Estate Planning Lawyer Serving Fairfax & Fairfax County
It’s never too early to begin estate planning. Many believe that wills and trusts are only for the rich or those in their later years, but few realize the benefits that properly executed wills and trusts can provide. Much of this misconception is a result of not fully understanding the power and effect that wills and trusts have, as well as the peace of mind provided by knowing that many uncertainties have been resolved.
At Surovell Isaacs & Levy, PLC, we have helped countless Virginians establish estate plans through the construction and execution of wills and trusts. Our experience includes simple wills, guardianship and trust wills, living wills, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, and testamentary trusts. We’ve even helped clients establish pet and charitable trusts.
A simple will is the most basic estate planning document that allows you to specify how your assets should be allocated upon your passing. A simple will also designates an executor of the estate who will carry out the will’s instructions. For those without complex testamentary intentions, such as an individual with $50,000 in net assets and no children, a simple will may suffice.
A guardianship and trust will operate similar to a simple will, except it includes additional provisions relating to guardianship. If you have children under the age of 18, the guardianship and trust will allows you to not only prescribe the distribution of your assets and appoint an executor of the estate, but also allows you to nominate potential guardians for your children in the event that you (and your spouse/partner) pass while they are still minors.
An important consideration for wills is that a will must go through probate. This means that the will and its contents will enter into the public record and be accessible by anyone. For individuals who wish to avoid their wealth distribution or guardianship decisions being entered into the public record via a simple will or guardianship and trust will, more private methods can be used to allocate assets, such as trusts.
Living Wills (Advanced Medical Directives)
A living will is commonly referred to as an advanced medical directive. A living will does not handle the allocation of your assets; rather, the living will allows you to specify the medical treatment you would like to receive if you become incapacitated. Certain considerations such as the extent of life support treatment you would like to describe can be asserted in the living will. It’s important to consult with family when planning the living will so that they understand your wishes should your wishes diverge from their views.
Revocable Living Trust
For those with more complex estates or wishing to retain privacy not enjoyed through the probate process, the trusts provide a useful instrument. A revocable living trust is created while you are alive with you naming yourself as the trustee and thus retain control over the trust’s assets. Like a will, revocable living trusts can be amended and revoked throughout the trustee’s life, offering flexibility as your circumstances change.
An additional advantage of revocable living trusts over wills is that the revocable living trust allows for the management of assets should you become incapacitated. A simple will does not provide for such delegation and assurance.
Revocable living trusts can also be structured in a manner to reduce the taxable burden on the trust’s beneficiaries (those who benefit from the trust). The specific tax burden beneficiaries face is dependent upon a number of factors including the size of the estate, the types of assets, and the trust’s structure, among other variables.
An irrevocable trust is a permanent trust. Unlike the revocable living trust which can be amended and revoked throughout its life, the irrevocable trust cannot. In exchange for their rigidness, irrevocable trusts provide certain tax advantages not enjoyed by wills and revocable living trusts.
A testamentary trust is a trust that arises from a last will and testament. Upon an individual’s passing who includes a testamentary trust in his or her will, the trust will be formed and the assets moved into that trust. Because a testamentary trust does not come into existence until after the testator’s passing, the testamentary trust does not provide the asset management offered by revocable living trusts and irrevocable trusts.
Pet and Charitable Trusts
Virginia law allows for the creation of trusts for the benefit of animals. The pet trust allows a caretaker to be named for the pet and wealth to be allocated in the trust to provide for the pet after your passing. Additionally, charitable trusts allow you to create a trust that benefits a specific charitable purpose or organization.
Structuring trusts in a tax-efficient manner that enacts your wishes requires an experienced estate planning lawyer. At Surovell Isaacs & Levy, PLC, we have successfully helped individuals like yourself navigate the estate planning process to establish trusts that enact their wishes in an efficient and private manner.
Contact Our Fairfax Wills and Trusts Attorney
Estate planning can be a complex process that uses all of the above-referenced instruments. However, for most individuals, only a select few instruments are necessary. Understanding how to enact your wishes through the use of each instrument, and the potential combination of several instruments requires the experience of a skillful wills and trusts attorney. At Surovell Isaacs & Levy, PLC, we have diligently served the communities of Northern Virginia and the Washington D.C. metropolitan area as trusted estate planning advisors. If you have questions relating to wills and trusts, or estate planning more generally, please contact our office today for a free consultation.