Charlottesville Estate Planning Attorney
Helping Virginians of All Ages Plan for Their Futures
Building and maintaining an estate plan is one of the most compassionate things you can do for your loved ones. An estate plan allows you to implement tools to protect you while you are alive and safeguard your assets. Estate planning give you the peace of mind that your wishes will be honored. It also protects your loved ones from uncertainty once you do pass away.
Many people associate estate planning, particularly wills, with advanced age, but the truth is that estate planning is important for everyone. No matter your circumstances, proactively exploring estate planning is a wise choice.
Our Charlottesville estate planning lawyer at Norton Health law takes an empathetic, individualized approach to estate law. Our team can evaluate what estate planning documents can better prepare you for the future.
Why Hire a Lawyer to Plan Your Estate?
It is possible to create a basic estate plan without the assistance of a lawyer. However, an attorney can help you develop a personalized estate plan that protects your wishes and best interests.
Experience attorneys for estate planning can:
- Help you include charitable gifting in your estate plan
- Answer your questions about passing on your business
- Assist you with federal estate tax issues
- Ensure your will is legally valid
- Go over your best options for creating a trust
Additionally, if you need to make changes to your estate plan, a lawyer can work with you to ensure your plan lines up with your long term goals.
Drafting a Will
A last will and testament is one of the most popular tools of estate planning. In Virginia, a will empowers you to make determinations about what happens to your property and assets after you pass.
A properly drafted will in Charlottesville can help you:
- Name a guardian for your minor children
- Designate who receives your property and assets and when
- Appoint an executor to ensure your final wishes are carried out
- Name a caretaker for your pets
Wills are great tools to assist in distributing your property. However, their contents can be disputed in probate court. Our experienced estate planning attorney can identify potential points of contention. We can optimize your will language to reduce the odds of probate conflict.
Creating a Trust
Another means of avoiding probate is through the use of trusts. A revocable living trust can be amended throughout your life and used to re-title some or all of your assets.
Unlike a will that must be taken through probate, a trust passes property outside the probate process. This saves everyone considerable time, money, and the need for legal assistance.
A trust may also give you greater power to control the circumstances of distributions. It gives you the power to choose a person, called a trustee, who has a legal duty carry out your wishes.
Other types of trusts our estate planning lawyer can help you with include:
- Irrevocable trusts – Cannot be altered, typically preserve assets from federal estate taxes or entitlement to public benefits
- Charitable trusts – Set aside assets to benefit a charitable organization of your choice
- Pet trusts – Safeguard your pets' future by naming a caretaker and setting aside money to care for them
- Irrevocable life insurance trusts – Handle life insurance policies and the administration and distribution of their funds as they become available
Managing an estate can be a tall order, especially if you have numerous assets that require regular attention. While you can administer your own living trust, you will need to appoint someone to administer your estate. When the deceased person left a will, this person is called an executor. When there is no will, this person is called an administrator.
Your executor should be someone you trust, as they must safeguard your assets and carry out your other wishes. Some appoint a close family member, but this can be a burden for a loved one already grieving after your passing. Many choose to instead authorize their personal representative to manage their estate, even while they are still alive.
Our estate lawyers have substantial experience in estate administration. We can help make sure your estate planning interests are protected. We have full knowledge of best practices in preserving your interests and can ensure your final wishes are honored.
Advanced Medical Directives
Many people associate estate planning with what happens after you pass away. However, some do not consider the consequences of failing to prepare for unexpected injuries. In this case, it is essential your loved ones and health care professionals understand your wishes.
This can be accomplished through healthcare planning, which should include an Advanced Medical Directive. An Advance Medical Directive (AMD) establishes your wishes should you be unable to advocate for yourself in a medical situation.
This may include determining which procedures or medications you would or wouldn't want to receive under particular circumstances. It may also include naming a surrogate decision maker to make those decisions for you. Finally, it can include instructions for how to handle life support, vegetative comas, or other conditions.
Durable Powers of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney is another document every adult should consider executing. A Durable Power of Attorney allows you to name one or more trusted representatives, called agents. These agents can make decisions for you regarding your personal and business affairs should you become unable to do so yourself.
Your Durable Power of Attorney agent will work with your AMD agent to ensure your affairs are handled as you wish. A Durable Power of Attorney also saves your loved ones the stress of petitioning for a guardianship if you are incapacitated.
Conservatorships and Guardianships
Your loved one may not have planned ahead by executing an Advance Medical Directive and/or Durable Power of Attorney. In this case, petitioning the court for the appointment of a conservator or guardian may be necessary.
A guardian is a person appointed by the court to make decisions regarding the necessities of a disabled person's life. These can include housing, healthcare, and education.
A conservator is a person appointed by the court to safeguard and make decisions regarding an incapacitated person's property.
“Beth Norton is the best attorney for estate planning, elder and consumer health care law.”- Fred J., RN, PhD, Senior Care Advisor
No matter your situation, healthcare and estate planning are essential to preparing for your future. Both you and your loved ones deserve the peace of mind a well-prepared estate plan provides.
Our estate attorney has considerable experience working in healthcare in addition to law. This gives us a unique understanding of what situations you might face and what elements your estate plan should include. We can evaluate your situation and advise you on how to best safeguard you and your loved ones’ futures.