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

Forest Simple Estate Planning Blog

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.

What wills are not designed to do

Virginia residents who want to leave clear instructions for how to handle their estates should create a will. However, there are limitations as to what a will can do. For instance, it generally doesn't have any say over what happens to property left in a living trust. It also doesn't have any say over what happens to property that is titled in joint tenancy.

If an asset has a beneficiary designation attached to it, the beneficiary will get the asset upon the current owner's death. Typically, assets such as the cash value of a life insurance policy or money in a retirement account goes directly to a beneficiary. Individuals should also understand that wills go through probate and that they are not always the best way to leave funeral instructions. This is because most wills aren't reviewed until after the funeral has already taken place.

How power of attorney benefits senior health care

Receiving quality health care during one's senior years is a crucial part of aging for everyone. There are several very important documents that can help seniors ensure that they get the care they need. These documents include living wills, advance directives and powers of attorney. In Virginia, living wills can go by several different names. They are usually printed on brightly colored stock and provide directions to caregivers about what procedures to do or not do in case of an emergency.

A power of attorney is another powerful tool for making health care decisions. There are many different ways power of attorney can be granted through documentation, and each will be different depending on the needs of the specific grantor. At its core, this legal tool gives a third party power to make important decisions for the grantor in the event of incapacitation.

An overview of the full power of attorney

If a person is granted full power of attorney, he or she can make financial or medical decisions on a Virginia resident's behalf. This may allow an agent to enter into contracts or put an end to those that the principal has previously entered into. An agent may also be granted access to a person's safe deposit boxes or gain access to digital accounts. Therefore, it is important for a person to think carefully before granting this power.

An agent may be able to exercise the power of attorney as soon as the document is created. However, it may also be crafted to only take effect if the grantor becomes incapacitated for any reason. For instance, it could take effect if a person is recovering from a medical procedure or falls ill but expects to recover. Such an arrangement is known as a springing power of attorney.

Choosing the right executor for your will

Most people are uncomfortable talking about their own mortality, but it’s important to plan for your wishes at the end of your life. If you have a spouse, children or grandchildren, having a will in place will provide for your family’s future needs and ensure that your preferences are followed.

When you create a will, one of the components involved in the process is designating an executor to administer your will once you pass on. The executor is responsible for following your wishes outlined in the will and executing the will according to the law.

What a will does in an estate plan

Unlike a trust, a will must be recorded so that somebody can be granted authority to transfer assets. This is not the case when a trust is created. That's why trusts may be better for some estate owners in Virginia. As with a will, trusts may contain instructions as to how assets are to be transferred. However, the trustee is the one who is granted the power to do so without the need for a court to get involved.

It is possible that small estates can be settled without the need to go through a formal probate process. While this may be faster and easier, there are significant downsides. For example, the will may only be valid for a certain period of time after a person passes if it is not filed. Once this period of time passes, there may be no way to transfer an asset according to the terms of that document.

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Craig P. Tiller, Esq., PLLC

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Forest, VA 24551

Phone: 434-338-7093
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