Most people know they should address the important, but difficult topic of estate planning. No one likes to dwell on matters of death, often citing a lack of time as a reason for not compiling the proper documents at an early age. According to AARP, about 60 percent of U.S. adults have not made plans regarding end-of-life matters. When you’re beginning the estate planning process, it’s important to retain the help of a skilled Roanoke will attorney who can help you every step of the way.
An estate attorney at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico can help you determine which final documents you need for your circumstances, whether that be a last will and testament, documents outlining guardianship arrangements, or other relevant forms.
Understanding Wills in Virginia
Under Virginia law, a valid will must be in writing and signed by you (the “testator). The document must also be written and signed at your direction, and in your presence. Because oral wills are not valid in Virginia, waiting to draft a will is not a good idea.
A written will in your own handwriting that is signed in the presence of two competent witnesses is valid under state law. But a handwritten, do-it-yourself will may create problems rather than solve them. Our will attorneys can draft a last will and testament that comports with the law and considers other issues such as:
- Including or excluding survivors
- Minor guardianships (You can, in effect, “will” your children.)
- Divorce and remarriage
- Naming an executor who you trust to follow your wishes
By having a will, the probate process in Virginia is simplified and likely less costly. There are also estate planning strategies that our attorneys can explain that may help your heirs avoid probate after your death. These options include planning documents such as living trusts, joint ownership, and payable or transferable-on-death assets such as bank accounts, securities, real estate, and vehicles.
This type of trust is created in your lifetime. The agreement designates a trustee as the legal possessor of the assets and property in the trust. Upon your death, the property passes directly to your heirs, and does not go through probate.
Payable or Transferrable on Death Accounts
Another way our attorneys can help plan your estate to avoid probate includes making sure there are beneficiaries to receive assets that are payable or transferrable at your death. For example, your bank account can be payable on death if you have named a beneficiary. You may also utilize transfer on death (TOD) accounts for retirement accounts, stocks, and bonds.
Other Important Estate Planning Documents
Not all estate planning documents concern matters after death. Equally important are documents that spell out your wishes as to certain medical and financial decisions if you are incapacitated or unavailable. Neither a power of attorney (POA) or living will concern the distribution of your assets after death. The estate planning attorneys at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico can assist you with these essential documents. The only pre-requisites to having these documents is to be at least 18-years-old, and of sound mind.
The main difference between the two documents is that a living will typically corresponds with deathbed situations. A living will details what, if any, life-prolonging measures you want. It generally covers mechanical means of extending life (a “breathing machine,” for example), and withholding of food and water. A POA, on the other hand, gives instructions regarding financial resources, medical treatment, and power to make decisions to a trusted agent. For example, some people do not want blood transfusions because it is against their religious beliefs. Also, someone quite simply, must be available to pay the bills if you are unable to. You will want to choose someone you are confident will honor your wishes as your POA.
What if Someone Wants to Contest a Will?
By working with the wills and estates attorneys at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico, you can lessen the risks of potential heirs contesting your will. Will contests can be expensive to your estate, lengthy, and upsetting to all involved. Your executor will be additionally burdened by any will contest, so it is important to seek the help of an experienced attorney to help avoid this possibility.
Contact a Roanoke Will Attorney for Help
Procrastination about matters involving your children’s guardians, illness, incapacitation, and death is understandable. You may not be here for the fallout from not having a will, but the people you love will be, and the strain will likely add to their grief and pain. At Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico, our wills and estates attorneys are here to help you find the estate planning options you need to protect your assets, provide for your arrangements, and give you and your family peace of mind. To discuss your estate planning needs with a skilled Roanoke lawyer, contact us today at (540) 655-1854.