What is Estate planning? Your "Estate" is basically everything you own: your real estate, bank accounts, cars, investments, personal property, etc. "Estate Planning" generally refers to planning for what happens to your assets when you die. A Will can direct your assets where you want them to go, and name an Executor to handle your estate. If you die in Virginia without a Will, Virginia law sets forth your legal heirs, who will inherit your assets.
Estate Planning is more comprehensive than just making a Will. Estate planning often involves a discussion about avoiding probate to make things easier for your loved ones when you pass away. Probate is the legal process by which your estate is administered by an Executor or Administrator, and requires the filing of inventories and accountings with the Commissioner of Accounts, which then become public records. Avoiding probate saves money and trouble and greatly reduces the stress on your loved ones upon your death.
Trusts are one vehicle for avoiding probate, while also providing a level of control over what happens to your assets upon your death.
Estate Planning is more than just planning for death, however, It also involves planning for the management of your assets while you're still alive. For instance, if you become incapacitated due to an accident or illness, who will manage your affairs for you? Most estate plans include a Power of Attorney and Advance Medical Directive to name the person(s) you want to manage your affairs for you if you become incapacitated. If you do not have those documents in place and become incapacitated, someone would have to petition a court to appoint a Guardian and Conservator for you instead. Not only does that cost a lot more, but also you have lost control over naming who will manage your affairs for you, and it is now up to the court to decide.
If you would like to have a discussion about Estate Planning, contact us today for a consultation.
Estate Planning - Senior Law Day 2021 - Washington & Lee University School of Law
Questions on Estate Planning