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.



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.


How Should I Fund an Investment or Bank Account in My Name Into a Trust?

When you are moving assets into a revocable living trust, it’s important to remember that the guidance of an estate planning attorney can be instrumental in making this process easier.

Funding brokerage investment or bank accounts into your revocable living trust could be complicated or easy depending on the specific rules of the institutions involved, so you’ll want to investigate that first.

Some financial institutions, for example, will make it as simple as changing the name on the account from your individual name to that of you listed as the trustee. Others might require that the original account be closed out and a new one be opened in the name of the trust. Regardless of the specific rules for your institution and what it demands for you to jump through, it is critical that you fund investments and bank accounts into the trust appropriately to avoid probate and to plan for other issues.

In addition to appointing yourself as the primary trustee of this estate planning strategy, you will want to name a successor trustee. This is the person that you name to step in and to take over management of your trust if you were to become mentally incapacitated.

The steps for funding an account into your revocable living trust include:

  • Write a letter of instruction.
  • Hand deliver your letter of instruction to a financial advisor or a bank.
  • Complete and return all required documents.
  • Confirm the formal transfer of the account.

For more support with these complex estate planning issues, schedule a consultation with an attorney in Virginia Beach.  


What Kinds of Property Should Be Placed Inside a Living Trust?

Want to use a living trust in Virginia? Or need more information about how a living trust differs from an irrevocable trust? In these cases, educating yourself is a great first step and one that you can follow with a Virginia Beach estate planning lawyer meeting.

Your most valuable property should be included inside your living trust to get the greatest benefit. One of the biggest reasons that most people create a revocable living trust with the help of an estate planning lawyer is to avoid the fees, court involvement and long process of probate. The more an item is worth, the more it could potentially cost to push it through probate.

Some of the most common pieces of property to consider including in your revocable living trust are:

  • Precious metals
  • Security accounts held by brokerages and stocks and bonds
  • Real estate
  • Copyrights and patents
  • Small business interests
  • Valuable works of art
  • Valuable collections

You are eligible to add property to your living trust at any time and since you will likely appoint yourself in the role of trustee in order to manage it, you can also give away or sell property in the trust or remove it and then put it back in your name as an individual. Although a living trust is a popular estate planning tool, it’s certainly not the only way to decrease the possible expense or frustration of probate.


Study Shows Americans Look at Trusts, Wills and Life Insurance In 2020

There are always good reasons to update an estate plan, such as big changes in laws impacting estate and gift taxes or changes in your personal life that warrant new beneficiaries. But world events or family events might also prompt you to rethink your strategies.

As the coronavirus pandemic has made the topic of death unavoidable, more people than ever stepped back to look at their existing estate plans or to craft strategies to close those gaps.

According to the MIB Group, the number of life insurance applications for people younger than age 44 increased by over 7% in 2020 despite the fact that applications for life insurance had been down in the previous years. The creation of key estate planning documents, such as a will were also up due to covid-19. One study recently completed by LegalZoom.com found that over 30% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 created wills directly as a result of the pandemic and its unexpected impacts.

Preparing for death can be difficult and an uncomfortable topic to discuss with your loved ones but it can also be especially important to have these conversations well in advance of a crisis.

If you need support crafting your estate planning documents or discussing whether or not your existing strategies help to accomplish your individual goals, it’s a good idea to have an existing relationship with an estate planning law firm in Virginia Beach that can help serve as an important resource for you during these times.

Avoid These Estate Planning Mistakes Prior To The Biggest Wealth Transfer in History

One of the biggest wealth transfers that the United States has ever seen will take place in the coming 25 years. This is because it is anticipated that up to $68 trillion of wealth will be passed from current to future generations. This presents you a unique planning opportunity, but this requires those responsible for the funds and assets now to be forward thinking and proactive planning.

Taking a couple of planning steps now, being mindful of the possibility of disabilities, and other issues can enable you to create an estate plan that protect your loved ones needs and saves them thousands in taxes and legal fees while decreasing the possibility of delayed estate issues. One of the most common and easily avoided estate planning mistakes is failing to properly designate beneficiaries. This can be overlooked when you are first setting up your retirement plan or switching to a new investment company.

Make sure that every retirement plan, life insurance policy and brokerage plan has accurate and updated beneficiaries associated with it. You can easily set up bank deposits like savings accounts and CDs and fail to neglect a beneficiary. It’s easy enough to add a transfer on death designation which allows this account to simply bypass probate and go directly to your beneficiaries.

Be mindful of the potential pitfalls of naming a minor as a beneficiary. You can instead list a guardian for the minor child inside your will, meaning that person is also appointed to manage any investments or property that the minor inherits until they achieve 18 of 21.

If you have established a trust, make sure that you follow through with funding it and have a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney about your tax situation now and your anticipated tax situation in the future.


How Do You Account for Loans and Gifts to Your Children in Your Estate Plan?

Most parents want to do everything they can to minimize the possibility of conflict among their loved ones after the parents pass away. Unfortunately, conflicts can arise if you have loaned or gifted money to certain children and not others.

Having a solid strategy inside your estate plan can minimize the possibility for conflict and a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer can help you to guard against these future disputes. If you give money to one child, then the other siblings might argue that that child should get a reduced share of your estate when you pass away. You can block such disputes by making the intent clear in your estate planning documents.

Your document might state, for example, that you will not make any adjustments based on gifts, which would make it clear to other siblings and family members that no one should be receiving a reduced share. You also could specify that gifts have been made if you intend to account for the fact that loans or gifts were already made to one child so that he or she understands why they are receiving a reduced share. Loans are another issue that can be addressed in a couple of different ways.

Verbal loans are very difficult to prove, so make sure that you update your estate planning documents to reference that verbal loans are a gift. If you have current verbal loans that you don’t want to be treated as a gift, you’ll need to put these in writing. It is very important that your estate planning documents convey your intent. This is a common challenge that emerges when you have made the loans or gifts to one member of your family and not others.

Many of our clients set up a trust to manage a smooth transfer of assets to the next generation in the way that works for them.

Need help with creating a trust or administering an existing trust? Contact our Virginia estate planning law office to learn more.



Can You Challenge A Trust Based on Alleged Undue Influence?

The creation of a trust is a common and a very popular choice among people who are looking for greater levels of privacy and control over their assets. However, other family members or friends who might have pushed a loved one to create a trust could create questions for you about undue influence.

This is particularly true if you have an elderly loved one who has a revocable living trust that can be easily amended and a party with undue influence might recommend that this elderly loved one go to a lawyer to update the original trust from terms that are more favorable to you or other people benefiting from the estate. The new trust, for example, might direct all of the assets to go to the person who exercised undue influence. This is especially problematic if your loved one had issues associated with dementia or other cognitive decline.

This can lead to changes in the person’s personality; meaning they are more likely to consider advice from other people and to update their estate planning documents accordingly. You can usually challenge a new estate plan if you believe that undue influence has altered the terms. The question becomes whether it is easier to do it at the present time while you are aware of the changes or after the loved one passes away. If you intend to update the trust or other estate planning documents based on undue influence today, this could be very expensive to pursue this route by getting conservatorship over the party who updated their documents.

This, however, could help to preserve the evidence of decreased cognitive ability and another person’s influence over that party. Schedule a consultation today with an experienced and dedicated estate planning lawyer to learn more about creating power of attorney documents and what to do if you believe a loved one has been the victim of an undue influence. Our Virginia Beach estate planning office is still here for you- reach out for a phone call meeting today.



Could a Trust Help New Parents Plan for the Future?

Looking ahead to the future and adding a new child makes it even more important for you to consider how estate planning factors into the big picture. Becoming a parent means taking on a completely new level of responsibility and while it seems like the number of tasks on your to-do list could be endless, it’s very important to ensure that making an estate plan shows up at the top of the priority list.

There are several different things you can do to give yourself peace of mind and confidence that your child is cared for. These include making a will and naming a guardian for your children, buying life insurance, updating beneficiary forms of retirement plans and other documents and considering setting up a trust.

In the event that you were to pass away before your children turn age 18, a trust is an important estate planning document because children cannot directly take control of any inheritance that you leave behind.

The court could end up having to appoint someone to manage those assets that you leave behind to your children and this could also be an unfortunate situation since your new 18-year-old would then have the potential to inherit a lot of property and money. It is far better to ensure that you exercise some level of control by putting together a trust.

This will allow you to determine how your money and property should be used, specifying who is responsible for managing the assets and identifying when your children should be able to receive a transfer of wealth. Schedule a consultation with an experienced Virginia estate planning lawyer to learn more about how trusts can become the cornerstone of your new estate plan.

What Is Settlor Capacity in a Virginia Trust?

There are various rules and regulations associated with what it takes to make a will valid in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Some of these include that the settlor must indicate his or her intention to create the trust, the trust has to have a definite beneficiary, a trustee must be named in the role of managing the trust, and there must be a person named as the trustee to manage the trust.

One other required aspect of establishing a Virginia trust is to ensure that the settlor has appropriate capacity to use this estate planning tool. Settlor is a term used to refer to the person who creates the trust for a beneficiary. The trust will create a trust by splitting property title into different interests and then the settlor imposes fiduciary duties on those newly created interests.

The settlor must have the appropriate mental capacity to create a trust in order for it to be viewed as valid. This means that the settlor must not have any diminished or compromised mental health at the time of creating this document.

The only exception to this rule about a settlor’s capacity is when a trust is created by the settlor’s agent through a power of attorney. In this particular situation, a Virginia estate planning lawyer should be used to ensure that the power of attorney expressly authorizes that agent to create a trust on the settlor’s behalf.

With many different types of trusts to consider using in your estate planning process, a lawyer can help you discuss which of these is best for your situation.

Schedule a consultation with a Virginia estate planning lawyer to discuss the benefits of creating a trust and how to generate and implement one meeting the state regulations.