Charlottesville, VA Wills Attorney
Buck, Toscano & Tereskerz represents clients in estate planning matters, and one of the first things youshould include in an estate plan is a Last Will and Testament. A proper will is formed when a person, deemed mentally competent and 18 years or older, writes a will and signs it.
Virginia will, in most cases, have a will signing witnessed by two persons deemed “competent.” The two witnesses will be required to sign the will in front of the testator. The exception to the rule is when the testator writes the entire will in their own handwriting and signs and dates the will.
By law, there is no requirement for the will to be notarized. That said, notarizing your will is always a good idea, because it provides an extra layer of credibility in case it is ever challenged.
Our attorneys will help you create a will that is legally binding in the State of Virginia. We’ll help you:
- Draft a will
- Understand what a will should consist of
- Amend the will in the future (if needed)
What Happens If You Die Without a Will?
Upon your demise, Virginia statutes will dictate who will receive your property. Your wishes may not be upheld, meaning that family heirloom you wanted to pass to your niece may end up going to your sister. Property that you wanted to leave to your sister may be given to your brother instead.
In a large number of cases, if you have a surviving spouse, the entirety of your estate will be passed to your spouse (in the absence of a will).
There is one notable exception: Children or the descendants of children who are not from your surviving spouse. In this case, the children and the descendants of a deceased child will be able to claim two-thirds of your estate, and your spouse receives the remaining third.
If your wishes are not recorded, Virginia interstate laws determine who inherits your property, and you may be leaving assets to your children or their descendants that you didn’t want to leave to them.
A living trust may be able to direct some assets appropriately, but it is not a substitute for a will. While an important part of estate planning for some people, a living trust may not be able to dispose of all of your assets.
Some assets cannot be placed in a living trust, or there may be assets that have not been added to your living trust before your death. A will would still be required to be able to direct all of these assets appropriately.
If you die without a will and have no family to leave your property to, the State of Virginia will inherit your estate. This rarely happens, however, because If you have any surviving family at all (even aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins), they would receive your property before the state would.
Who Needs a Will?
As a key component of estate planning, it is a wise choice for everyone to create a will. The will dictates how the estate is settled when you (the testator) pass away. A will determines:
- How assets are divided
- How assets are distributed
- How debts are paid
You can have a will provide a guardian for your minor children, leave money to charity and also name an executor to oversee your estate.
The Virginia State Bar recommends that every mentally competent adult have a will drafted. Wills are beneficial for your estate for a few reasons:
- Wills end conflict among family members, ensuring your assets are divided as per your wishes;
- Expenses of administering the estate are reduced;
- Wills can help ensure that your children are properly cared for in the event of a worst-case scenario.
Once a will is formed, it will be legally valid until:
- The will’s destruction
- Written revocation
- A superseding will is created
If you’re married after a will is formed or have a child after the will is written, you’ll want to either have a new will formed or have the original will amended. The law may also consider part of your will revoked if you divorce your spouse (who is named in the will).
Wills can be changed at any time during your life, and it’s important that when major life events occur, such as the birth of a child or the marriage / divorce of a spouse, a will be revisited. You’ll also want to revisit your will when new, larger assets are obtained, such as land or real estate.
Preparing to Write Your Will
Virginia law doesn’t require an attorney to draft your will, but it is highly recommended. You want the peace of mind in knowing that your will is legally binding. You don’t want a slight error in the writing of your will to cause arguments (or even legal challenges) within your family.
Preparing to have your will written will require you to:
- Determine who will be the executor of your estate, or the person that is responsible for ensuring that your wishes are upheld. An attorney, spouse, friend, child, or another trusted individual can be chosen as an executor.
- Create a comprehensive list of all of your assets. You’ll want to include assets that are of any significance to you. These assets can include real estate, bonds, jewelry – anything of importance and value.
- Choose who gets which assets. A lot of thought must go into this process, and if a person that you wanted to leave an asset to passes away or has lost your favor, it’s important to have the will changed to reflect your wishes.
You’ll want to properly prepare all of your assets and who you would like to receive your assets so that you are prepared when visiting an attorney. Your list preparation will make the creation of the will go smoothly, ensuring that all of your assets are properly accounted for.
We’re Here to Help
Buck, Toscano & Tereskerz can help you create an original will, amend your will or make sure that your will is legally binding. Clients can create their own will, but when working with Buck, Toscano & Tereskerz, we’ll:
- Help you manage complicated estates
- Ensure your will is legally binding
- Advise you on which assets should be included in your will
Our experienced legal team has decades of experience in drafting wills in accordance to Virginia laws. If you’re ready to take the first step in estate planning and create a will, get in touch with us today by calling (434) 977-7977. You may also send us a message through our online contact form or stop by our Charlottesville office in person at your convenience.