Estate Planning Lawyer and Will Attorney for Roanoke, VA

Have you been postponing the creation of a will and estate plan?  If so, we can help.

There are many reasons why people postpone seeing an attorney for estate planning.  They are too busy.  They believe that they will always have time to do it later.  They may fear that the cost will be too high.

At our firm, we can help with all of these concerns.  We offer a fixed fee for estate plan creation (which is based upon the complexity of your assets and needs), and we accept credit card payments.

As Roanoke estate planning lawyers and will attorneys, our objective is to create a cost-effective, comprehensive estate plan to protect your assets and family if you become severely incapacitated, and to ensure that there is a clear plan in place for the distribution of your assets after death.  With such a plan in place, your legacy can be the positive relationships with family and friends, rather then turmoil that often results when a person dies without a will or estate plan and fighting erupts between family members over their loved one’s assets.

What You Should Know about Estate Planning and Wills in Virginia

If you’re an adult in Virginia, it’s important to understand the following:

  • If you die without a will or trust, Virginia intestacy laws will determine who will inherit your assets. 

It does not matter how clear you may have been in life in telling family and loved ones who will inherit specific assets; Virginia law provides that your next-of-kin will inherit in equal shares. 

  • Video wills are not valid in Virginia. 

There is a growing trend for people to create videos that can be shown to their loved ones after their death.  These videos may contain a person reading their will, or the video may contain expressions of love or advice that a testator wants to pass on to their loved ones.  These videos may be helpful to a grieving family.

While a testator may read their will on a video, or even purport to explain on the video who gets their assets, the video itself does not have any legal effect.  Except for a few limited circumstances in which oral wills are recognized, a will must be in writing in Virginia in order to be valid.    

  • Handwritten wills without two witnesses attesting to the execution of the will have no validity in Virginia. 

Handwritten wills are referred to as “holographic” wills.  Holographic wills are not valid in Virginia, as there are no witnesses that can testify to matters that may arise concerning the validity of the will (such as whether the testator was “of sound mind” when the will was executed, or whether the person was or was not under duress).

Do I Need a Will if I Have a Trust?

Yes – all adults should have a will.

Even if most of a person’s assets have been placed in a trust, there may be residual assets (like home furnishings, and other possible assets that may be subsequently acquired after a trust is created) that are never made part of the trust during the person’s life.

If a will is not created but a trust exists, the assets included in the trust will be managed and distributed in accordance with the trust.  All other assets outside the trust will be distributed in accordance with state intestate law.

How Does the Estate Plan Process Work?

The elements of creating an estate plan involves the following:

  • Asset identification. When we meet with you, it will be helpful if you have a list of the major assets that you own, such as:
    • Homes and other real estate
    • Vehicles
    • Investment and retirement accounts
    • Any expected large inheritances
  • The intended recipients of your assets, and your asset distribution objectives. Such recipients can include family members, as well as organizations (such as churches and colleges).  If you do not want your assets to be distributed entirely at your death, we can discuss whether a trust may be beneficial.
  • Who should have control over your finances and lifestyle choices if you become disabled and cannot make these decisions for yourself. Creating a Power (or Powers) of Attorney are critical in the event that you become severely disabled.  With an effective Power of Attorney in place, the person whom you name (called the “attorney-in-fact”) can begin to immediately act on your behalf.  Without a Power of Attorney, often a family will need to go to court to get a court order appointing a guardian or conservator, and ongoing court oversight typically will be required.
  • What are your wishes for care if you are in a terminal stage and cannot express your care wishes? Many people will wish to have only palliative care (basically, care to make a patient feel comfortable, such as pain medication) and DNR (do not resuscitate) instructions.  Others may wish to have medical personnel continue to actively treat an underlying condition.  Regardless of your preference, creating a Living Will or Advance Directive can make your wishes known, so that your family and doctors will not need to guess as what your wishes may be.

Creating Your Personalized Estate Plan

The best estate plans are those that achieve a person’s intent in the most straight-forward and cost-efficient manner possible.  Call us to learn how we can create the right estate plan for you.