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Estate Attorneys

Plan for Your Future.

Get legal expertise in all aspects of planning for your future and providing for your loved ones. The attorneys at McCarthy & Akers, PLC, will help you create a customized estate plan to ensure your personal and financial affairs are taken care of.

Estate Attorneys: Taking Care of Your Estate Plan

Without the proper guidance and information, finding the right person to handle your assets is overwhelming. You need an estate attorney you can trust to take care of your estate plan.

Without an estate plan in place, you feel like you have no control over the future. Only one thing is certain; you know you want to provide for your children.

At McCarthy & Akers, PLC, we have extensive experience in preparing estate plans. We’ll create a customized plan to meet your desires and give you peace of mind.

Estate Planning Services

Navigating Your Options

When it comes to estate planning, you want to identify the best course of action for yourself and your loved ones. With so many options, it’s difficult to navigate them all by yourself.

Our lawyers will work with you to create trusts, wills, living wills, powers of attorney, and health care directives.

McCarthy & Akers, PLC is one of the few area law firms with the level of expertise necessary to properly assist clients with their estate planning needs. The Estates and Wills practice group is headed by J. Douglas McCarthy, a founding partner of McCarthy & Akers, PLC  Mr. McCarthy has received numerous awards for his work in Estates and Tax law.  Mr. McCarthy is also a frequent speaker and presenter on matters related to estate planning and taxation.

A proper estate plan should shield your family and your estate from costly fees and taxes while maximizing the assets that are transferred to your heirs. Estate plans allow you and members of your family to resolve the potentially complicated and emotional distribution of assets, long before your plan will be used. A recent survey by found that 18% of Americans have personally experienced problems after the death or incapacitation of a loved one due to lack of or a poorly prepared estate plan. Although you may think that your family knows your wishes, the government may have different ideas.

The benefits of a properly structured estate plan are tremendous. Most importantly it can eliminate the estate going through probate.  Probate is often viewed as the meddling and interference of the court system in the deceased’s personal affairs, which often times leads to a lengthy process of distributing the estate of the decedent’s assets to the heirs. Your personal information also becomes public knowledge during probate and probate often leads to additional legal fees and taxes for the estate. This could cause the decedent’s wishes to fail.


  1. Avoid the expense of probate
  2. Avoid the time delay of probate
  3. Keep our private matters private
  4. Avoid confrontation with unhappy family or friends
  5. Provide for your minor children
  6. Reduce or avoid Federal Estate and Gift Taxes
  7. Allows review of IRA and retirement plan beneficiaries
  8. Allow flexibility of your assets
  9. Protection from creditors
  10. Plan for incapacity

McCarthy & Akers, PLC has extensive experience in preparing estate plans.  Our firm offers our clients legal expertise in all aspects of planning for their futures, and providing for the ones they love. By assisting clients in analyzing their goals and objectives, we will provide a customized estate plan designed to meet your desires and objectives. We will work with you to create trusts, wills, living wills, powers of attorney and health care directives. The most important estate-planning goal of every client is to ensure that his or her personal matters and financial affairs are appropriately handled upon his or her death or disability.

If you’ve just set up your first estate planning appointment, you may want to prepare in advance for your meeting by gathering some pertinent information. For your convenience we have an Estate Planning Worksheet for you to use. Don’t be concerned if you’re unable to complete all the questions or locate the documents—we will go over everything together—but if you do gather them it can speed things up.

For more information, read our estate administration page.

Wills & Trusts

The first step will be to determine whether or not you require a simple Will or both a Will and a Trust. In order to determine which estate plan is the most appropriate, we will meet with you to complete a simple profile questionnaire and discuss your objectives to assist with identifying your short-term and long-term estate planning goals.

Once we determine what type of estate plan is needed, we will prepare a first draft of the documents for you to review and discuss with your family members. We will prepare only those legal documents that are necessary to pass property to the chosen individuals in the manner desired. We will then discuss with you any changes you may want to make pertaining to the distribution of your estate. The documents will then be finalized and prepared for your signature. If you decide to establish a trust, certain assets will then need to be transferred to the trust.

Read more about our Wills & Trusts services here.

Powers of Attorney

This instrument appoints individuals who will make financial decisions during times of absence or incapacitation.

For more information, read our page on power of attorney.

Health Care Directives

Another important reason to meet with an estate-planning lawyer is to establish health care directives. This is a legal document that states your wishes regarding your healthcare in the event you are rendered unconscious or otherwise unable to state your wishes to family and medical providers alike. At McCarthy & Akers, we can help you draft a health care directive that will help your family and medical providers make important decisions regarding your personal care if you are unable to do so.

For more information, read our Elder Law page.

Tax Planning

By creating a living trust, clients may avoid probate. Much like a will, a living trust will describe happens to your property in the event of your death. While you are alive, you remain in control and have the power to change or alter the trust at any time. Setting up a living trust allows you to avoid the expense and long delays of probate, and may even save you money on taxes.

Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning

Estate Planning:


Glossary of Estate Planning Terms

  • Beneficiary: The person or entity who receives property in accordance with a will, trust, insurance policy, retirement account, or other third-party beneficiary contract.
  • Estate Tax: A tax on the transfer of property after death. This is levied by the state and/or federal government. An estate has the obligation to pay estate tax.
  • Marital Deduction: An unlimited gift tax deduction or estate tax deduction. This type of tax law allows an individual to give assets to his or her spouse with reduced or no tax imposed upon the transfer.
  • Power of Appointment: The power granted to a person allowing him or her to dispose or designate who is to receive certain property under the will.
  • Probate: The judicial process which determines the validity of a will in a court of law and the martialing and distribution of the deceased’s estate.
  • Trustee: The individual or entity that acts as the legal owner of the trust assets. They are responsible for handling any of the assets held in trust, tax filings, and distribution of the assets according to the instructions of the trust.
  • Will: A legal document that identifies where your assets should be distributed after your death. This also gives you the ability to nominate guardians for dependent children. Without a will, the courts determine what happens to your assets and decides the legal responsibility for your kids.

What is estate planning?

Estate planning is a process involving planning for the transfer of an individual’s property after death. It involves the counsel of professional advisors, who are familiar with your desires and concerns, your assets, and family structure.

It may involve a will and / or trust and the services of a variety of professionals: your attorney, accountant, financial planner, life insurance advisor, banker, and broker.

What is my "estate"?

An estate is the net worth of a person at any point in time, alive or dead. Once an individual has passed away, it consists of all property owned at death before it is distributed by a will, trust, or intestacy laws (the laws of descent and distribution). This is the sum of a person’s assets; legal rights, interests and entitlements.

An estate may contain real property (real estate, houses, or investment properties) or personal property (bank accounts, securities, jewelry and automobiles, etc.).

What is the estate planning attorney's role?

A lawyer’s role in estate planning involves advising clients as to the options available and recommendations to accomplish clients’ objectives and assisting clients with drafting and implementing legal documents, including trusts and wills.

While lawyers are not required in order to plan your estate, it may be best to work with an estate planning attorney in ensure that your wishes are carried out. This is especially true if your estate is large, complex, or contains unusual assets.

Do I need an estate planning attorney?

Whether or not you need an estate planning lawyer to help depends on the extent and complexity of your assets and intentions regarding administration of your estate.

While it may be possible for individuals to draft some estate planning documents on their own, it is important to consult with legal professionals to ensure that your estate is administered as you would wish.



What is a will? What does it do / not do?

A will is a legal document that determines who should receive your assets after your death. This document allows you name guardians for dependent children, as well as ensures that your property is distributed according to your wishes. A will may be modified or revoked during the lifetime of its maker.

Why should I have a will?

A will is necessary to ensure that your wishes are honored after your death. While its primary purpose is to distribute any property you own upon your death, it can also specify other provisions. These wishes can ensure that your spouse or partner receives all your possessions, and guardians are named for your minor children.

When should I get a will?

In most states, the minimum age to legally write a will is 18. Deciding at what age to write a will is a personal decision, but there are certain practical considerations that can help you determine the right time.

If you are married, have children, or have a positive net worth (assets exceeding $100,000), it’s almost always easier on your family to have a will or trust in place.

What happens if I die without a will?

The term for when a person dies without a will is “intestate”. Intestacy laws of the state where you reside will determine how your property is distributed upon your death. This includes any bank accounts, securities, real estate, and other assets you own at the time of death.

While intestacy laws vary, in general, each state’s laws provide a list of the decedent’s next of kin in the order while they will receive a portion of the estate. This process typically goes: spouse, children, parents (in the event the individual is single and childless), siblings.

What is a "living will"?

A living will is an advance healthcare directive. It is a document that lets people state their wishes for end-of-life medical care, in case they become unable to communicate their decisions. This living will is a set of instructions or an expression of wishes and desires that specifies the use or non-use of medical treatments and procedures that would artificially prolong life.

How do I get a will?

You can either create a will yourself or consult a lawyer. Regardless of whether or not you consult an estate planning lawyer, these are the basic steps to getting a will:

  1. Decide what property to include in your will.
  2. Determine who will inherit your property.
  3. Choose an executor to handle your estate.
  4. Choose a guardian for your children.
  5. Appoint someone to manage your children’s property.
  6. Make your will.
  7. Sign your will in front of witnesses.
  8. Store your will in a safe place.

Should I hire a lawyer to help me draft a will, or can I do it myself?

It is possible for you to draft your own will. Whether or not you need an estate planning lawyer to help depends on the extent and complexity of your assets and how particular you would like to direct the administration of your estate.

In preparing your will, it is important to meet certain basic procedural requirements; such as making sure you have witnesses when signing the necessary documents. With the proper research, it is possible to draft a valid estate plan yourself if your assets and instructions are relatively simple.

What information and documents should I gather before I contact an attorney to prepare a will?

When creating a will, most attorneys will typically ask for a list of information. This includes information birth, marriage and divorce certificates, deeds and mortgages, bank account numbers, investment portfolio, insurance policy information, your beneficiaries’ full names, addresses and other contact information, your Social Security number, and the birth or adoption papers for any minor children you have.

You may also be required to list your advisors, such as your banker, accountant, investment dealer, and insurance agent.

How much does writing a will typically cost?

For a simple estate, writing a basic will could cost relatively little amount. There is no charge for a consultation to meet with an attorney and receive a recommendation.



What is a trust?

A trust is a fiduciary relationship. It involves the transfer of property from one person (the settlor) to the control of another person (the trustee), to be held and used for the benefit of a third party (the beneficiary).

Trusts are established to provide legal protection for the trustor’s assets, to make sure those assets are distributed according to the wishes

What is the difference between a will and a trust?

A will covers any property that is only in your name when you die. It doesn’t cover property held in joint tenancy. A trust, on the other hand, covers only property that has been transferred to the trust. A will goes into effect after the death of the testator, while a living trust goes into effect as soon as it’s signed.

What is a "living trust"?

A living trust is a written legal document through which your assets are placed into a trust for your benefit during your lifetime. Upon your death, these benefits are transferred to designated beneficiaries by your chosen representative, known as the “successor trustee.”

What is a revocable living trust?

A revocable living trust is a popular estate planning tool that you can use to determine who will get your property when you die. Assets you place in the trust are transferred to your designated beneficiaries upon your death.

Revocable living trusts are “living” because you make them during your lifetime and can change or cancel the provisions at any time.

Power of Attorney:


What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a written authorization to represent someone as their agent. This gives them the ability to act on their behalf in private affairs, business, or on other legal matters. The power may be given temporarily or permanently and may take effect immediately or upon the occurrence of a future event or your inability to make decisions, due to mental or physical disability.

Will my Power of Attorney expire?

Once the power of attorney is invoked, it usually is irrevocable unless the principal regains their capacity to make decisions for themselves or passes away.

You should periodically meet with your lawyer to revisit your power of attorney and whether your choice of agent still meets your needs. In addition, some financial institutions require updated powers of attorney in order to be honored.

Who should be your agent?

Your power of attorney will be the one handling your legal and financial affairs, so most people choose a spouse, child, or family member to act on their behalf. You may wish to appoint someone with experience in these fields or with the financial savvy to handle these types of decisions.

What if I move?

A power of attorney remains valid even if you change your state of residence. Although it’s not necessary to update your power of attorney when you move, it may be a good opportunity to update your overall estate plan and nuances of the new state law are addressed.



What is probate?

Probate is the judicial process which determines the validity of a will in a court of law and administers the distribution of the estate.

Should I avoid probate?

Since it is the court-supervised process of carrying out your will, the three main reasons to avoid probate are the time and money it can take to complete and the public nature of the process. Along with the various proceedings and hearings, gathering assets and paying off the debts to an estate can take months, or potentially years.

What is probate property vs non-probate property?

Probate is the judicial process through which a court determines how to distribute your property upon your death. Some of these assets are distributed to heirs by the court according to your will (or the laws of intestacy if you don’t have a will).

In comparison, non-probate assets bypass the court process and go directly to your beneficiaries based upon the form of title or a beneficiary designation. They don’t require a probate court order to pass the title.

Proxies / Advance Medical Directives:


What is a health care proxy?

A health care proxy or agent has the authority to make medical decisions in cases where a person is rendered incapable of making his or her own decisions.

How do I get a health care proxy?

All competent adults, ages 18 years or older can appoint a health care agent by signing a form, called a Health Care Proxy. You don’t need a lawyer or notary, just two adult witnesses.

What is a living will / advance health care directive?

A living will is an advance healthcare directive. While not actually a will, it is a document that lets people state their wishes for end-of-life medical care, in case they become unable to communicate their decisions.

This living will is a set of instructions or an expression of wishes and desires that specifies the use or non-use of medical treatments and procedures that would artificially prolong life.

McCarthy & Akers

Office Hours
Mon-Fri: 8:30am-6:00pm
Saturday, By Appointment

Shenandoah Valley

Front Royal

135 B N. Royal Ave.
Front Royal, Va 22630


145 E. King Street
Strasburg, Va 22657


302 W. Boscawen St.,
Winchester, Va 22601


109 N. Main St, Suite 201
Woodstock, VA 22664
(Look for 106 Lawyers Row)

Northern Virginia


10432 Balls Ford Rd., Ste 300,
Manassas, VA 20109


25 S. 4th St., Suite 102,
Warrenton, Va 20186