Four Ways to Simplify or Avoid Probate

Given that probate can be expensive as well as a drawn out process, it’s no surprise that many people turn to estate planning strategies to avoid or simplify probate. Although in many cases probate can be streamlined, it might be best to think about strategies to avoid probate where you can.

There are several different strategies to do this and you might be able to accomplish additional estate planning goals by working directly with an estate planning lawyer in your immediate area.

The first way to address probate is to transfer property to a trust instead. This involves the creation of a trust document and the funding of that property into the trust. The second way to avoid probate is to use payable on death registrations, which are associated with any transfer on death accounts.

Most banks, savings and loans, brokerage firms, and credit unions will give you the ability to name a beneficiary for this. Another way to remove assets from your taxable or probate estate is to make tax free gifts. In 2021, for example, you are eligible to give your heirs up to $15,000 per person every year without a gift tax penalty.

Finally, there are many assets that automatically pass outside of the probate process. These are typically those associated with beneficiary designation forms, such as retirement accounts and annuity contracts, and life insurance policies. For more information about how to avoid probate with your own estate, speak with a lawyer who has extensive experience in this field.

Need help with Virginia Beach estate planning? Now is a great time to schedule a call.

Is There Any Property That Should Be Left Out of a Will?

Not all property will be passed on as a result of what’s listed in your last will and testament. You’ll need to consider including and excluding the right assets by partnering with a trusted estate planning lawyer to help you.

There are several different kinds of property that you should expressly leave out of the last will because it must be designated or managed in another way. These assets don’t go through the formal Virginia probate process. This includes:

  • Transfer on death property such as vehicles, real estate, bonds and stocks, which will pass automatically to a named beneficiary if you have taken that step.
  • Annuity proceeds or life insurance policies, since the individual listed as your beneficiary will automatically receive these payments.
  • Proceeds from retirement plans, 401(k)s, IRAs and pensions, which will pass directly to the beneficiary named on forms.
  • Pay on death bank accounts.
  • Property held inside a living trust.
  • Property held with a right of survivorship.

The general answer for what goes into your will is everything outside of these expressly named assets. If you are curious about what to include in your overall estate planning inventory and what other documents besides a will you might need to support you, set aside time to speak with a trusted estate planning lawyer. Our Virginia Beach law office can help you keep everything organized when it comes to your estate plan and the assets inside.

Do I Really Need to Be Concerned About Probate?

You might have heard other people mention probate and their desire in engaging with the right estate planning attorney to avoid it. Probate might also be referred to as estate administration and references the different types of tasks that must be done in order to close out your estate.

A probate case can be required if the decedent, also known as the person who passed away, did so without a will. In these situations, an executor or personal representative must be appointed and handle the affairs and act in accordance with management of closing out the estate.

With estate planning there are many different ways that you can approach your individual strategies to decide what is most appropriate for your loved ones and your wishes. Having a trusted estate planning lawyer to guide you through this will assist you in deciding whether or not avoidance of probate is right for you.

There are five primary ways that you can pass on your property and these include selling the property while you’re still alive, making gifts during your life, creating a revocable living trust so that you can update, amend or cancel the trust later, using beneficiary forms such as those provided by a life insurance policy or elsewhere and joint property ownership.

A combination of some of these strategies might be used to help you accomplish your estate planning goals.       

A Virginia Beach estate planning attorney is there for you from day one when you need an estate plan and when you need a plan that evolves with you. At our Virginia Beach estate planning law office, we work with you to create the customized plan you need.

 

 

When Does Probate Start in Virginia?

Losing a loved one presents many questions, challenges, and tasks that all must be addressed within a relatively quick timeframe after the loved one passes. One of these necessary tasks is opening the estate in probate. Probate can start shortly after the loved one passes away, ideally within one week after the deceased has passed.

This process refers to the formal proving and recording of the will in which it is determined that this document is valid as the final testament of the deceased. There is no distinct probate court in Virginia.

Instead, the will is managed through the circuit court for the region in which the deceased person lived at the time of their death. For loved ones, this might mean travel into another area of Virginia if that loved one intends to probate the will and estate. In most cases with a will, the person appointed for probate administration will be named in that document.

To probate a will or to qualify on an estate, you’ll need to take the original will to the circuit court office. It’s a good idea to set up an appointment in advance if you can because the court might give you some forms to complete prior to the appointment.

Before coming to this meeting, make sure you’re aware of all the assets owned by the deceased party. If the deceased made an inventory of their assets prior to passing away, this makes it easier for the person starting probate to have an accurate snapshot for the estate.

In addition, ensure that a copy of the death certificate is included with any provided forms and the asset inventory.

Are you ready to talk through your options with a Virginia estate planning lawyer? Your attorney can help you name the party who will initiate probate when you pass away, making things easier for your loved ones.

How Do Wills Get Probated in Virginia?

The county in which the decedent passed away is the primary place that the paperwork will be filed to probate a will. The probate process is handled by the circuit court in that county.

Probate is typically required in Virginia when the estate’s assets total more than $5,000, so streamline procedures might be available for those with small estates. The first step in probating a Virginia estate is to contact the circuit court clerk in the appropriate county and schedule an appointment to meet him or her.

A certified copy of the death certificate and the original will should be brought with these. The second step is to take an oath of office as an executor of an estate and post a bond. The bond has to equal the value of the estate to ensure against any wrongdoing if the executor is not the only beneficiary in the will.

The third step is to send written notice to all heirs and beneficiaries and then to secure the testator’s property and gather all assets. The next stage of the process is to determine who the testator owed money to and making those payments prior to distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries of that will.

Some executors might find this process overwhelming, especially if they were also closed to the deceased. Going through grief and the formal steps of estate administration is a tall order for anyone. It’s one of the reasons why many executors choose to partner with an attorney to help guide them through the process. If you’re just now naming your executor, make sure you consider the person’s interest and ability in serving in such a role. Your Virginia Beach estate planning lawyer can help.

How Long Does Probate Take in Virginia?

In Virginia probate is the process of proving before the appropriate court, that any document submitted as belonging to the decedent are legally valid and genuine.

Typically the executor that is appointed in your will presents this document to the clerk of the circuit court in the county or city in which you lived at the time you passed away.

Most people consider using estate planning as a method for avoiding probate in Virginia. Probate can add confusion and time to the closing out of your estate, and you might be more interested in being able to pass on your assets in a timely fashion.

The process of probate can be extremely complicated. This is especially true when one or more parties attempts to contest the will. The executor appointed to probate your estate has a big responsibility to gather all materials related to your estate and to begin filing necessary paperwork and tax returns after you pass away. There is no general answer for how long probate takes in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The complexity and size of the estate will dictate whether it takes longer than usual. An executor is responsible for filing an inventory of assets no later than four months from the date that they qualified as an executor and an accounting typically needs to be filed within 16 months from the qualification date.

Often administration of probate takes as long as it requires the executor to wind up the estate, pay out debts and distribute remaining assets. However, this process can be extended based on challenges to the will, trusts or other estate planning documents. Need a phone call with a Virginia estate planning attorney? Reach out today.

 

 

Irrevocable Trust Could Have Saved Fuss Over Novelist’s Estate

The late Tom Clancy’s novels showed he had a remarkable grasp of military strategy.

His muddled estate shows he did not bring the same kind of acumen to his own personal financial affairs, according to a recent article on the website insurancenewsnet.com.
Clancy passed away in Baltimore on Oct. 1, 2013. He was 66. Even after his death, the writer’s estate continued producing bestselling books and video games.
It also produced a great deal of rancor among his survivors, some of which could have been avoided by better estate planning, according to the article.
“Less than a year after Clancy passed away, a heated battle over his estate unfolded in a Maryland probate court,” states the story. “The estate, which is estimated to be worth $83 million and could gain even greater value as Clancy’s works continue to be produced and sold, is being contested by Clancy’s widow and his adult children who were born to his former first wife. Among the probate issues being deliberated in court, there’s a monetary amount adding up to $18 million in state and federal taxes, which Clancy’s widow is petitioning to transfer over to the late author’s four adult children.
“Furthermore, The Wall Street Journal reported on the existence of a family trust set up by Clancy to leave his widow about 66 percent of his estate. However, Clancy’s widow claims that the wrongful execution of the estate caused a miscalculation that called for $6 million in taxes assigned to the family trust. There also appears to be will left by Clancy as well as a codicil executed a few months before the author passed away. Apparently, Clancy’s widow also sought to replace the executor of estate, who in Maryland court is known as a personal representative, since the current attorney serving in that capacity wishes to spread the tax burden equally amongst all heirs.”
“It seems as if Tom Clancy did not plan his estate as carefully as the highly organized military operatives in his novels,” Rocco Beatrice, Managing Director of Estate Street Planners, LLC, a financial planning firm focusing on asset protection, wealth management and estate planning, was quoted as saying. “It appears that Clancy left a will that created separate trusts for his widow and his four children from his first marriage, and the presence of a codicil suggests that he may have changed his mind at one point. With this in mind, it is not too surprising to learn that the Clancy estate is now going through probate.
“The fact that there is probate battle over estate taxation tells us that Clancy did not use an irrevocable trust, which could have prevented the current courtroom fight and the unwelcome media attention into his family’s finances.”

Will You Need a Probate Attorney?

The subject of probate is one that nobody wants to learn about too early; in fact, most people would probably avoid it altogether if they could. Unfortunately, the probate process can be very confusing and frightening when you are forced to become intimately acquainted with it—especially if you have no prior experience with or knowledge of it.

For a beneficiary, probate can be lengthy, expensive and frustrating; but if you have been named as executor, probate can suddenly become an overwhelming maze of deadlines, notifications and potential liabilities. This is why many executors choose to hire a probate lawyer to help them through the process.

If you are the executor of a small estate with a straightforward will and one or two beneficiaries who are not contentious then you can probably do without an attorney. But you will want to think about hiring an attorney if you are serving as an executor under any of the following circumstances:

* There are a number of beneficiaries who are not on friendly terms, or a number of beneficiaries receiving varying sizes of inheritance.
* The decedent had large estate with many different assets, especially if the assets are not commonly held.
* The decedent was a resident in a different state than your own home state.
A large number of creditors are making claims on the estate.
* There is a disagreement about the will, or if more than one will was found.
* The will is challenged or contested.

These are only a few of the reasons why you might want to consider hiring an attorney to help you through the probate process. If you aren’t sure whether you’ll need an attorney, don’t hesitate to call our office for a consultation. We can help walk you through the process and consider any obstacles that might arise. A little bit of foresight, and knowing you have an experienced professional on your side, can make all the difference in the probate process.