In Virginia, "estate planning" broadly refers to the process through which someone determines what is to be done with their assets after death.
The first step in any estate plan is to figure out what you really want to be done with your assets after your death. This is a very personal decision, and you should discuss it with your family, and others who might have a direct interest in your decisions. As for really implementing your goals, you should probably speak with a legal and/or financial professional to figure out the best way to accomplish these goals.
In addition to decisions regarding the disposition of your property, you should decide how you want to spend your final days. For instance, many people have a strong preference about whether and to what extent they'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Whatever your choice on this matter is, you should make it clear to the people who will be positioned to make such choices for you, if you are unable.
A reliable estate planner in Virginia may also help you maximize the percentage of your assets that go to your chosen beneficiaries, by minimizing the impact of taxes and court fees. Additionally, preventing a will or other estate plan from being litigated in court will save your survivors an incalculable amount of time, money, and energy - and the better an estate plan is, the lower its chances of ending up in court.
Common Elements of Estates in Virginia
Estate plans in Virginia almost always have these elements:
Will: A will is a written instrument stating what you want to be done with your assets after you die. There are many pitfalls that can come up in the drafting of a will. Nonetheless, because the will doesn't have any legal or practical effect until after the person who made it died, they can't exactly correct these problems when they become apparent. Thus, quality drafting, usually with the assistance of a seasoned attorney, is essential.
Power of Attorney: This is an arrangement that gives another person the power to make certain decisions, normally related to finances and medical care, on your behalf, if you become incapacitated or disabled, and thus unable to make or express your own decisions. You can choose who you give this authority to. For obvious reasons, it should be somebody you trust.
Funeral Arrangements: If you have any choice whatsoever on how your mortal remains should be handled, you should make it clear to your family, in writing. You should further make the necessary arrangements with a funeral home, in advance. If possible, you should try to pay in advance for your funeral expenses, to save your survivors the further burden of planning and paying for a funeral. These arrangements should be laid out somewhere other than in your will, because a will normally isn't read for days or weeks after the testator's death, by which point it is usually too late.
Do I Need a Virginia Estate Planning Attorney?
Estate planning is very important (if you care about what happens to your family after your death), and can involve some pretty hard decisions. It should be clear, then, that a seasoned Virginia estate planning attorney will likely be worth the cost, because they can give your wishes the best possible chance of taking effect.
Interesting Facts About Virginia
Virginia became a U.S. state in 1788 and was the 10th state to join the Union. The state of Virginia is formally known as "The Commonwealth of Virginia", and its official nickname is the "Old Dominion". Occasionally, people refer to Virginia as "the Mother of Presidents", as 8 U.S. presidents were born in the state.
As one of the original U.S. colonies, Virginia's legal system is also one of the oldest in the country. For example, Virginia's legislature, the Virginia General Assembly, is the oldest legislature operating in the Western hemisphere. The oldest police force in the U.S., the Virginia Capitol Police, is also located in Virginia. Virginia has a well-developed system of case laws, as well as a body of statutes known as the Code of Virginia.
Legal claims in Virginia are processed in the state judicial system, consisting of the state Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals of Virginia, and the General District and Circuit Courts. Many landmark cases have arisen out of Virginia, such as Loving v. Virginia (1967), an important anti-segregation case. Another frequently cited Virginia case is Atkins v. Virginia (2002), which involved the 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Lawyers in Virginia represent clients in all types of legal claims. Although most of these are processed at the trial court level, Virginia lawyers also file appeals through the state's appeal system. A Virginia attorney can assist you by answering legal questions and providing much-needed representation in court.