Everyone Needs An Estate Plan

People put off developing an estate plan for a number of reasons. They don't think they have enough money to need an estate plan. They don't have complex assets or own a business. They think they are too young. Or, they simply don't want to confront their own mortality. Unfortunately, all of these are misconceptions.

At the Law Office of Deborah N. Arthur, we believe that every individual should have at least a basic estate plan that covers what should happen if they become disabled or pass away. Our dedicated attorneys have been helping clients prepare their basic estate plans in Annandale, Fairfax County and Northern Virginia for over 30 years — and we can help you, too. Give the gift of guidance and peace of mind to your heirs, beneficiaries and family by preparing your estate plan today.

Estate Planning 101

In essence, estate planning is making arrangements for the disbursement or management of your assets, legal rights, interests and property during your life and after your death. Estate planning can also help minimize tax consequences, reduce the need for judicial involvement and relieve your loved ones of the burden of deciding what to do if you become incapacitated or pass away.

Basic estate plans will include some or all of the following:

  • Will — A will is the most basic part of an estate plan. It appoints an executor to carry out the written desires of your will (such as how assets should be distributed at your death) and can appoint an adult guardian for your minor children. Your will can also create testamentary trusts that put a beneficiary's inheritance into a trust that will be distributed upon attainment of a certain age. Note, however, that a will cannot affect any jointly owned accounts or real estate that is jointly owned with rights of survivorship, nor can it affect any assets for which you have already named specific beneficiaries. Thus, it is very important to understand and discuss with your attorney your goals and how all of your assets are titled and which assets will actually flow through your will.
  • Revocable living trust — A revocable living trust can be a very useful estate planning tool. It is a trust that is revocable and amendable at any time during your lifetime. You can name yourself as the initial trustee and beneficiary of the trust. By retitling assets into the trust or naming the trust as beneficiary on accounts, you are able to avoid probate of those assets, thus reducing the time, cost and possible headaches of probate. Additionally, you can name successor trustees of your trust who can take over your assets in the trust as such time as you may become incapacitated. The trust can also protect your privacy through the avoidance of probate and court-supervised management of your assets during disability.
  • Financial powers of attorney — Everyone should have a financial power of attorney that designates an agent to handle their financial affairs. You never know if or when you may become disabled at some point in the future, and you want to be able to have your affairs handled without court involvement. If you have not established and funded a living trust, or named an agent in a financial power of attorney, the court would need to appoint a person as conservator to manage your resources and report each and every transaction on an annual accounting.
  • Advance medical directive — Everyone should have an advance medical directive. At the Law Office of Deborah N. Arthur, we combine what is normally considered a "living will" with a health care power of attorney. In this document, your desires regarding life-prolonging procedures being withdrawn or withheld should you enter a persistent vegetative state are set forth. Additionally, this document allows you to name the person you want to make decisions regarding your medical treatment if you are deemed unable to give informed consent for your treatment.

We Can Help You Prepare For The Future

No matter your net worth or age, every individual should have a personalized plan for his or her estate. We believe in looking at each individual's goals in their estate plan and not simply implementing a cookie-cutter plan for everyone. Your goals may have to do with tax planning, division of assets, appointing an executor, naming guardians for minor children or planning for avoidance of probate. We believe in creating an estate plan to meet your individual goals and desires.

Once we establish what your goals are, we can determine the best approach to take for your estate plan. At the Law Office of Deborah N. Arthur, we will customize each of your estate planning documents to meet your goals and desires. Contact our office online, or call 703-278-2028 today to set up a free consultation regarding your estate plan.