Below is a partial list of the most common documents we prepare for estate planning purposes:
Wills are primary estate planning tools. A will is often necessary to ensure proper distribution of your property. Without a will, the intestacy laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia often determine the distribution of your property, which may or may not be in the manner you would have intended. Let our attorneys lend their knowledge of Prince William, Stafford and Fairfax Counties to provide for your financial security. We can draft a will that holds up without question when the time comes. Our advanced degrees in taxation also enable us to anticipate financial consequences and likely outcomes. Financial security for your loved ones is our primary concern.
In a Trust, you transfer property to another person or entity, known as the trustee, who now will legally own that property. You can decide to transfer your property now as part of a Living Trust or you can establish a trust through your will that will take effect when you die. A trustee can be either an individual or an institution, such as a bank—and you can serve as your own trustee in many instances. Trusts represent a giant jigsaw puzzle entirely on their own, because there are several different kinds of trusts. Read more about common misconceptions regarding trusts in our FAQ tab. Our attorneys can review the options with you and advise you on the trust that makes the most sense for you and your assets.
Durable Powers of Attorney are the traditional documents for incapacity planning. Simply, these are contracts in which the principal appoints an agent to undertake the actions specified in the document. The primary purpose of creating a durable power of attorney is to enable the agent to act on your behalf when you cannot act for yourself. These documents are deceptively complex and can create many unintended results if not drafted and executed properly.
An Advance Medical Directive, which in Virginia is the combination of both a living will and a health care power of attorney, is necessary when you are no longer able to make medical decisions on your own. This legal document allows you to indicate which medical procedures—such as cardiac resuscitation, respirator and feeding tubes—you want to be used, withheld, or discontinued when you are unable to give your own oral direction.
While we do not expect to make each of our clients an expert in the field, we are able to impart the practical background and general guidelines that are essential to an understanding of the impact of taxes on an estate. Our estate planning is based on meeting the objectives of our clients while still trying to minimize or avoid taxes to the greatest extent possible under each client’s particular circumstances.
We explain to each client the general aspects of the transfer tax structure, including such components as:
the tax rates
the marital deduction
the exemption equivalent of the unified credit
the portability of the exemption equivalent to a surviving spouse; and
the annual donee exclusion.
When appropriate, we also apply more specialized vehicles such as life insurance trusts, limited liability companies, trusts for minors and bypass trusts. A client’s assets are analyzed in light of these transfer tax considerations to pinpoint various planning opportunities.
The most important element of estate planning is to ensure our client’s goals and interests ultimately are carried out. We are well aware that tax and administrative considerations often conflict with the desires of the client concerning the disposition of property. A client’s comfort level is the key factor to ensure that these tax and administrative considerations do not override the more important need to carry out the client’s wishes.
We discuss in detail with each client how he or she would like to dispose of property. Should it pass outright to a spouse? Should it be retained in trust for a spouse or other heir? Are there special needs of any child? Are any children handicapped? What are the financial capabilities of the family members? When should property be distributed to children or grandchildren? Who should be guardians of any minor children? Who should be the trustees of any trust arrangements created for heirs? Who should be the executors?
Only after working with our clients to answer these and other questions can we blend them together with the gift, estate and income tax solutions that also may affect a client’s estate. Our most important service to a client is to ensure his or her interests and goals are furthered, and not hindered, by the estate plan we recommend.
We are glad to show you how to keep our firm’s fees to a minimum in estate administration matters provided that personal representatives and family members are willing and able to do as much of the work as possible. We are pleased to provide instruction, supervision and review of such “do-it-yourself” efforts.
We employ dedicated and experienced paralegal staff to assist in preparing most of the probate documents. We bill their time at less than half the rate of our attorneys and delegate as much of the probate work to them as is appropriate. If you want us to assume most or all of the burden of the probate filing requirements, we are willing and able to do so and are at your disposal. If you want us to coordinate with other professional advisors to share the duties, we are comfortable with such teamwork arrangements as well. If a federal estate tax return is required to be filed, we generally undertake that responsibility; however, we cooperate with outside accountants of your choice (including those that we may recommend to you if asked) to prepare all final income tax returns, as well as all estate and trust fiduciary income tax returns.
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