Do you have questions about estate planning and how to ensure that your or a loved one’s assets are properly managed and distributed to the proper beneficiaries upon death? Do you wonder what constitutes your estate or when you should begin your estate plan? Are you hesitant to spend estate assets on attorneys, accountants, or other financial professionals and wonder if you really need their services?
At McCarthy & Akers, PLC, we get many questions like these. Read on as our caring estate planning lawyer answers the most frequently asked questions we receive. If you are ready to create an estate plan or want to ensure that you have the right one for your circumstances, we are here to help. We have extensive experience preparing estate plans and can provide you with a plan tailored to your specific needs and wishes. From trusts and wills to health care directives and powers of attorney, we offer our clients legal expertise in all aspects of future planning.
What is My “Estate?”
In the estate planning world, your “estate” is your net worth, which consists of the total value of your:
- Real estate
- Financial securities
- Other assets that you own
Your estate is your total assets minus any liabilities. This valuation is relevant in two instances: if you ever need to declare bankruptcy and when you die.
What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning involves the creation of legal documents that allow those close to you to know and understand your wishes for your long-term health and financial care, as well as who should care for your minor children or dependents if you become mentally or physically incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself, or if you pass away. An estate plan may involve the following:
- Wills and Trusts
- Powers of Attorney
- Health Care Directives
- Probate and Estate Administration
- Elder Law and Medicaid Representation
- Tax Planning
If you die without an estate plan, the state will determine how to distribute your wealth. However, this distribution may differ from your wishes. Creating a solid estate plan is essential to ensure total control over your estate distribution after you pass away. To help our clients, we created an estate planning checklist where you can begin to build a great estate plan in three simple steps.
When Should I Begin Estate Planning?
It’s never too early to begin an estate plan. The best time to start planning for the future distribution of your estate is as soon as you become a legal adult. The second-best time is now.
Once you establish your initial estate plan, we recommend updating it every three to five years. Your estate will change significantly throughout your life, and you want your plan to be as up-to-date as possible when you pass.
What is a Lawyer’s Role in Estate Planning?
An estate planning attorney can guide you through all the essential details to consider during your estate planning process.
These professionals have extensive knowledge and experience in planning estates. They also know all state and federal laws that may impact how your estate will be taxed and disbursed after your death. Finally, they can help your family members distribute your estate after you die, saving your family time and stress while they grieve.
If you attempt to create an estate plan without a knowledgeable professional, you risk overlooking critical details that could impact your estate distribution. Hiring an estate planning attorney is essential to navigating this process effectively.
What are the Most Common Goals of Estate Planning?
When people think of estate planning, they may not realize that having an estate plan can protect you by:
- Avoiding the expense of probate
- Avoiding the time delay of probate
- Keeping private matters private
- Avoiding confrontation with unhappy family or friends
- Providing for your minor children
- Reducing or avoiding federal estate and gift taxes
- Allowing review of IRA and retirement plan beneficiaries
- Allowing flexibility of your assets
- Protecting you from creditors
- Planning for incapacity
What is the Role of an Executor?
An estate executor is responsible for managing someone’s estate after they die. This person has two primary roles:
- Use the decedent’s estate to pay off any remaining debts or credits the decedent owed.
- Distribute the remaining estate according to the decedent’s will or estate plan.
What is the Difference Between an Estate Administrator and an Estate Executor?
Estate executors and administrators perform many of the same actions. The primary difference between these two roles is who appoints them.
When you create an estate plan, you can designate a trusted person to be your executor. Meanwhile, if you do not name an executor or your executor cannot perform these duties, the court will assign someone as an administrator of your estate.
While a decedent can name anyone as their executor, the court will typically appoint a decedent’s surviving spouse or adult child as administrator. If you would like a specific person to assume this role, you’ll need to name them in your will.
How Many Administrators Can Be On an Estate?
The court typically only appoints one person as administrator of the estate. However, you can name more than one person as executor. For example, you may want to appoint your two adult children as co-executors. You can also name a backup executor who will assume the role if your first choice is unavailable after your death.
What Happens to a Person’s Debts After Their Death?
A person’s debts do not disappear after their death. Instead, their executor or administrator must use the funds from the estate to pay the decedent’s debts before distributing the rest of their assets.
However, certain debts may disappear after your death. For example, the government forgives federal student loans upon the borrower’s death. Some private student loans may also be dismissed.
McCarthy & Akers: Your Experienced Virginia Estate Planning Attorneys Near Me
Meeting with an “estate planning attorney near me” is the next step if you are ready to discuss your estate plan. Contact our team at McCarthy & Akers today at (540) 722-2181 or fill out our online form to schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys and get the legal advice you need. We invite you to come in and develop a plan of action today and let us go to work for you. We have offices in Strasburg, Front Royal, Winchester, Manassas, and Culpeper.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
McCarthy & Akers, PLC
302 W Boscawen St.
Winchester, VA 22601