St. John, Bowling, Lawrence & Quagliana has been helping clients with their estate planning needs since we were established in 1974. Estate planning, whether you’re young or old, sick or healthy, is a responsible choice.
Wills and trusts are two of the most basic estate planning tools. Virginia’s intestate succession laws direct your estate if you die without a will or trust. Regardless of your wishes, the state will dictate what happens to your property.
For example, if you have a surviving spouse, your entire estate may be passed to your spouse, unless you have children or other descendants who are not also descendants of your spouse. If this is the case, your descendants received two-thirds of your estate, and your spouse receives the remaining third.
What Does a Will Do? Who Can Create a Will?
A will is a legally binding document that dictates your final wishes. For example, if you want to leave your coin collection to your son and your savings to the church, you can spell out all of these wishes in your will.
If you die without a will, the state may dictate what happens to all of your possessions.
When a person dies with no spouse, descendants or other family members, the state may take possession of all of your assets regardless of what you may have orally said to a friend or someone else. This rarely happens, but it is a possibility.
A will can be formed by a person that is a least 18 years of age, and it dictates what happens to your estate at the time of your death. We’ll help you create a will that:
- Determines how debt is paid
- Divides assets, according to your wishes
- Distributes money, property or any other asset at your discretion
Anyone with minor children will be able to name a guardian in their will, and an executor of your estate is also named to be put in charge of carrying out the terms and conditions of the will.
When a will is created in Virginia, you must have the following requirements met:
- Mental capacity
- 18 years of age or older
- Two competent witnesses of the wills’ signing
Your will is valid unless you revoke it. The only exception is if you’ve had a child or were married after a will was formed. In these circumstances, the court may override the will and rule that your spouse or child should be included. Divorce may also invalidate portions of the will regarding an ex-spouse.
Your will is only executed upon your death. A will can be changed at any time, as long as you remain mentally competent. We can help you amend your will or change the will to remove certain assets or beneficiaries.
Everyone should have a will drafted, but it’s even more important to form a will when:
- You want to leave property to someone and don’t want it to fall into intestacy laws
- You have children that are minors that need to have a guardian named
Wills are affordable, easy documents to have written to protect your estate. Our attorneys have decades of experience helping Virginia residents create a will that is worded properly and fully adheres to their final wishes. Depending on your needs and specific circumstances, we may also recommend trustsas part of your estate plan.
What is a Trust and Why Do Some Estates Have a Trust?
A living trust is an arrangement that allows a person, called a trustee, to hold the legal right to property for another person called a beneficiary. Living trusts allow you to be the trustee of the property held in the trust while you’re alive.
Living trusts are able to:
- Bypass probate
- Save your estate time and money
Virginia’s complex probate process doesn’t follow Uniform Probate Code. Estates that are valued under $50,000 can follow a simplified probate process, but larger estates can be stuck in probate, leading to high expenses that take away from the value of the estate. Assets placed inside a living trust are not subject to probate, allowing you to avoid this process.
It is important to note that a trust will not take the place of a will. You should always have a will, but you may not need to have a trust formed. We will discuss the possible need for a trust with our clients and only recommend one if your circumstances warrant it.
Can a Trust Reduce Estate Taxes?
Estate taxes impact very few individuals. As of 2019, individual estates with the value of $11.4 million or less are not subject to estate taxes. The federal estate tax exemption is double for married couples. If your estate may be subject to federal taxes, there are various advanced estate planning strategies they can be employed to minimize your tax burden. Among them may include forming a more complex trust, such as an AB trust.
The right type of trust will depend on your goals and the size of your estate. We can help you form a variety of trusts, such as:
- Living Trusts
- AB Trusts
- Testamentary Trusts
- Special Needs Trusts
- Charitable Trusts
- Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts
Our legal team will help you determine which type of trust will best protect your estate. Trusts offer protection from probate, and you’ll be able to keep your assets private. Trusts are not public record, so you’ll be able to conceal your estate’s affairs better with a trust than with a will.
Working with an attorney for your estate planning needs ensures that all of your assets are accounted for in your plan, keeps your estate from paying excess taxes, and also helps stop inter-family quarrels that may arise when someone passes away.
Creating wills and trusts are smart, basic steps in creating an estate plan. St. John, Bowling, Lawrence & Quagliana has over 40 years of experience helping clients in Virginia create plans that protect their assets and fully account for all known eventualities.
Your estate plan should cover all of your bases, including your incapacitation. Through a will, trust, advance directives and powers of attorney, we can help ensure that whether you’re mentally incapable of handling your estate or you die, your estate will be distributed as per your wishes. Call us today at 434-296-7138to schedule a consultation. You may also send us a message through our online contact form or stop by our Charlottesville office at your convenience.