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.
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.
The Commonwealth of Virginia, like each state in the union, has its own statutory requirements for what constitutes a valid will. A testator, the person making the will, must be a minimum age of 18 and have the proper testamentary capacity. Testamentary capacity is a lower standard than other mental states of mind and essentially means the testator understands the nature of his or her estate and is executing a document directing who receives the property upon death. It is the signature requirements, however, that cause more wills to fail than any other issue.
Virginia residents should ensure that their will is regularly updated. Many life events can impact who is a potential beneficiary or heir. If individuals fail to update their last will and testament when necessary, the document may not be an accurate reflection of their wishes given their new situation.