Your Will…We Make it Easy!

A Will is a legal document outlining who your assets will be distributed to after your death . . . typically to your spouse, a family member, your church, or other organization that you designate to inherit your money and/or property. A Will also specifies a guardian for your minor children.

If you die without preparing a Will, Virginia law has defined what is referred to as an intestate succession process. If you are married, your spouse will inherit your estate. If you are unmarried, but have children, your children will inherit your estate. If you are unmarried and have no children, your closest relatives will receive your money and/or property.

When property is held in ‘joint tenancy with right of survivorship’ by two or more people, upon the death of one of the owners, all of his/her interest in the property is immediately transferred to the surviving owner(s). It is vitally important to understand that ‘joint tenancy’ is not a substitute for Estate Planning. Rather, ‘joint tenancy’ is merely a tool in our Estate Planning toolbox.

For married couples, while full ownership transfers to the surviving spouse upon the death of the first spouse, joint ownership does not help to transfer the estate upon the later death of the surviving spouse. Further, there are multiple problems with adding your adult child’s name as a ‘joint tenant’ on your property deed.

One problem is that while you may believe such a move will help you avoid probate, there is always the risk that your adult child’s creditors will be able to reach the ‘joint tenancy’ property while you are still alive, potentially causing you to lose your house! Adding another person to your deed may also create an unintended taxable gift! One other problem with adding your adult child as a ‘joint tenant’ arises in the unfortunate event your adult child becomes disabled prior to your own death.

A personal guardian for your minor children should be designated in your Will to specify who will provide care and legal guardianship in the unfortunate event both parents die, or if the surviving parent is left unable to care for them. The guardian you specify will remain the legal guardian until your child turns 18 years of age.

If you have minor children and you die without a Will, the Commonwealth of Virginia will decide who to appoint as the legal guardian of your minor children and any inheritance they are to receive. Don’t you want to be in charge of that decision?

Wills can be changed/modified through an addition called a Codicil. If the changes to be made are numerous or significant, it may be a better choice to draft a completely new Will.

Once you sign your final Will, it will be important for you to store it in a safe place. Let your Executor know where your Will is located. It is not necessary to file a Will with the court. You may opt to store your Will indefinitely on your personalized and secure portal available via our McFather Law Firm website.

Probate is the process of the court overseeing the execution of your Will. However, it is important to know that the Probate process can be daunting, time-consuming and costly. After you die, your estate will go through Probate, unless you plan ahead to avoid the Probate process. We can discuss the options available to you designed to legally avoid Probate and design a personalized Estate Plan for you that accomplishes your every goal.