An Experienced Virginia Estate and Will Attorney Answers Common Questions About Wills

John, a vibrant 42-year-old with a promising career, always brushed aside the topic of wills. “I’m young and healthy,” he’d reason, “there’s plenty of time for that later.” Sadly, John’s life was tragically cut short in a car accident. The absence of a will threw his family into a whirlwind of confusion and emotional turmoil. 

John wasn’t alone. Many people mistakenly believe they don’t need a will, often due to misconceptions about wealth or age. But as John’s story illustrates, the consequences of intestacy (dying without a will) can be significant, impacting even those with seemingly modest estates.

In this blog, an experienced estate and will attorney dispels these myths by answering common questions about wills. Remember, a will isn’t just about wealth; it’s about ensuring your wishes are respected and your loved ones are protected during a difficult time after your passing.

Continue reading to learn more, then contact us at (703) 865-6100 for personalized service and attention.

What Is a Will?

A will is a legal document that outlines your wishes for how your assets should be distributed after your death. It can also name a guardian for your minor children and an executor to handle the administration of your estate.

Do I Need a Will?

Every adult should have a will, regardless of age or the size of their estate. If you die without a will, your assets will be distributed according to the state’s “intestate succession” law, which may not reflect your wishes. Creating a will also minimizes conflict among your family members, and expedites the probate process.

How Do I Create a Will?

You can create a will by yourself, but it is recommended you consult with an attorney to ensure that your will is valid and enforceable. An attorney can also help you understand the legal implications of your decisions and draft a will that meets your specific needs. We invite you to read our blog, How to Create a Will in Virginia, for detailed information about creating a will.

What Can I Include in My Will?

Your will can include instructions for the distribution of your real estate, personal property, financial accounts, and other assets. You can also name a guardian for your minor children and an executor to handle the administration of your estate.

Who Should I Name as Executor of My Will?

The executor of your will is responsible for carrying out your wishes as outlined in the document and in accordance with the law. This person should be someone you trust to handle your affairs responsibly and efficiently.

What If I Don’t Have Any Close Family Members?

Even if you don’t have immediate family, creating a will is still highly recommended. Through your will, you can designate beneficiaries of your choosing, such as friends, charities, or even educational institutions. This ensures your assets are distributed according to your wishes and don’t default to the state through intestacy laws. 

Can I Change My Will After I Create It?

Yes. Your will is not a permanent document and can be modified throughout your life to reflect changes in your circumstances. This flexibility allows you to adapt your wishes as your family grows, relationships evolve, or your financial situation changes. It’s crucial to update your will after significant life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, or the death of a beneficiary.

What Is the Difference Between a Will and a Living Trust?

A will is a legal document that takes effect after your death. A living trust (also called a revocable trust or revocable living trust) is a legal arrangement that allows you to transfer ownership of your assets to a trustee who manages them for your benefit during your lifetime and then distributes them according to your wishes after your death.

Is a Handwritten Will Valid in Virginia?

In Virginia, while a handwritten will (holographic will) is technically legal, it’s strongly discouraged. Holographic wills can be easily challenged in court due to concerns about authenticity, proper execution, and potential ambiguities. This can lead to delays, additional costs, and even unintended distribution of your assets. To ensure your will is legally sound and enforceable, it’s highly recommended to consult with an experienced Virginia estate planning attorney who can draft a formal, witnessed will that adheres to state regulations.

What Happens to My Debts If I Have a Will?

Generally, any unpaid debts are covered by your estate – the assets owned at your death. Your executor will be responsible for paying your outstanding bills prior to distributing money to your named beneficiaries. If the value of your estate is insufficient to cover all of your enforceable debts, any remaining debt may become the responsibility of co-signers or be discharged by creditors. 

Is a Will Expensive to Create If I Hire an Attorney?

The cost of creating a will can vary depending on several factors, such as the complexity of your estate, your location, and the experience level of the attorney you choose. However, compared to the potential costs and complications associated with intestacy, creating a will is generally considered a cost-effective way to protect your loved ones and ensure your wishes are carried out.

Empowering Your Future: An Estate Planning Checklist

Here’s a helpful Estate Planning Checklist to guide you through the initial stages of planning your legacy:

  • Gather important documents: Birth certificates, marriage licenses, social security numbers, titles, insurance policies, etc. 
  • Inventory your assets: List all your possessions, including real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, investments, etc. 
  • Consider your beneficiaries: Decide who you want to inherit your assets and in what proportions. 
  • Choose an executor: Select a trusted individual to manage your estate after your passing. 
  • Schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney: Discuss your specific needs and create a personalized plan. 
  • Review and update your will regularly: Revisit your will periodically to reflect changes in your life or circumstances.

Don’t Leave Your Legacy to Chance

Understanding the intricacies of wills in Virginia and estate planning can empower you to make informed decisions about your future and ensure your wishes are carried out with clarity and respect. While this blog has addressed common questions, navigating the legal nuances and creating a personalized plan often requires the guidance of experienced local attorneys for wills.

If you’d like to learn more about creating a will tailored to your specific circumstances, the legal team at PJI Law is here to assist you. We understand the unique challenges and considerations our clients face when planning their estates. Our Fairfax, Virginia estate and will attorneys have extensive experience in crafting wills, trusts, advance medical directives, powers of attorney, and other essential estate planning documents, ensuring your legacy is protected with comprehensive strategies.

Don’t leave your future and the well-being of your loved ones to chance. Call us today at (703) 865-6100 to schedule a consultation and receive personalized attention from our dedicated team. Alternatively, you can conveniently schedule your consultation online through our secure online form.

By taking proactive steps today, you can gain peace of mind knowing your wishes are documented, your loved ones are protected, and your legacy is secured for generations to come.

Copyright © 2024. PJI Law, PLC. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

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Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 865-6100

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