Estate Planning Essentials for Single Parents in Virginia
Estate planning is important for everybody, but it is especially vital for single parents. If you have children whom you are raising on your own, you will want to make sure that they are taken care of if anything should happen to you. Without an estate plan in place, critical decisions regarding the future of your children could be left in the hands of a court.
Here are some of the essential areas that single parents should focus on with their estate plans:
Designate Inherited Property
For starters, you will want to have a will that clearly designates who will receive your property when you die. A will is the most basic of all estate planning documents, and if you die without one, your property is distributed in accordance with Virginia interstate succession laws.
Having a will gives you the power to decide who inherits your property. In addition, you will be able to name an executor for your estate rather than leaving it up to the court. Your executor should be someone you can fully trust to carry out your final wishes, and there is no guarantee that the court will appoint the right person for this job.
Name a Guardian (for minor children)
If you have children who have not reached the age of majority, a will is especially important, because it allows you to name the person (or persons) you want to raise them. You know better than anyone who is best suited to parent your children if you are no longer around, so make sure you name the right guardian(s) while you are still able to do so.
Create a Durable Power of Attorney
If you should become disabled or incapacitated in the future, this could severely disrupt your children’s lives. This is where a durable power of attorney comes in. One of the important functions of a durable power of attorney is to designate someone to manage your financial affairs if you are no longer able to do so. This helps ensure that your bills get paid and your kids have the necessities they need in the event of disability or incapacitation.
Implement Strategies to Avoid Probate
In Virginia, estates that have no real property (e.g., houses, land, etc.) and are valued at $50,000 or less are considered “small estates” and do not have to go through probate. This can save your loved ones a lot of time and expense administering the distribution of your property. If you own a home, have a retirement account, and/or have other financial assets that total more than $50,000, you can still avoid probate and ensure a smoother transfer of property with some upfront planning.
First of all, Virginia recognizes transfer on death (TOD) deeds for real property. This means that you can have the ownership of your home and any other real estate property you own transferred directly to your children (or whatever beneficiaries you designate) when you die, and this property does not have to be included in the value of your estate. TOD deeds in Virginia are also revocable, so you can always change beneficiaries or cancel the deed if future circumstances warrant it.
You can also designate beneficiaries for various financial accounts and insurance policies, which again allows for the direct transfer of these assets outside of probate. Beneficiary designations are most common with bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies. These designations can usually be done directly through the financial institution; however, you could run into some problems if they are not coordinated with your overall estate plan.
This is especially true with single parents who want to make sure that their children receive their property at the appropriate age and in the proper manner. For example, minor children cannot take control of their inherited or received property until they reach the age of majority, which in Virginia is 18. This again speaks to the importance of designating the right person to manage the assets of a minor child until the child is ready to take over.
A single parent who is planning their estate may also want provisions that do not allow their children to receive their assets until they are mature enough to handle them. This could be age 21 or maybe older depending on the circumstances and what the parent believes is best. To address this situation, many parents have their assets placed into a trust that a child cannot touch until a certain age.
Contact an Experienced Virginia Estate Planning Lawyer
Estate planning for single parents can get complicated, and this is why it is always best to work with an experienced attorney who can help you successfully navigate this process based on your specific needs. For skilled guidance with estate plans in Virginia, contact Buck, Toscano & Terezkerz at (434) 977-7977 or send us an online message to set up a free consultation. We look forward to serving you!