Manassas Law Group Wills and Estates Blog

How Do I Protect my Family from the Probate Process?

Posted by Dick Boatwright on May 13, 2016

Our clients often come in for a consultation with questions related to probate.They have heard that probate is something they should avoid for the sake of their loved ones. They have heard that the probate process in Virginia can be time consuming and expensive.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal procedure/process by which the court supervises the transfer of ownership of the deceased owner’s assets/property following death. If there is a will, it is recorded and the person named in the will to look after decedent’s property (the Executor) is required to prepare and file an inventory of the estate assets, pay off the estate debts and distribute the estate property according to the terms of the will. The executor is responsible for submitting one or more accountings detailing all of the estate’s financial transactions. Often the Executor will need the assistance of an attorney and perhaps an accountant to complete these tasks. The executor must post a bond with the Court and secure a bonding company (surety) to stand behind the bond. If there is no will, the person who looks after the transfers of assets is called the Administrator.

Avoiding probate

There are, however, estate planning techniques and tools that can help you avoid placing this burden on your family members. At the Manassas Law Group, P.C., our attorneys have the experience in probate law and can help you organize your financial affairs so that the probate process will not be necessary. These methods should be tailored to the client’s particular needs and circumstances. Among the methods available are:

Creating a revocable living trust.  A revocable living trust can be created whereby you select a trusted individual to serve as trustee owner of any property that you transfer to the trust. Property held in the Trust is not subject to probate and will transfer to your named beneficiaries upon your death.

Joint ownership of property.  Property such as real estate, bank accounts, investment accounts and retirement accounts can be set up so that this property automatically passes to the surviving owner when the first owner passes away. Property of this type is not subject to probate. Investment accounts of this type are called "transfer on death" (TOD) accounts. If the account is held by a bank it is called a "payable on death" (POD) account. With real estate the deed may establish a joint tenancy with survivorship or in the case of a married couple tenants by the entirety with survivorship.

Simplified probate: If your real estate or property is valued below a certain amount, you may be able to avoid probate altogether.

Contact us to discuss ways to avoid probate

At the Manassas Law Group, P.C., our skilled attorneys can help you draft a variety of estate planning documents to avoid the probate process. Call us locally at 703 361-8246 for your APPOINTMENT.

When does your Will not control what happens to your property?

Posted by Dick Boatwright on March 24, 2016

A husband and Wife have just signed their Wills. They naturally have every expectation that the language in their Wills is controlling as to what happens to their property when they die; However, if the Will preparer has not become familiar with how the couple own (how the property is titled) their property, there could be problems the couple did not anticipate.

Frequently individuals have signed beneficiary designation forms (POD forms) at their bank or with the firm that handles their retirement accounts (TOD forms). These beneficiary designation forms and not the Will are controlling as to what happens to those assets. For example, assume Jane is a widow with three (3) adult children; Jane's Will says her three children are to share equally in her property upon her death; However, the attorney who prepared Jane's will did not inquire about how Jane had her property titled. As it turns out, Jane had all of her money in various bank and Investment accounts. Each account had its own beneficiary designation. Some of the beneficiary Forms named individuals other than her children as beneficiaries. The beneficiary designation forms would control who receives those accounts. The Will would be ineffective to transfer those accounts. Your attorney should take the Time to learn how your property is titled so that the wishes expressed in your Will are coordinated with any beneficiary designations you have made.