• Appoint substitute decision makers for financial (using a Durable Power of Attorney) and medical decisions (using a Medical Power of Attorney or Advance Medical Directive) in the event that you cannot make them yourself.
• Include instructions for your care if you become disabled.
• Name a guardian for minor children and possibly a trustee of a trust for their benefit.
• Provide for family members with special needs without disrupting their eligibility for government benefits.
• Provide for loved ones who might be irresponsible with money or who may need future protection from creditors or divorce.
• Include life insurance to provide for your family at your death, disability income insurance to replace your income if you cannot work due to illness or injury, and long-term care insurance to help pay for your care in case of an extended illness or injury.
• Provide for the transfer of your business at your retirement, disability, or death.
• Be an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Your plan should be reviewed and updated regularly as your family and financial situations (and laws) change.
Estate planning is for everyone!
Estate planning is not just for “retired” people. Unfortunately, we can’t successfully predict how long we will live, and illness and accidents happen to people of all ages. Estate Planning is important (and has a different focus) at all stages of life.
Estate planning is not just for “the wealthy,” either. In fact, estate planning is oftentimes more important for families with modest assets, because they can least afford to lose them.
If you don’t have a plan, Virginia has one for you, but you may not like it.
In the event of a disability:
If you can’t handle your personal affairs due to a mental or physical incapacity, only a court can appoint someone to do so for you. A judge, and not your family, will control how your assets are used to care for you through a conservatorship or guardianship. Virginia guardianships and conservatorships can become expensive and are time consuming and the proceedings are open to the public.
At your death:
If you die without an estate plan in Virginia, your assets will be distributed according to the Virginia laws of intestate succession. This means your spouse could receive only a fraction of your estate, and if you have no spouse or children, long-lost relatives (so-called “laughing heirs”) may inherit your estate. If you have minor children, the court will control their inheritance. If all parents of a minor child die, then the court will appoint a guardian for the child without knowing whom you would have chosen. Given that you have the choice, wouldn’t you prefer these matters be handled privately by your family, not by the courts? Wouldn’t you prefer to make your own choices about who receives what and when? And, if you have young children, wouldn’t you prefer to have a say in who will raise them if you can’t?
Estate planning doesn’t have to be expensive.
At Atlantic Law, we believe that you don’t have to have a fortune to need a good estate plan and it shouldn’t cost a fortune to get one. If you don’t think you can afford a complex estate plan now, start with what you can afford. Then, let your planning develop and expand as your needs change and your financial situation improves. Don’t try to do this yourself to save money. Atlantic Law can provide you with critical guidance and peace of mind that your documents are prepared properly, saving you money in the long run.