Wills, Trusts, and Estate planning
Estate planning gives you
a unique and powerful opportunity to provide for your loved ones.
Estate Planning: Create The Documents You Need
We aid Virginia and West Virginia residents with all aspects of estate planning:
- Wills and trusts (including special needs trusts, minor’s trusts, and charitable trusts)
- Powers of attorney
- Advance medical directives
- Probate Avoidance
- Tax Avoidance or Reduction
Relational Estate Planning: A Better Approach
We do more than create high-quality wills, trusts, and long-term planning documents. We also challenge the way people view their last days. We encourage people to approach planning for their death from the viewpoint of their important relationships, rather than focusing primarily on their assets. Money is important, but it should be viewed as a tool with which to care for the relationships that matter most. We call this estate planning philosophy Relational Estate Planning and have seen it:
- bring confidence and peace of mind to our clients,
- strengthen and encourage their loved ones,
- and fill them with satisfaction about what they are leaving behind.
The office made my 87-year-old mother comfortable in an otherwise “uncomfortable” topic of discussion. Very understanding and not rushed at all. Would highly recommend.
Josh did an excellent job assisting us in putting together our Estate and Trust. He was very knowledgeable and informative. He answered all our questions and took the time to ensure we had what we needed.”
“We Couldn’t Have Been More Pleased”
My wife and I used Josh Hummer and his legal office to update our Revocable Trust, Wills, Powers of Attorney, Advanced Medical Directives, and other legal and Estate documents. We couldn’t have been more pleased with their outstanding work and the final products. We were very impressed with Josh’s legal knowledge and resume, his high standards and morals, and his very reasonable, appropriate fee. We strongly recommend Josh and his staff for anyone who is facing the updating or initiation of similar important Estate planning and security documents.
“Power of Attorney and Advanced Medical Directive.
Mr. Hummer drew up Power of Attorney and Advance Medical Directive forms for my father and helped walk my father through the process.
Mr. Hummer was very professional and patient throughout the process and was willing to meet us during non-work hours to accommodate our schedule, as we were visiting from out of town and had to make a flight after the signing.
Mr. Hummer made himself available by phone and was very responsive to any questions. I was glad to find him from local references and was very happy with his work.”
Estate Planning FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions
What is estate planning?
Estate planning is the process by which you create a plan which will guide management of your estate when you die.
This process may also involve important personal decisions, such as indicating who you would want to be guardian of any children under the age of 18 and authorizing someone to make financial and medical decision on your behalf if you were to become incapacitated.
Estate planning can involve several fields of law including property, wills, trusts, future interests, insurance, employee benefits, healthcare, and taxation.
What is an estate?
When should I write a will?
Dying intestate will result in a court-appointed guardian for your children, rather than one that you have specified in your will.
What happens if I die without a will?
Each state has a predetermined process for the division of your assets upon your death if you happen to die without indicating your desires in some form of estate planning (specifically a will). These state laws are called “intestate” laws and differ by state. The following paragraphs will specifically address Virginia’s intestate laws.
If you do not create a will, many decisions regarding your assets will be made by either state laws or the decision of the Circuit court. For instance, if you do not indicate a preference for the guardian of your children under the age of 18, the Circuit court, with reference to Virginia law, will have full authority to determine a guardian.
Following funeral costs, debts, and other expenses, your estate will go to your spouse in its entirety, unless you have children from a previous relationship. If you have children from a previous relationship, they will receive two-thirds of your estate, and your spouse the remaining third. If you do not have a surviving spouse, then the estate will go your children. If you have neither spouse nor children, it will go to your parents. And if your parents are deceased, then to your siblings. If you have no surviving siblings, then your grandparents. If not have no surviving grandparents, then your surviving aunts or uncles. And so on and so forth, per the Virginia Law of Descent and Distribution.
If you wish to alter this process at all, then you must have a legally-recognized will.
What is a will?
In a will, you typically name
1) your direct beneficiaries, who will receive those assets which you explicitly name,
2) your alternate beneficiaries, who will receive the property if the direct beneficiaries were to pass away before you, and
3) residuary beneficiaries (and alternates,) who will receive all property not left to other beneficiaries directly.
After the author of the will passes away, the will goes through probate, the legal process of being proved in court to be legitimate, before it is then implemented by the executor/personal representative/administrator that the author indicated in the will.
What is a trust?
Further, trusts (unlike wills) can be private and are not recorded in the public records. In order to form a trust, you will transfer your property into the name of the trustee who will manage the trust. You can be the initial trustee.
The trustee will have full ownership and control of all the property in the trust, subject to the terms of the trust agreement. In the trust, you can name the beneficiaries of your assets after you pass, much like you would a will.
If you name yourself as the trustee, you can appoint a successor, who will become the trustee upon your death and be fully responsible for the distribution and management of the estate.
What is the difference between a will and a trust?
A trust is also a legal document that can function like a will as a tool for the enunciation of the creator’s last wishes, but can also be used before death and avoids the probate process. (See above section: What is a trust?)
What is probate?
Probate is the process by which a will is proved legitimate in court, at which point the court will appoint a personal representative of the state to gather the assets and distribute them under the supervision of the court.
How do I avoid probate?
You can avoid probate by transferring all of your assets into a trust before you pass, and/or if you meet certain other requirements, like if your estate is under the threshold for the formal appointment of an executor, which is $75,000.00 for the full value of your estate in Virginia.
How much does writing a will typically cost?
The cost of writing a will can vary widely based on how complicated the estate the estate’s assets are. Simple estates are much easier to put together than complicated estates and, as a result, cost less to create. To the extent that an estate plan includes trusts, businesses, etc., the cost can increase.
What is a financial Power of Attorney?
The financial power of attorney is the legal document which allows someone to make financial decisions for you if you were to become incapacitated, incompetent, or otherwise unable to communicate. This can be helpful if you have ongoing bills or other financial problems that will need to be managed by someone in the event of your incapacitation, incompetency, or inability to communicate.
What are the taxes on my estate?
There is a federal tax of 40% (in most cases) of all estates which are over an exemption amount currently set at $5.49 million.
Also, the beneficiaries of an estate may be responsible for income taxes on any amounts from an IRA, 401k, or other benefit or retirement plan owned by the decedent.
What is an executor/administrator/personal representative?
A personal representative (also known as an executor) is an individual or individuals appointed as part of the probate process. Their duties include collecting the decedent’s estate, reporting to the court, and then distributing the estate in accordance to the decedent’s will or if he dies without a will according to the intestacy laws of the state.
How do I appoint a guardian for my children?
While a court can overrule a guardian selected in a will, courts are required to give great weight to the preferences of the parents regarding their choice of guardian.
What is an advance medical directive or living will?
An advance medical directive, or living will, is the legal document that both (a) allows you to specify what type of medical treatment you want if you are unable to communicate or decide and (b) allows you to appoint someone else to make medical decisions for you if you were to become incapacitated, incompetent, or otherwise unable to communicate.
What is the process if I use you for my estate plan?
We will then prepare the documents and give them to you for review. Once they are acceptable, we will schedule a time for you to come in to execute them in the legally required fashion.
Estate Planning Blog
What are a Trustee’s Responsibilities?
If you are using a trust as part of your estate plan, it is crucial that you choose a trustee who will be the right person to handle your trust after you pass. You are giving this person access to your assets and a lot of influence in how things unfold after your...
Should I Use a Trust or a POD Account?
There are many tools you can use to distribute your assets when you pass. Two of the most common options are trusts and payable on death (POD) accounts. Both of these tools allow you to transfer assets to your beneficiaries without going through probate. However, if...
Virginia Intestate Laws
What does intestate mean? “Intestate” is the legal term for someone who dies without a valid will or some other type of estate plan. If you die intestate, your state’s default rules for how your assets should be distributed are applied to your estate. Who administers...