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Frequently Asked Questions

I need a quote. Whom do I contact?

Please call the office at 571-800-1545 to speak to us regarding scheduling a complimentary appointment to assess your needs so that we can accurately quote a figure that addresses your particular circumstances. The initial meeting is zero obligation and you will be quoted a flat fee for services to be rendered. You may also schedule the complimentary appointment via our website.

Why is it important to have an attorney draft a will?

Drafting a simple will is a task that some people feel they can do themselves using online programs, however, many of these are often invalid under state law or do not properly address the individual’s needs, such as guardianship of minor children, granting their chosen executor(s) the proper authority to administer the estate, or accounting for all contingencies that may occur.

What is probate? Can it be avoided?

Probate is the process in which a court oversees the administration of your estate.  If you only have a will (and not a trust) or die intestate (without a will or trust), your selected executor or natural heirs will have to be appointed by the court to administer your estate in accordance with your will or the laws of intestate succession. The process usually takes a minimum of 12-18 months, but it is not unusual for completion of probate administration to take multiple years. In addition to the delay that will occur between when you die and when your beneficiaries will inherit your assets caused by this process, there will be fees, taxes, and other related expenses throughout the administration that will diminish the value of your estate.  Furthermore, it is a complicated and very labor-intensive job that will put undue stress and hardship on the person or persons you’ve selected to be your executor(s). By using a trust, you can effectively eliminate the probate process and have everything administered outside of the supervision of the courts, which does away with the additional expense, cumbersome and time-consuming documentation, and unnecessary delay caused by probate.

What are powers of attorney? Why do I need them?

Powers of attorney are legal documents that pertain to your financial and medical decision-making. A general durable power of attorney (aka a financial power of attorney) is a document in which you select another individual or individuals to have the authority to transact your financial matters as you would be able to do so yourself. It is essential that you have one in the event that you are temporarily or permanently unable to handle such business yourself due to accident, sickness, advanced age, or even for convenience. Without said document, those whom will need to manage your affairs will have to go to the courts to be appointed on your behalf, which means additional expense and time, not to mention removing your power to select your agent and leaving it in the hands of a judge who does not know your wishes. Similarly, a health care power of attorney is a legal document in which you select an individual or individuals whom you wish to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to communicate your wishes to the attending personnel.

What is a trust? Aren't they just for wealthy people?

Most people have heard the term “trust fund kids” but many are unfamiliar with what a trust actually is.  The most commonly used trust in estate planning, called a revocable living trust, is a document that you create on paper to hold title to your assets. Once you no longer have assets held in your name individually, your personal estate will have nothing to go through the probate process, thus saving your heirs or beneficiaries money and headache by allowing them to have a greatly streamlined trust administration process that gets them their inheritance quickly, efficiently, and without added taxes, fees, and expenses associated with probate. While this type of trust and other more advanced planning techniques are certainly beneficial for wealthy clients, they are relatively inexpensive planning tools in the long term and are frequently the best fit for clients with even modest sized estates given their many benefits and advantages.

What are some of the benefits of a trust?

In addition to avoiding the probate process, trusts have many additional advantages that are not found with a basic will based estate plan, including:
  • The ability to determine when your beneficiaries inherit your assets, meaning you can select a trusted individual or entity to safeguard and invest an inheritance for a minor or young adult child whom you would rather not receive all their inheritance outright at the moment of your passing.
  • Assets inherited in trust from a decedent are protected against ex-spouses of the beneficiary, so any concerns of leaving money to a child and then divorce allowing the in-law to make off with 50% of the inheritance are eliminated.
  • Assets inherited in trust are also protected from bankruptcy proceedings, lawsuits, and creditors, permitting your beneficiary a level of financial security that is greatly desirable.

How long does it take to have documents drafted?

Our initial complimentary appointment is usually completed within 60-75 minutes, at which point we will quote the flat rate fee and an estimation of time until the documents are ready to be reviewed and signed.  For an average client, expected turnaround time is 10-14 days from the initial meeting.

Someone I know died, and I was named executor in his/her will. What do I do?

Individuals often find themselves in this situation, whether it is a child acting on behalf of a deceased parent, a friend acting on behalf of a friend, etc. The probate process is a daunting undertaking, and doing it without the guidance of an attorney can be overwhelming and a source of liability. We offer to serve in your stead as executor or assist you in your capacity as the personal representative to ensure that you are in full compliance with all the legal requirements and documentation that will be asked of you and to make all proper decisions to limit your legal exposure to disgruntled heirs or relatives, and guarantee the most tax efficient and timely administration of the estate.

What kind of asset protection does your firm do?

The most common type of asset protection that we do for our clients is the continuing trusts for heirs/beneficiaries, also sometimes referred to as “reservoir trusts” or “dynasty trusts,” which permit your beneficiaries to inherit your assets protected from lawsuits, creditors, divorces, and estate taxes at the next generation. However, we also specialize in a more complex type of asset protection planning that is aimed at people who are anticipating long term care costs in the next few years.  Anyone familiar with the ever increasing costs of long term care and nursing homes knows that it is not uncommon for expenses to exceed $10,000 per month in such facilities, and this can rapidly deplete the size of an estate that your parents spent a lifetime of saving and hard work to accumulate, and will now no longer be able to pass on to you as your inheritance.  With our forward thinking and cutting edge solutions, we are able to structure an estate plan as such that will protect these assets from the ongoing costs of long term care, potentially saving you and your family hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses. Schedule a complimentary appointment today to learn more about this type of planning if it is relevant to your family situation and something that you would like to become more informed on.

Do you offer financial planning as part of the estate planning?

Part of our job as estate planning attorneys is to understand the full scope of your assets and liabilities, and an open and complete discussion of your financial matters is paramount to this relationship. While NOVA Estate Planning does not offer financial planning directly, we work closely with a number of trusted financial advisors and insurance specialists based in the northern Virginia area. These professionals and the services they can offer naturally compliment any estate plan and we are happy to coordinate introduction of such services for you as part of ensuring your estate plan and financial plan are properly synced and working the way you want them to.

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