Here’s What You Need to Know

Updated: Apr 13

There are a number of reasons many of us put off planning for the future.  While we are a very busy nation, not having enough time can also be used as an excuse to avoid estate planning.  Some people simply don’t want to think about dying, while others avoid estate planning because they aren’t sure they fully understand what they need to do.  Still others don’t plan for the future because they don’t feel they have an “estate” to plan for.  It is very important to get past these reasons for not planning for the future.  Although we all want to believe we will be around for a very long time, accidents and tragedies happen every day.

Its true that estate planning can make you think about the answers to some very uncomfortable questions, but try to imagine what would happen to your childern, as well as your assets, if you should die without making your wishes known.  And if you think estate planning is only for the super-wealthy, think again. If you own anything, even a car or a home, then you have an estate.  In the end, remember the old adage: Failing to plan is planning to fail.  By making a comprehensive estate plan, you ensure that everything you have worked for in your life will go to those you care about the most, so those you care about can be taken care of properly after you are gone.

Understanding Estate Planning Documents: Will vs. Trust

You will start your estate planning with a Will or a Revocable Living Trust.  Because every person and every situation is unique, there is no “one size fits all” document.  An experienced Virginia estate planning attorney can assist you in determining which document will be the most beneficial for your particular situation.  A will is a written document, which is witnessed and signed.  Your will tells others how you want your property distributed at the time of your death.  A will can be revoked or amended at any time during your life, and also allows you to appoint a guardian for your minor children.

A revocable living trust resembles a will, however it has certain advantages such as:

  1. Probate can be avoided;

  2. You can plan for your own incapacity;

  3. You can ensure your property will be distributed to those you choose;

  4. A Trust allows you to specify when you child will be entitled to assets held in the trust;

  5. A Trust can include tax planning provisions;

  6. Your financial affairs will not become public record;

  7. A living trust can be used for any size estate.

What to Expect

Your Virginia estate planning attorney ( may set up an initial consultation with you in order to determine what you want to accomplish and will offer suggestions and information to help you make those decisions.  The necessary documents will be drafted, and then you will review them with your attorney.  Revisions will be made if necessary and the documents will be properly signed.  If, at any time, you want to make beneficiary changes or other changes to your estate planning documents, your Virginia estate planning attorney can help you do so.

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