Estate planning is critical for every individual or family regardless of the size of their estate. Although often overlooked or put off to another day, a comprehensive estate planning strategy is of the utmost importance in order to protect your hard-earned assets, establish guardianship for loved ones, and minimize taxation. Estate planning can be emotional and difficult, but our sensitive, intelligent, and experienced estate attorney will help to ensure that you make practical and prudent decisions regarding these significant issues, and work with you to create an estate plan that brings you peace of mind, best serves and protects your loved ones, expeditiously and efficiently distributes your assets to the individuals or charities of your choosing, and minimizes taxation to your heirs.
Estate planning is not only for large estates or those with significant assets. Virginia estate law provides for an array of options to best protect your estate, yourself, and your heirs. A good estate plan is one that is specifically tailored to your needs, objectives, and goals. These objectives may be best served through a simple Last Will and Testament, a Trust, a power of attorney or advanced medical directive, charitable foundation, limited liability company, corporation, or another option. Depending upon the size of your estate and the types of assets owned, certain pathways will be best to ensure efficient administration, minimum tax consequences, and smooth wealth transfer to the heirs or charitable organizations of your choosing. Our attorney will work with you to analyze your estate, consider your options and the consequences of any choices, and develop a practical plan.
The process for estate planning involves meeting with an attorney at our office. At this meeting the attorney will review your particular circumstances and needs, analyze your particular situation and assets, and strategize with you about how best to preserve your wealth, minimize taxes, avoid probate, and accomplish your other objectives. He will also work with you to assure that your wishes and concerns about medical directives and powers of attorney are considered and addressed.
Once a thorough understanding is achieved our attorney will develop a custom and affordable estate plan for you that is tailored to your specific needs. The attorney will then draft your documents, normally within a couple of weeks of the initial meeting, depending on case-load. You will then return to the office at your convenience to sign and execute your documents in front of our witnesses and notary to ensure that they are valid and enforceable under Virginia law. Our attorney will then work with you to ensure that you have completed the necessary follow-up tasks, such as changing beneficiary designations on insurance or other benefit programs, re-titling real estate or other financial accounts, and any other follow-up measures recommended for you. The attorney will also check-in with you periodically to ensure that your situation has not changed significantly enough to warrant revisions to your estate plan or to keep you abreast of changes in tax or state law that would affect your current plan.
Contact our specialized estate planning attorney today in order to begin the process of developing your estate plan.
For many estates, a simple and enforceable Will is often the fundamental estate planning document. A valid Will is important no matter your age or situation. Your Will allows your estate to distribute your property according to your wishes thus ensuring your legacy. It also allows you to establish care or guardianship for your minor children or other loved ones, appoint an executor of your estate, make specific gifts or bequests, give funeral or burial instructions, and even plan for care of your pets. A Will is required if your intentions are to leave property to individuals or organizations that are not related to you by blood, birth, or marriage. If you are to die without a Will, the court in the jurisdiction where you die is likely to determine how your lifetime of assets is distributed, and who manages the care of your loved ones, with no regard to your wishes. Even if a Will is only a part of a comprehensive estate planning strategy that also utilizes Trusts or other instruments, it is essential to ensure that all of your property is collected, captured, and distributed according to your unique and individual objectives.
In addition to drafting Wills, Royer Caramanis has a sophisticated Trust practice, focused on the identification and creation of Trust instruments best suited to your personal needs and objectives. Trusts are useful for a number of different situations and purposes. Through the use of a Trust, you can confidentially dispose of your assets to your chosen heirs and reduce or even eliminate the costly and time consuming process of court supervised probate. Trusts can be used to provide care for loved ones with special needs or minor children; help to manage shared assets such as family owned real estate, farms or vacation homes; hold insurance proceeds to be used for costs or debts after death; provide protection in the event of divorce or bankruptcy; provide for blended families; administer property in multiple jurisdictions and states; protect assets for beneficiaries who may have difficulty managing or maintaining assets on their own. Trusts instruments take many forms and our attorneys are experienced and well-versed in all manner of Trusts, including, Revocable Living Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, Insurance Trusts, Special Needs Trusts, By-Pass Trusts, Generation Skipping Trusts, and Charitable Remainder Trusts.
Changing Your Estate Plan
As the circumstances and people in your life change, so should your estate plan. Our attorneys work with you to review your estate plan periodically to ensure that your wishes are accurately reflected in your documents and that any changes in your life are accounted for and taken into
consideration. Our attorneys can assist you in revising your estate plan, whether it be a simple codicil to your Will or major changes to your Will or Trust. If you have had changes to your financial situation, retired, gotten married or divorced, had additional children, adopted, moved to a different state or simply changed your mind on some aspect of your estate plan, our attorneys can help you to ensure that your intentions are reflected in your plans and can be implemented. Schedule an appointment today with our estate planning attorney to make any alterations to your estate plan.
Powers of Attorney and Advanced Medical Directives/Living Wills
Many people believe that estate planning involves what happens after you die; however, no comprehensive estate plan is complete without consideration given to the possibility of a disability in the future. Unlike a last will and testament, powers of attorney and advanced medical directives (or living wills) govern what happens in the event of a disability rather than death. If you become disabled and are unable to manage your own affairs, make decisions on your own, or speak for yourself, it is wise to have appointed an agent that you trust to step into your shoes to make those decisions and speak for you.
The person or persons that you appoint as your agent under a durable general power of attorney will have the ability to manage your financial affairs and to make decisions on your behalf in order to maintain, utilize, and preserve your assets while you are unable to do so for yourself. This document can be drafted to become effective only if you become incapacitated or disabled, or may also be effective immediately upon signature.
The person or persons that you appoint as your agent under an advanced medical directive will have the ability to make healthcare decisions for you and give instructions concerning medical intervention when terminally ill or dying. It may also authorize certain individuals to stay informed of your medical status that would otherwise be prevented from accessing information due to privacy laws.
Failure to create a general durable power of attorney and advanced medical directive/living will can be a costly and time consuming mistake. Often people who become disabled but had not created powers of attorney, are forced into guardianship or conservatorship proceedings in court before a judge. These proceedings may result in the appointment of a guardian or conservator who will hold essentially the same powers as an agent appointed under a power of attorney, who is not the agent that the disabled person would have chosen. Both the disabled person and the person seeking to be guardian must be represented by attorneys, and whoever is eventually appointed must then complete mandatory filings with the commissioner of accounts each year. Call Royer Caramanis to schedule an appointment with our estate planning attorney today to avoid these unnecessary costs and headaches.