(571) 777-1000

Wills Attorney in Leesburg

What is a Will?

A will is a legal document that outlines how you want your assets and affairs to be handled after you die. It specifies what you own, where it is located, and who should receive it. 

The executor of a will is responsible for managing the financial obligations of the estate, preserving property until the estate is settled, representing the estate in court, and distributing assets to the beneficiaries. 

The executor cannot change the will. Most people choose a family member or trusted individual to execute their will.

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Benefits of a Will

Custody of minors

If you have minor children, a will allows you to appoint a guardian to care for them in the event that you are no longer able to do so.

Distribution of assets

Specify how you want your assets to be distributed after your death, otherwise your assets will be distributed according to state laws, which may not align with your wishes.

Avoid family disputes

Avoid disputes among family members by clearly stating your wishes and providing a plan for the distribution of your assets.

Simplify probate

Can make the probate process easier for your loved ones by clearly outlining your wishes and the distribution of your assets.

To prevent the State from controlling your affairs after your death, a will should be part of your comprehensive estate plan.

Our goal is to make sure your perfect tomorrow is protected no matter what may come. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Wills

If you do not have an estate plan, including a will, then it will be considered dying “intestate.” There are laws in each state for when you die “intestate.” However, it is not smart to assume these laws and think that most belongings will go to the spouse since it is not always what will happen.

Generally, if there is a spouse and no children, the spouse will inherit the entire estate. If you have children, but no spouse, then most likely, your children will inherit the estate equally. If there are both children and a spouse, there is a division between the two which can vary depending on certain factors. Further, the state will look towards your other relatives if there are neither children nor a spouse.  

Due to the existence of various heirs/beneficiaries, there can be some confusion about who gets what. In addition, the distribution of assets to specific beneficiaries may also cause issues for them, such as eligibility for state benefits. 

After discussing your situation with an estate planning attorney, it is wise to create your own plan. This way, you do not need to worry about whether the state’s plan is the same as yours. We are happy to answer your call and any questions you may have. 

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you and your loved ones with estate planning.

Going forward with an entire estate plan to have all your bases covered is a good idea. Although a will is a valuable tool for when you pass away, it cannot address what will happen if you become incapacitated. Since medical issues commonly arise as we age, having guidance is extremely helpful for your family.  

Another consideration is a will may not be able to always protect your assets in the best manner either. A will usually does require your family to go through the probate process, which could expose your estate to more taxes and creditors. Although there could be some benefits to the probate court, it can also cost your loved ones additional time and money. 

It is best to speak with an estate planning attorney to determine your best course of action. 

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Although the probate procedures may change due to the value of your estate, your estate generally needs to go through some form of probate if you have a will.  

One thing to consider with probate is that the estate’s value can change due to how your assets are titled. If you want to limit the probate process for your family, you can retitle your assets. However, it is crucial to speak with an attorney to determine if this is the best option.

There are scenarios where probate may be avoided, as Virginia law does not require every estate to go through the entire process. There are alternatives if there is only a single parcel of land, minimal tangible property/vehicles, or a small bank account at the time of death. 

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Every state has requirements for a will, which may vary, so it is important to ensure you know the requirements of the state you live in. In Virginia, you may make a will if you are 18 years or older and of sound mind. 

The law also requires that you have at least two witnesses to the signing of the will. They should be 18 years of age or older and of sound mind. Although this may not invalidate a will, it is wise for these witnesses to be “disinterested witnesses,” meaning they will not inherit from the will. The witnesses should sign in the presence of each other and the person creating the will, also known as the “testator.”

The best action is for the testator to sign the will in front of the witnesses. Although they may also sign ahead of time and then acknowledge the signature to the witnesses or have someone else who is present sign on their behalf at the testator’s direction.

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When a person creates a will, they must have the mental capacity to make it, which is referred to as a “sound mind.” Some questions can be asked to determine if the person or “testator” has the capacity.

The first question is did the testator know the nature and consequences when they created the will.  The second question is if the testator knew the extent and nature of the property within the will. The third question is whether there is any concern about a disorder that would affect the mind or cause insane delusion to the testator. Lastly, is whether the testator is aware of the relationship between themselves and the beneficiaries they list in the will.

If there are any issues with the answers to these questions, then there is the potential to challenge the will. However, it is the job of the person challenging the will to prove these issues.  

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There is always a potential for a will to be challenged.  If a will is created with a lot of ambiguity or is not executed properly, this can open a door for a challenge. In addition, if someone makes more than one will over time, this can create many issues if the old ones are not correctly handled. 

Generally, you need to be an “interested person” to challenge the will, such as being a beneficiary of the will, a previous will, or a creditor to the testator.  This “interested person” can challenge the will if it does not comply with state laws, is ambiguous, or a new will exists. Further, the will can be challenged if there is evidence of undue influence or fraud on the testator, a lack of mental capacity, or examples of insane delusions from the testator.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you create a valid will. This can prevent will challenges and allow you to rest easy, knowing there will be no issues for your family when you pass away.

A “personal representative” is also known as an executor.  A personal representative is a person you choose to carry out the terms of your will. They are in charge of talking with heirs, making sure outstanding debts are paid, and then distributing the remaining assets to any beneficiaries in the will.  

Essentially, the personal representative or executor is a helper and the person the court looks to ensure your estate is settled correctly.  

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Virginia has some requirements regarding who you can list as a personal representative/executor in a will. If you must appoint an executor who lives far away, you should know the requirements Virginia imposes on out-of-state executors.

In Virginia, a nonresident executor must appoint someone who lives in the state to act as an agent. Your executor’s in-state agent will accept legal papers on behalf of your estate.

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You can always make adjustments to your will if a situation arises that requires change. Throughout life, events naturally happen that can cause this need, such as divorce, remarriage, death, starting a business, or additional children.  

There are proper ways to change the will to ensure everything will still be upheld when you pass away. For example, you can write a new will or make an amendment with a codicil.  

When you create a new will, you want to ensure you address the revocation of the old will and/or physically destroy the old one and any copies. This helps avoid any challenges that may come up.  A codicil is an additional document created that addresses the changes that need to be made or any supplemental information that needs to be added.

Creating a new will may be more simple than having a codicil drafted. Creating a codicil adds another document that needs to be looked after and causes concern about one document being separated from the other.   

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One of the most critical steps to take when you have a will created is to be mindful of its safekeeping.  The original and any copies made should always be kept in a safe place. This could be a lockbox or a safe deposit box at a bank. It is a good idea for the original and the copies to be kept separately in their safe places and for the copies to be marked as such.

The personal representative and any successor personal representative should be told where the documents are being kept and the key’s location if there is one.   They will need to quickly access this document when the time comes.  If you provide a copy to a person, make sure that it is someone you trust explicitly. 

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you and your loved ones with estate planning.

Call us at (571) 777-1000 or click here to get started today.

Now is the time.

Protect yourself and those you love.

No matter where you are in life’s journey, we can help.

At Legacy Law Centers, our aim is to help clients and their families prepare for the future. 

Whether you need to create an estate plan for the first time, develop a strategy for your business, or are a physician or high-net-worth individual looking for specialized estate planning, we are ready to assist you.

Take your first step by contacting us for a complimentary consultation today.

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