What Does an Executor Do When There Is No Will?

If the will that is associated with an estate is invalid or if an executor cannot find a will, state law determines what happens to the property inside the estate. Many people don’t write wills such that when it’s time to settle their estates, it becomes difficult to determine who inherits the property. Virginia state law will provide these answers in determining who will administer the affairs of the estate, inherit the property and take care of minor children.

Without a will there’s no way to know who the deceased individual might have chosen as the executor, but someone must step in to take over this authoritative role. The court chooses someone to serve as executor if a probate court proceeding is required. If no probate is required, there doesn’t need to be an official personal representative for the estate.

Instead, an individual close to the deceased, such as an adult child might step in to wrap things up relying on informal state procedures. Each state has intestate succession laws which determine which of the closest relatives of the deceased will receive certain types of property. In most cases a spouse would be the first person to inherit under intestate succession laws but make sure you discuss the specifics with your estate planning lawyer.

A Virginia Beach estate planning lawyer is there to support and guide you when you need help with crafting the right plan for you. This includes naming the personal representative to handle estate administration.

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.

Black Panther Star Passes Away Without a Will

Plenty of celebrities are in the news for all the wrong reasons when it comes to the time of their passing. Many of them either don’t realize or don’t anticipate the possibility of their estate plan being invoked sooner than they expected. The fate of 43 year old actor Chad Boseman’s estate is left up to the courts. The estimated value of his estate is nearly $939,000 and his wife has requested to be the administrator of the estate.

These are only the probated assets, meaning that there can be additional assets inside qualified retirement accounts and life insurance. Many celebrities leave behind substantial estates which can prove very problematic and confusing for loved ones in the event of a star’s sudden passing.

Prince, too, passed away with a substantial estate but no planning to support it. Estates of all sizes can benefit from the support of an outside estate planning attorney to determine the primary objectives of your estate planning and how to leverage tactics to achieve those goals.

Learning from the mistakes of celebrities, you might assume that since your estate is smaller that it won’t have the far-reaching repercussions of someone with vast wealth. But you could make things unnecessarily hard for your loved ones when you have no estate plan, especially since that situation is easily avoided.

Even if you do not have an estate reaching into the high six figures or seven figure range, you can make things a lot easier for your loved ones by doing the work of estate planning today.

A Virginia Beach estate planning lawyer can sit down with you and any necessary loved ones to walk you through the connection between your estate and your current strategies so that you can get questions answered promptly.



I Recently Moved to Virginia. Is My Will Still Valid?

Among all of the changes that you’ll need to make when you move to a new state, voter registration, driver’s license and updating all of your bank account and credit card addresses, don’t forget your will.

There is a good chance that your current will is still valid in your new state but there might be differences in the new state’s laws that render portions of your existing will invalid. Furthermore, it’s just a good idea to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney in your new area to verify that other aspects of your estate plan are up to date as well.

Moving to a new address, for example, also means that you might need to update this information with your retirement or brokerage account or life insurance policy. This will make it that much easier for your beneficiaries to reach out to these important account managers in the event something happens to you.

Another reason to have your estate plan reviewed is if you move from a common law state to a community property state or vice versa. Since property laws can vary from one state to another, you want to verify that the current aspects of your estate plan are still accurate.

States might also have differing rules about when co-owned property is eligible to pass to the surviving owner and when it can pass under the will. You might also wish to speak with your new estate planning attorney about whether there’s any language you can add to your new will to make probate easier for your loved ones. Schedule a consultation today with a trusted estate planning lawyer in Virginia Beach, VA.    


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.

Can My Executor Change My Will?

Your will is referred to as a “last will and testament” for a reason: so long as it’s legally valid, in the vast majority of cases, it cannot be changed by an executor after you pass away. Your will is your opportunity to share your plans and intentions so that they can be handled properly and quickly after you pass away.

Getting that “final say” is a big reason why most people do estate planning in the first place. Although your executor will be responsible for handling the terms of your will and managing assets that pass on to your beneficiaries through it, your will can only be handled and administered by the executor, not rewritten or updated per the executor’s wishes.

The executor does still play a critical role in the management of the estate, however. For example, this person must gather all of the assets and inventory to determine how many assets there are left over for beneficiaries in the first place. If there are substantial debts, this might mean that the amount passed on to heirs is less than the heirs expect.

Furthermore, if the will is not entirely clear, it falls to the executor to determine what the will means. This is a big reason why many personal representatives or executors end up hiring outside probate help in the form of an attorney to ensure that they handle these important responsibilities under the ethical and legal guidelines for estate administration.

Although your executor will not be someone who rewrites, tears up, or amends your will, this should still be an individual you trust and one in whom you’re willing to place your confidence. Discuss your needs with a Virginia Beach estate planning attorney today.



Is My Will Valid in Virginia?

Every estate planning document has its own execution requirements in order for it to be viewed as valid in Virginia. A typewritten will typically must be signed in the presence of two witnesses. However, there is no existing requirement in Virginia that those witnesses be disinterested.

A typewritten will could still be classified as valid in Virginia even in the event it is signed without witnesses, but it is essential for clear and convincing evidence to be present in these instances to prove in court after the person who has made the will has passed away. Typewritten wills are typically associated with a notarized sworn statement called a self-proving affidavit.

The self-proving affidavit is not required for the will to be valid, but it can make it much easier for the will to be admitted to probate in Virginia after the will creator has passed away. If the will is completely in the creator’s handwriting and signed, this handwritten or holographic will could still be valid in Virginia. The testator’s handwriting does have to be proved by at least two disinterested witnesses, even though holographic wills are not required to have a notary or witness to be valid. Many trust agreements in Virginia are signed by the person putting the property in trust and then the trustee.

Durable powers of attorney have to be signed for validity in Virginia. Advanced medical directives in Virginia typically need to be signed before two witnesses although there is no requirement that these witnesses be disinterested. Schedule a phone consultation with a Virginia Beach estate planning attorney today to learn more and to complete a review of your existing will or begin a conversation about creating a new one.

You Need to Have a Will Regardless of Your Age

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just turned 18 or are approaching turning 100, it’s still important to be able to tell people what your wishes are in the event that you cannot tell them on your own. It’s all too easy to put off these important decisions like purchasing life insurance or writing a will by thinking, “Oh, I can worry about that tomorrow.”

But what if tomorrow ushers in an emergency that neither you nor your family expected? Tools like a life insurance policy, a living will, and your last will and testament provide important documentation in the event of a possible worst-case scenario.

The problem is that even though many people recognize the benefits of having a will, an annual study done by caring.com shows that only 32% of adults in a recent study admitted that they have a will, which is a 25% decrease from the number of people who responded in 2017.

A will is simply your legal document that allows you to express your wishes to family members in the event that you are unable to express them, such as when you pass away.

In order for the will to be legally valid, it should be signed in front of witnesses and those witnesses should be people who do not benefit from the contents of the will. It is also a good idea to have the witnesses sign the will in the presence of a notary which can prevent witnesses from having to testify in court if there are any questions over the validity of the will.

Schedule a consultation with a Virginia Beach estate planning lawyer to learn more about why you need a will and a few other important estate planning tools.



What is the Difference Between a Living Will and a Healthcare Proxy?

A living will enables you to state your wishes for end of life care whereas a health care proxy allows you to enable another person to step in and make medical decisions on your behalf. A health care proxy might also be referred to as a health care power of attorney and it is a document in which you enable your power of attorney agent to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself. It’s a good idea to have both of these documents in your estate planning.
The specific rules for each of these documents will vary from one state to another so it’s important to consider what state you claim residency in. Both of these documents enable you to have some level of control over what happens to your future if something happens to you.
A living will would become activated if you do not wish to be resuscitated or if you reach a medical condition upon which doctors believe it is not going to be possible for you to recover. A health care proxy, however, enables this individual to have even greater levels of decision-making power based on you becoming incapacitated.
If you were suddenly incapacitated for a period of several days because you were involved in a car accident, for example, your power of attorney agent would be able to make decisions about your health care needs and concerns. This is why it is important to establish only an individual you truly trust in such a role.
A consultation with an experienced attorney is instrumental in helping you to define whether or not the agent you have established is appropriate for estate planning purposes and your individual needs.
Make sure you sit down with your lawyer to discuss all of the aspects and choices available to you so that you can arrive at a conclusion that is most suited to your individual concerns.
You should fully trust the person who is established as your power of attorney agent or you certainly hope that this agent never has to take action and represents your best interests. It’s a good idea to have such a plan established already because you cannot plan too much for the inevitable. Talk to your VA estate planning lawyer now.

How to Prepare to Write Your Will in Virginia

A will is a document that has far-reaching impacts, so it’s important to think carefully about what information you need before you get started. The right will can ensure that the proper person gets guardianship of any children, too.

Your will is truly the last statement you make to the world, so it goes beyond naming who gets which of your belongings. While you can make updates to your will throughout the course of your life, the terms of your will remain fixed after you pass away.

Your will should be created in line with the laws of your state of residence. To make a will in Virginia, you need to consider the following steps:

  • List out all of your property
  • List out any and all debts that you owe
  • List potential heirs who you might want to receive something that you own (include both the first and the last names)
  • Line up the assets on your list with the right heir. You do not have to distribute your belongings equally or give something to every person
  • Consider whether or not any conditions might apply to certain gifts and whether or not a trust is a better vehicle for passing those on than your will in Virginia
  • Choose a guardian for any minor children
  • Review this list to make sure you haven’t missed any details

Many people overlook the opportunity to discuss your intended plans with a lawyer, but this can be a big help when you’re concerned about many aspects of your estate plan. An attorney can review your details and point out any information you missed and whether or not there are other and better ways to accomplish your specific goals.

Don’t wait to reach out to a lawyer about creating your will in Virginia. It’s an important first step towards protecting your future.