When you're busy living your life, it can be tempting to put off making important decisions about how your estate will be handled if you die. Although it can be difficult to face the idea of your own mortality, having an estate plan is essential to protecting everything you've worked for.
If you die without an estate plan, your property will be distributed to your surviving family members according to Virginia law—and likely not as you would have wanted. Generally, if you're married, all of your property will be passed to your surviving spouse. However, if you have children or other descendants from a previous relationship, your estate will be divided between your surviving spouse and other eligible family members.
While some people may consider drafting an estate plan difficult and emotionally challenging, most benefit from putting their wishes in writing via a will or trust. It’s important to understand these two types of legal documents, how they can be used as part of a comprehensive estate plan, and how an experienced estate planning attorney can help you create them to formalize your final wishes.
A Living Trust Offers Numerous Benefits
A living trust, also known as a revocable trust, is one of the most powerful weapons in your estate planning arsenal. Having a living trust allows your estate to avoid the probate process. Lengthy, costly, and done publicly in view of potentially prying eyes, probate is the process the Commonwealth of Virginia uses to transfer assets to beneficiaries named in a will. For many people, the administration of a trust, which can be accomplished privately and relatively quickly, is preferred.
A living trust also allows you to include specific restrictions and directives, protect beneficiaries' inheritance from creditors, and safeguard a disabled beneficiary's eligibility for needed government benefits. Another benefit of a living trust is the ability to name yourself as trustee, making it possible for you to manage your own trust while you’re alive.
Although living trusts are a popular option, they're far from the only type of trust available. Other common types of Virginia trusts include:
- Ongoing trusts
- Tax-saving trusts
- Charitable trusts
- Family trusts
A skilled estate planning attorney can advise you on which type of trust would best meet your needs.
Why You Still Need a Will
While a trust can be an invaluable part of a comprehensive estate plan, it isn't a replacement for a will. Not all of your property will or can be included in your trust, which means you'll need a will to determine the distribution of assets that didn't make it into the trust. Wills crafted for this reason are often known as “pour-over wills” because they deal with assets leftover after the formation of a trust. If you only have a trust and no will, the assets not included in the trust will be divided according to Virginia law.
Drafting a Virginia Will or Trust
Drafting a Virginia will or trust is a complicated undertaking that requires an in-depth knowledge of estate law. For example, putting something in a will or trust doesn't automatically make it legally binding. While having a will or trust can ensure your wishes are honored, your wishes must first conform to estate laws in the Commonwealth of Virginia. A qualified and reputable estate planning attorney can draft a legally binding will and help you avoid potential legal pitfalls.
Work With an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
Your assets are the result of a lifetime of hard work. If you have strong feelings about how your property should be distributed after your death, having a comprehensive estate plan in place can help put your mind at ease.
At Quest Law PLLC, our seasoned estate planning attorney can assist you in crafting an estate plan that meets your needs and protects your interests. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a private consultation with a member of our legal team.