Is An Executor Responsible for Managing Estate Property?

An executor, also known in some states as a personal representative, has many different responsibilities associated with closing out an estate. This is why most people sit down with their estate planning lawyer to name their executor in their will. This person formally opens the probate process but continues to carry out many of the most important tasks with closing out the estate.

It is also the job of the executor to keep estate assets safe until they are turned over to the people who inherit them or until they are sold to pass on to creditors and to pay down debts.

This means that some precautionary measures need to be taken on behalf of the executor starting with safeguarding household and personal items. These are most likely to be sought after by family members who might not realize the formal probate or asset transfer process. This includes collectibles, jewelry, art and cash. Unfortunately, family members might try to help themselves to items that truly are not yet theirs.

You can tell everyone who is asking for certain pieces that it will take some time for you to evaluate all of the aspects of the estate before passing it on. Explain to any family members who are confused that you have a legal responsibility to ensure that even the smallest item in an estate is appropriately accounted for and that all proper procedures are being followed. Likewise, if the deceased owned real estate, make sure that it is properly secured with locks on the doors.

Unfortunately, homes of deceased individuals are often targets for thieves, especially those who are seeking drugs when the deceased party was on pain medication at the end of their life. Consider using things such as lights on, timers, and an affordable security system to maintain the property.

Need more support with Virginia Beach, VA estate planning basics? Set up a call today.

Do You Need an Estate Plan Maintenance Program?

Many estate planning law offices provide a broad range of different types of services for their clients. Understanding this terminology and the options available to you can help you to make an informed decision about what’s most appropriate for you. One such term is a maintenance program. This is a membership or maintenance program as a form of an estate planning law firm model based on ongoing representation of that person’s needs.

Many people have the perception that estate planning is once and done, but this is simply not accurate. Due to changes in state and federal laws as well as alterations in your life you’ll need an estate plan that changes and adapts as you do. Maintenance plans can vary but at their minimum, will frequently contain a periodic review of estate planning documents, client goals, asset ownership and other matters related to the individual’s estate planning.

This proactive engagement allows you to work directly with an attorney who will keep you informed about serious changes in the estate planning landscape so that you can make informed decisions about adaptations to make.

While creating your estate plan is the first step, finding a Virginia Beach law firm who offers you the ongoing support of a maintenance program can really help you define your estate planning goals today and into the future.

Scheduling a consultation with an experienced and dedicated estate planning lawyer can assist you with a holistic approach and a strategy aligned with your individual needs.


Why Is a Date of Death Value So Important for Your Estate Plan?

When you pass away, the individual appointed as your personal representative is responsible for handling many different tasks in closing out your estate. One of these includes getting date of death values for all property inside a trust or in your estate. This is true and required even if only one person will inherit everything inside your estate.

In a Virginia estate, the chosen personal representative essentially becomes the custodian of this property. During the probate process, it’s managed by the personal representative and kept safe or invested until it becomes time to pass this on to pay off creditors or to distribute to estate beneficiaries.

If you sell the assets shortly after this person passes away, you would be able to use the sale value as the date of death value. Without a sale on the horizon, however, the executor is responsible for getting those assets appraised by an expert. There are four primary reasons why date of death value is so important.

These are for purposes of determining estate taxes, identifying the new tax basis for beneficiaries receiving the asset, qualifying for small estate status or splitting the estate, such as in situations in which a will calls for beneficiaries to equally share assets.

In all of these circumstances, it is important to engage the services of an appraiser. Working with a brokerage account manager is more complicated because many people reinvest their earned dividends. This means the number of shares that they would own could potentially change every single month and this would require a call into the brokerage to verify. For unique items, look for someone to assist you from the Appraisers’ Association of America or the American Society of Appraisers.

Need help with your Virginia Beach, VA estate? Reach out today for a meeting.


What Important Estate Planning Documents Should be Stored Together?

Any document that might be needed to explain legally binding directions regarding your decisions or your wishes should be stored safely so that it can be quickly and easily accessed if something happens to you. Most people already have a filing folder to keep things like birth certificates and Social Security cards but there are other documents that you might want to have easily accessible in a fireproof safe so that they can be protected and easily found.

These include:

  • Insurance documents
  • Death certificates for loved ones
  • A power of attorney naming someone else as your power of attorney agent
  • A will, including the instructions for distributing your assets
  • Organ donation forms
  • A list of all of your assets
  • Trust paperwork
  • Legal documents like divorce or marriage papers
  • Deeds to houses, cars or other property
  • Contracts, particularly if they may be helpful in settling the estate
  • Financial documents like tax records

Physical document storage involves hard copy records and it can usually be stored at your place of business, at a rented storage unit, safety deposit boxes or with your attorney. For digital documents storage, this is an online copy of your documents so this would include documents that don’t have to be signed or as scanned copies of an original hard copy document.

There are many different options available to you to back up this information safely. Schedule a consultation with a trusted estate planning lawyer to learn more.



What Do Virginians Need to Know About Medical Aid in Dying?

Medical aid in dying has become an increasingly popular subject as more people wish to include in their estate plans what this means for them and their specific wishes. This can be a highly personal decision and not necessarily one that your friends and family members agree with.

A family member who is suffering might even request that their loved ones help with determining the options ahead of them. But you must educate yourself about what is and isn’t allowed under the law.

Here’s what you need to know about medical aid in dying:

  • There are strict eligibility requirements, such as that an adult must have six months or less to live and be able to take the medication on their own.
  • Medical aid in dying is optional and no person will ever be required to use it and it is illegal to force someone else to use it.
  • Most physicians support the practice of medical aid in dying.
  • Just having the option of medical aid in dying relieves a great deal of fear and anxiety even for those patients who ultimately do not choose it.
  • End of life care is improved by the provision of medical aid in dying. Studies have shown that comfort care improves for those patients who live in states with medical aid in dying.
  • A 2020 Gallup poll revealed that nearly 3 out of 5 residents in the United States support medical aid in dying.
  • Medical aid in dying is only authorized in specific states and this does not include Virginia. The included states are California, Washington, Oregon, New Jersey, Montana, Vermont, DC, Colorado, Maine, Hawaii, and New Mexico.

If you have questions about medical aid in dying or other issues, schedule a consultation with a Virginia Beach estate planning lawyer today.



New Protections Available to Reverse Mortgage Non-Borrowing Spouses

Making the decision to get a reverse mortgage is one that you probably entered into with plenty of research, including how this could potentially impact the non-borrowing spouse. New updates in estate planning make for bigger protections for that non-borrowing spouse when the reverse mortgage is active.

The most important component of these updates is that even if the non-borrowing spouse is not named within the loan document, that person can still stay in the home even if the borrower has to move to a care facility or passes away.

A reverse mortgage is a benefit available only to certain homeowners who are above the age of 62. Prior to 2014, if the younger spouse was under age 62 when the other spouse opened the mortgage, that younger spouse could not be listed on the mortgage. Since this was a requirement, plenty of couples left off the other spouse without realizing the long-term impacts.

Since that reverse mortgage was in the name of one spouse only, the other spouse could be left in the lurch if the borrowing spouse passed away or needed to leave the home. Technically, if that borrowing spouse passed away, the reverse mortgage company was well within their rights to reclaim the property and evict the non-borrowing spouse.

Since a reverse mortgage factors into many planning strategies for older couples, it’s important to think about how real property factors into your actual retirement plans as well as your estate.

If you need more help determining how your reverse mortgage could be impacted by long term care issues, set aside time to meet with a Virginia Beach, VA estate planning law firm.

Do You Have a Just-In-Case List?

If something happened to you and you weren’t able to speak for yourself, do you have a plan for who could find important documents and enable you to remain focused on your medical care?

A just-in-case list provides important access details for a chosen loved one to be able to gather the necessary information to take care of your affairs.

This person may also be appointed as your power of attorney and the just-in-case list makes it that much easier for them to find important details. Rather than sorting through paperwork or trying to find where on your computer you’ve stored things like your primary care physician’s contact information or your health insurance details, a just-in-case list puts this all together in one location so that in a quick instant your chosen family member or trusted friend can access it and provide these details to who need it.

Be aware that without a power of attorney document in place and an executed version of that power of attorney to show financial institutions, you will not be able to make financial transactions on behalf of a loved one.

Certain banks and other financial institutions have their own power of attorney form that must be completed. Be prepared to find all of these pertinent details if you’ve been appointed as a power of attorney agent and make things easier when you name your own power of attorney agent by creating a just-in-case list.

Ready to match your just in case list with the rest of your estate plan? Meet today with a Virginia Beach estate planning attorney for clarity.



What Is a Designated Beneficiary?

Have you set up your retirement account with your employer or recently applied for life insurance? In either of these circumstances, you’ll need to choose someone to receive the assets inside these accounts/policies when you pass away. In general terms, this person is referred to as a beneficiary.

Completing aspects of your retirement plan requires you to name beneficiaries. A designated beneficiary is an individual who receives an asset like the proceeds of a life insurance policy or the balance in your individual retirement account after the death of the asset’s owner.

Per the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act, the rules for designated beneficiaries have been narrowed and refined when it comes to the required withdrawals that must be taken from retirement accounts inherited from other people. A designated beneficiary is named on a policy or financial account as the recipient of the assets inside the account in the event that the account holder passes away.

A designated beneficiary must be a living person. A non-person entity cannot be a designated beneficiary even if the creator and owner of the account named a non-person entity. In order to receive the assets the designated beneficiary needs to contact the account manager to file a formal claim and provide a copy of the death certificate to receive their benefits.

Need more help with your Virginia Beach estate planning? Reach out to our office today to learn more.




Am I Eligible for the Virginia PACE Program?

PACE is an integrated program of care for Virginia residents age 55 or more who meet the following criteria:

  • Have been certified as meeting functional needs for a nursing facility level of care.
  • Will be able to safely reside inside a PACE service community.
  • Live inside a PACE service area.

PACE services can be instrumental in assisting with your long term care plan. The program services can include prescription medication, dentistry, adult day care, occupational and physical therapy, hospital care, primary care and respite care. Any other services that are determined medically necessary by your team to support your overall health can be included in the PACE program.

PACE connects you directly with a team of health care professionals to provide individualized and coordinated care. The purpose of a team is to get to know you as an individual and ensure that your care is aligned with your preferences and personal goals. At certain times an individual might need a higher level of care either on a long term or temporary basis.

In these cases, PACE can cover the cost of nursing facility care but only 7% of current individuals enrolled in PACE live inside a nursing facility. For more questions about how to leverage PACE personally, schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer in Virginia.    



Can a Charitable Remainder Trust Be Used to Generate Income in Retirement?

What if you were able to accomplish multiple goals in creating a trust at once, such as avoiding capital gains taxes, selling a highly appreciated asset and creating a steady stream of retirement income for your loved ones? These are just a few of the most common pros of choosing a charitable remainder trust.

A charitable remainder trust is an irrevocable tax exempt trust that serves for the purpose of reducing your taxable income. These are becoming much more popular because they can reduce your tax liability overall. This is known as a split interest giving vehicle, meaning that the assets inside the trust are split between two different beneficiaries.

The initial beneficiary, which is usually the creator (you), a person you name and a charitable organization. There are a few different kinds of charitable remainder trusts but the vast majority of them function in the same way. The grantor who creates the trust contributes assets into it. This can be anything from cash to property to shares of stock or even artwork.

You’ll usually want to contribute something that is capable of appreciating in value and the terms of the trust from that point on are those that you set. Speaking with a trusted Virginia Beach estate planning lawyer can help you to determine whether or not a charitable remainder trust makes sense for your individual situation.