Did you know that 67% of Americans have no estate plan? According to an April 2022 survey by Caring.com, an information website for caregivers, the top reason Americans give for their lack of planning is procrastination.
By reading this article, you are on the path to taking control of your and your family’s future. If you have been searching online for “estate planning lawyer near me,” you likely have many questions about estate plans. At PJI Law, PLC, our estate planning lawyers have helped many individuals and families in Northern Virginia create estate plans. Based on our extensive experience, we have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions that clients ask. The answers may surprise you.
What Is Estate Planning?
Simply put, estate planning is a plan you create to decide how your assets will be managed in the event of your incapacitation or death. Should you suddenly become debilitated, someone else will have to manage your bank accounts, pay your bills, authorize medical treatment, and oversee your assets. If you’re married, you might assume that your spouse would handle those duties – but what if your spouse is also incapacitated? An estate plan names your designated representative and backup representatives, giving them legal authority to carry out your wishes.
As for the unpleasant subject of death, the old adage is true: there are no U-Hauls behind a hearse. Since you can’t bring your bank accounts and possessions with you in death, you should decide in advance where your estate will go – to family, friends, your favorite charity, your place of worship, or even to reduce the federal debt. An estate planning attorney can help you with the details so that your plan complies with Virginia statutes.
My Estate Is Small. Do I Still Need an Estate Plan?
A common misconception is that only the uber-wealthy need estate plans. Even if you consider your estate to be uncomplicated, you need an estate plan that legally describes your wishes for medical care in the event you are incapacitated; names representatives who are authorized to act on your behalf; and designates your beneficiaries.
If you neglect to make these written instructions in advance and you experience a devastating accident or pass away, a Virginia judge will control your person and your estate.
Can I Make an Estate Plan by Myself?
There are websites that explain how individuals can make their own estate plans. However, these websites frequently have no data on state or federal statutes, or if they do have information on laws, it can be outdated.
Everyone’s estate is unique, and no cookie-cutter plan will fit your particular circumstances. At PJI Law, PLC, our estate planning lawyers provide advice that is specific to your concerns and desires. You can trust us to be current on estate law as regulated by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the federal government, and the Internal Revenue Service.
What’s the Difference Between a Will, an Advance Directive, and a Trust?
Think of an estate plan as a house. Depending on your situation, your “house” may have a few or several “rooms.” Some of the basic “rooms” include:
- Will – a written document that details who will receive your assets after your death. A will may also include instructions on funeral arrangements, names guardians for your minor children or adult dependents with special needs, and assigns owners to your pets. In Virginia, wills must be witnessed by two competent people.
- Advance directive – written instructions addressing decisions if you are seriously injured, terminally ill, in a coma, or near the end of life. The advance directive lists the person or people you appoint as agents to direct your healthcare decisions. Like a will, advance directives in Virginia must be witnessed by two competent people.
- Trust – an estate tool that helps people reduce taxes, avoid probate, and provide financial support for beneficiaries (including pets) after one’s death. Unlike a will, a trust takes effect during your lifetime. Various trust options are available, and a reliable estate planning attorney can advise you which type of trust is suitable for your needs.
When Should I Update My Estate Plan?
You should review your estate plan every three to five years. You should update your estate plan if you’ve had a significant life change, such as:
- Marriage or divorce
- New children or grandchildren
- Death of a loved one
- Relocation to another state or country
- Change in tax laws
- Change in assets
- Change in status of guardian, executor, or trustee
I’m a Business Owner. Can I Use an Estate Plan to Delineate Business Succession to My Family?
Yes. The best place to start is with an experienced estate planning attorney, who can prepare detailed checklists for you and your family, and coordinate with accountants, financial planners, and other professionals as needed. Our team at PJI Law, PLC, is experienced in both estate law and business law.
PJI Law, PLC: Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys in Northern Virginia
An online search for “estate planning attorney near me,” brings up many options. For PJI Law, PLC, estate planning is not a one-off transactional process. Rather, we view estate planning as a lifelong partnership between ourselves and our clients. Our attention to detail and high level of responsiveness are why so many clients recommend our legal services.
To schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer, call us at (703) 865-6100 today, or fill out our online form. We serve clients throughout Northern Virginia from our offices in Fairfax and Leesburg, Virginia.
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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.