If you are under the impression that a simple will is all the estate planning you need, you could be right – or you could be tragically wrong. Simple estates may only need a legal will to settle their final affairs. After all, a will in Virginia can be used to lay out specific instructions upon your death, including:
- Designate an estate administrator
- Name beneficiaries for your assets
- Assign a guardian for your children
- Specify how taxes and debts will be paid
- Back up a living trust
But if you have more personal or complex needs, a will leaves most of these issues undone or under the control of strangers through the probate process. It can also create fodder for arguments and disagreements among your loved ones.
For example, a simple will cannot:
- Bequeath certain types of property
- Specify your final arrangements
- Reduce or avoid estate taxes
- Avoid the cost or time of probate
- Set specific conditions for the assignment of gifts
- Arrange to provide for a beneficiary or heir who has special needs
- Leave money or property to a pet
What Estate Planning Documents Do I Need Besides a Will?
As you can see, if you have specific needs or wishes a simple will cannot address, you need to explore more advanced estate planning tools. What do you need besides a will? We describe some of the more basic tools below.
A Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney grants an individual the legal authority to appoint someone to act on their behalf in financial and legal matters during their lifetime. Without a designated Power of Attorney, the local Virginia circuit court decides who will handle the disposition of your assets. This vital document prevents strangers from making decisions about your estate and affairs if you become incapacitated and cannot decide for yourself.
Advanced Healthcare Directive
An Advanced Healthcare Directive, also known as an advance medical directive, spells out your wishes for medical treatment in certain situations if you cannot do so yourself. It also names a Healthcare Power of Attorney as your agent to make decisions for you that are not outlined in your Advanced Directive.
Trusts are legal entities used to hold and protect assets for various purposes. Different types of trusts exist for other uses, and they are valuable tools to protect your assets if you become incapacitated. They also shield your business from public knowledge, as they are not subject to the probate process.
Beneficiary designations are those you choose to receive assets from your retirement accounts, bank accounts, life insurance policies, and other personal property. Naming them in advance, dovetailed to your plan and with the guidance of your estate planning attorney, allows these assets to pass directly to your beneficiaries outside the probate process.
Funeral and Burial Instructions
Creating a formal list of funeral and burial instructions removes a painful task from your loved ones, freeing them to grieve without worrying over your final disposition. Include any relevant insurance coverage or paid burial plans, and their records with these instructions.
Astute Estate Planning Help in Virginia
Getting the help you need with your estate planning in Virginia is a vital first step. The free Estate Planning Workshop from Promise Law is a great place to begin. This workshop covers many aspects of estate planning for beginners and includes a complimentary consultation with one of our talented Estate Planning Attorneys. There is no obligation to partner with us for legal services if you participate in this workshop. It is a great way to learn more about creating your estate plan.
Call us at (757) 866-3730 or fill out the Estate Planning Workshop page form to get more information.