Craig P. Tiller, Esq., PLLC
Serving central Virginia For more than 25 years: 434-338-7093

Forest Simple Estate Planning Blog

Do you know that you can use your will to protect your child?

Young adults raising a family often do not create wills because they believe they do not have enough valuables. However, anyone who has minor children could benefit from creating a will.

If you are a parent of a minor child, you can use your will to name a guardian for your child in case something happens to prevent you from providing your child's care yourself. You can also use your will to name someone to manage any money your child may receive after your death.

It's important to carefully choose a power of attorney

Not everybody relishes the prospect of making important medical, business or financial decisions on behalf of somebody else. This is why estate planners in Virginia should take great care when choosing a power of attorney. Furthermore, those asked to perform these duties will want to think carefully before accepting.

Powers of attorney should be selected based on their suitability for the role. Business associates or lawyers may be wise choices for durable powers of attorney as they will be asked to handle legal and financial matters. However, when a principal is incapacitated and health care decisions must be made, a family member may be a more appropriate choice.

The basics of an advance directive

If an individual becomes unresponsive, it may not be possible for doctors or others to know what type of care to provide. With an advance directive, however, Virginia residents can put those wishes into writing. Furthermore, the advance directive will name another party who will carry out those instructions. The terms of the document may become effective when a doctor declares a patient to be unable to make decisions on his or her own.

Alternatively, an advance directive may become effective if criteria set by the state under living will or similar laws are met. However, the document will not be valid unless it is signed by two witnesses. These witnesses must not include the person named by the document as an agent. In some cases, the document must be notarized before it becomes official.

The role of the guardian

If someone in Virginia is disabled or incapacitated, he or she may be considered a ward and given a guardian. In the event that a person already provided another individual with a durable power of attorney, that individual will act in accordance with the document's terms. However, if no guardian was named ahead of time, a judge will need to appoint someone to that role. A guardian will make sure that bills are paid or that investments are managed.

Guardians will also likely need to make medical decisions on the part of an incapacitated individual. This may be true whether the disability is mental or physical in nature. Essentially, the guardian is there to make sure that a person who cannot live independently is properly taken care of. To help ensure that this happens, the ward may have significant input into the role a guardian plays in his or her life.

Medical power of attorney

Many Virginia residents are concerned about whether family members and medical professionals will respect their end-of-life decisions. While most individuals hope to remain lucid and able to engage in care decisions even when seriously ill or injured, there are situations in which patients are unable to communicate their wishes regarding medical treatment.

Fortunately, there are ways that an estate owner can help ensure that their wishes are respected at this sensitive time. Many attorneys will encourage clients to include end-of-life planning along with their estate plans. Specifically, individuals can provide a trusted loved one with medical power of attorney.

How do I know if I should seek guardianship over my parent?

If you recently noticed that your parent is having difficulties caring for himself or herself, you may be wondering if it is the right time to seek guardianship. Unfortunately, the answer is not always straightforward.

A guardianship would legally allow you to act in your parent’s best interests and take responsibility for his or her personal affairs. However, your parent must be considered legally incompetent for a guardianship to be awarded.

DIY estate plans may not be worth the lower costs

Many Virginians download inexpensive estate-planning documents via online websites. With a primary motive of saving money, the do-it-yourself legal option makes perfect sense. However, drafting a will, estate plan or power of attorney document without an attorney's feedback may lead to unexpected and unwanted errors. Plus, some DIY estate-planning document packages do not include all the necessary paperwork. Therefore, this method may cause a person to create an incomplete package resulting in serious future complications.

Many of the individuals using DIY legal websites do not know whether they want to draft wills or detailed estate plans. Simple wills may not address everything for a person who has numerous assets. Although many of the DIY estate-planning websites employ lawyers, these attorneys do not typically arrange private consultations with customers. A customer may have a chance to receive an attorney's answers to questions. However, the consumer's options may rely on an agreement to pay a higher rate.

Misconceptions about powers of attorney

A power of attorney can be an important part of an estate plan for people in Virginia, but there are also a number of misconceptions about what a power of attorney does and how it works. For example, some people think that there is only one kind and it is effective in all states and circumstances. However, one state may not recognize the power of attorney from another state.

Like other estate planning documents, a power of attorney can only be signed by a person who has the mental capacity to do so. Its validity as a document for people who are mentally incapacitated depends upon the fact that it was signed prior to that incapacity.

Learn more about protecting digital assets

Some Virginia residents may have a variety of digital assets that need to be accounted for in an estate plan. Anything from a PayPal account to a social media page could be included in a will or other document. In most cases, a digital will is an informal item that contains information that surviving friends and family members might need. To start, an individual should make a list of all the digital assets that he or she has.

An executor can be appointed to carry out any wishes an estate owner has for digital assets. For instance, it may be the executor's responsibility to make sure that a social media page is memorialized or that pictures are saved for loved ones to keep. It can be beneficial to name more than one executor just to be safe. If the digital will itself is kept online, be sure to leave instructions on how to find and access it.

Issues that may arise with powers of attorney

Many people in Virginia may expect that when they create an estate plan that includes a power of attorney for finances, the POA will be sufficient to grant those powers. Unfortunately, in practice, this is not always the case.

The primary issue is that financial institutions are not obligated to accept a power of attorney, and some are hesitant to do so because they do not want to be a party to financial abuse of the elderly. Different institutions have different rules for accepting a POA. Some will only take one that has been created in the last six months. In other cases, it may take time for the POA to make its way past the institution's legal department.

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Craig P. Tiller, Esq., PLLC

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15421 Forest Road
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Forest, VA 24551

Phone: 434-338-7093
Fax: 434-525-3302
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