Wills, Trusts, and Probate Attorney – Virginia
Planning for the future means protecting your assets and your loved ones, even though no one enjoys thinking about a future where they are not around to provide for their families. The most responsible thing to do is to create a fully developed estate plan using wills, trusts, and probate. Given that each client has different needs, determining the best plan requires the advice and guidance of a knowledgeable estate planning attorney.
With offices in Old Town Warrenton and Washington, Virginia, Walker Jones, PC works with individuals, couples, and business owners in designing strategies to protect their interests. We are dedicated to establishing long-term relationships with our clients to help them build a bridge to the future.
Wills Trusts, and Probate: Do I need a will?
A Last Will and Testament, or a will, is the most basic estate planning tool that declares how your probate assets will be distributed to your beneficiaries after your death. A will can also incorporate a trust to provide for the needs of underage beneficiaries. Additionally, creating a will is the best way to name guardians for your minor children. By failing to create a will, you leave your wishes regarding the disposition of your assets and your choice of guardian unknown. This means that state law will govern who receives your assets, and in what shares, and the court will determine who will care for your children.
Unfortunately, many individuals wait until it is too late to create an estate plan, or they believe certain family members will automatically receive their assets. Similarly, others think that they can create a will without the help of an attorney merely by downloading a form from the internet. These common and costly mistakes often lead to disputes that must be resolved by the courts.
At Walker Jones, PC, we believe that everyone, regardless of their financial status, can benefit from having a properly crafted will. Our legal team works with clients from all walks of life to help them explore their options, protect their assets, and provide for their loved ones. This includes drafting wills, financial powers of attorney, advance medical directives, and other essential documents. We also provide ongoing advice to ensure that a client’s existing will is updated to reflect life’s various changes, such as marriage, the birth of children, a divorce, or a second marriage.
What is a will contest?
When a dispute arises over the terms of a will, an heir or beneficiary may consider filing a legal proceeding referred to as a will contest. The grounds for contesting a will can include:
- The will was not properly executed;
- The person making the will lacked mental capacity; and
- The person making the will was unduly influenced or coerced.
Because a will contest can be an expensive proposition, we encourage the parties to reach a negotiated settlement; however, our team is fully prepared to pursue or defend estate litigation when necessary.
Wills Trusts, and Probate: Should I consider creating a trust?
A trust is essentially an arrangement in which the person creating the trust authorizes another – the trustee, to manage the trust assets for the benefit of their beneficiaries. While many believe that trusts are only for the wealthy, trusts can actually achieve a number of objectives, including protecting your privacy, making your estate easier to administer, avoiding unnecessary probate and estate taxes and providing for underage beneficiaries or loved ones with special needs.
Our legal team routinely prepares a variety of trusts, including:
- Revocable Living Trust – Holds title to your property, such as a home or other assets, but allows you to continue managing it during your lifetime. A living trust also allows you to make changes as your financial situation or life circumstances change. A properly designed trust can also help you plan for incapacity by giving the trustee authority to act on your behalf. In addition to avoiding the probate process, a living trust is a private document which does not require public recording.
- Trusts for Minors – Designed to leave money for the benefit of children or grandchildren while they are younger to support their education, medical expenses, or personal interests such as sports or creative arts. Upon reaching an age or achievement level you choose, such as graduating college, they may use the trust proceeds as they please.
- Special Needs Trust – Allows you to leave property to a trustee for the use of an individual with special needs, particularly those who receive public benefits such as disability or SSI. Because an inheritance could disqualify such individuals from eligibility for needs-based benefits, a Special Needs Trust can provide for their supplemental needs while preserving their eligibility for public benefits.
It is important to note that while a living trust can avoid probate, it must pass through a trust administration phase to carry out the terms of the trust. At Walker Jones, PC we routinely assist trustees with the trust administration phase and also work to ensure that the rights of beneficiaries are protected.
Probate and Estate Administration
When someone dies having made a will, their estate goes through a court-supervised process known as probate. The person who has been named the executor is responsible for administering the estate, which comes with a number of important duties. These include:
- Probating the will with the Circuit Court
- Filing all required notices
- Inventorying and appraising the estate assets
- Paying outstanding debts and settling claims against the estate
- Paying all federal, state and local taxes, if applicable
- Distributing the estate assets to the beneficiaries
- Preparing and filing proper accountings and closing the estate
In the event that a will has not been created, a family member or close relative may request to be appointed the estate administrator. Depending on the size and complexity of the estate, probate can be a lengthy, expensive and confusing process, although a modest estate can often be handled expediently. We efficiently guide our clients through the probate and estate administration process in Virginia.
Contact an Expert Virginia Wills, Trusts and Probate Attorney Today!
Since 1978, Walker Jones, PC has served the community with honesty, integrity and superior personal service. We take the time to get to know our clients, understand their circumstances, and design plans that are tailored to their unique needs.
Through the years, clients have come to us seeking to create a simple will-based plan and then relied on our legal team for a variety of other needs such as establishing trusts and executing powers of attorney. If you need assistance with a will or a trust, or have questions about how to protect your loved ones, contact our office today for a consultation.