Posts Tagged ‘Trust’

Online legal services — buyer beware!

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Anyone who does a little online research about making a will inevitably arrives at one or more websites that advertise “do-it-yourself” wills. These websites sell a form for just a fraction of the cost of hiring an attorney to make a will for you. When you think you know who you want to leave all of your stuff to when you die, it’s easy to think that the will you buy online is all you need.

However, a recent case from Florida reveals the limits of online legal forms and how they are no replacement for assistance from a well-trained attorney. In 2004 Ann Aldrich created her will using a product called “E-Z Legal Form.” In the will, she left her house, car, retirement account, bank account, and life insurance account to her sister. The will also stated that if Ann’s sister predeceased Ann, then Ann’s brother was to inherit all of the listed property. Ann’s sister did die before her, and left Ann real estate and cash. Unfortunately, the will didn’t say who was to inherit any of Ann’s property that she acquired after she made the will in 2004.

Furthermore, as often happens with  problems in wills and other estate planning documents, the problem wasn’t discovered until it was too late. When Ann died in 2009, there was a dispute about who would inherit the property Ann inherited from her deceased sister. Ann’s brother argued that Ann’s intent was for him to inherit everything – after all, he was the only one named in the will after the predeceased sister. But Ann’s nieces believed that because Ann listed the specific property for the brother to inherit, any property not specifically listed in the will should not be distributed through the will.

Although Ann left a note with her will that seemed to indicate her desire to leave “all of her worldly possessions” to her brother, the Florida courts determined that the note was not a valid codicil to Ann’s will. Therefore, because Ann’s will mentioned specific items of property and did not mentioned all of her property, then the property she acquired after 2004 passed by intestacy. Even though Ann did not provide any bequest to her nieces her will, under Florida intestacy law, they received a portion of Ann’s estate.

One of the justices of the Florida Supreme Court noted “that although this is the correct result under Florida’s probate law, this result does not effectuate Ms. Aldrich’s true intent.”

If Ann Aldrich’s will was contested in Virginia, it is likely that a Virginia court would reach the same result, since the laws regarding interpretation of wills in Florida are similar to the laws in Virginia.

What is troubling is that Ann could have saved all of this trouble by getting the advice of a competent attorney! Not only did Ann’s property go to people she didn’t intend to receive it, but it took nearly five years of litigation between family members that ultimately ended up in the state Supreme Court. As the court noted, Ann Aldrich’s estate serves as “a cautionary tale of the potential dangers of utilizing pre-printed forms and drafting a will without legal assistance. As this case illustrates, that decision can ultimately result in the frustration of the testator’s intent, in addition to the payment of extensive attorney’s fees—the precise results the testator sought to avoid in the first place.”

Kristina Beavers, Attorney at Law is a full-service law firm that helps clients create the estate plan they need to fulfill their wishes. A good estate planning attorney does more than just draft documents – she will meet with clients before and after creating their documents to make sure their documents will fulfill their intent, protect them, their beneficiaries, and their assets. A good estate planning attorney knows that no estate plan is “one size fits all” and knows just how to tailor the plan to every client’s needs.

If you have questions about your own estate plan, if you are concerned that a loved one’s do-it-yourself estate plan is not valid or inadequate for their needs, contact Kristina Beavers, Attorney at Law.

Does Mom (or Dad) seem to be slowing down?

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

I love holidays!  I love the lights and the colors and the smells and the gathering of family and friends.  I look forward to each year with anticipation and excitement.

But holidays are also a way of keeping track of the passing years.  It seems like just yesterday I was sneaking down the stairs to see what Santa had delivered.  However, it’s been a lot of years since I was good at sneaking anywhere!

Sometimes it is easier to tell when a parent is losing his or her edge when we only see them on the holiday.  When we talk on the phone, we don’t see the extra time it takes for them to get out of a chair.  And perhaps we have never noticed before that there are times when they go into a room and seem to forget why they went there.

Now might be a good time to talk with your parent about making sure they have all of their estate planning documents in place and current.

Most people are confident that they need a Will to distribute their ‘stuff’ after their death, but what about the other documents that will help them as they get older?

A General Durable Power of Attorney is one very valuable document that must be signed while the person has the cognitive ability to do so.  A Medical Directive (also known as a ‘living will’) is another.

These documents can go a long way to improve the quality of life of our parents (or ourselves).  They also make it easier for those family members that will need to help the elders in our lives.

And at this time of year, when we are all thinking about gifts, perhaps we should consider the gift of peace of mind….for ourselves and for our families.

We would love to meet with you and discuss the various parts of an estate plan and how we can help you achieve a little more peace of mind.  Please consider calling us at 757-234-4650 to schedule an estate planning consultation.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

What will happen to my pet?

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

If you’re like a lot of people, you have a pet that is a real member of your family, just like a child.

We all make arrangements (or we should) for taking care of our children if something should happen to us, but what about our pets?  Our pets can’t go out and find food to eat, or make arrangements to go to the doctor when they are sick.  They need someone to take care of them.

Unfortunately, all too often our pets are taken to the local humane society when we are no longer around or able to take care of them.  The pet is grieving the loss of their family too and they are thrust into a strange environment that is probably not at all like the warm cozy home they were used to.  This can be a terribly sad experience.

And if we can find someone to take care of the pet, there is the cost associated with that care.  Who is going to pay for the food, vet bills, toys, etc.?

A Pet Trust is an estate planning tool that allows for the care of our pets.  Generally, the Pet Trust will designate who will be the person taking care of the pet physically, and can also outline some requirements for taking care of the pet such as making sure the animal goes to the vet at the proper interval, or that the pet be taken to the ‘dog park’ on a regular basis.  The costs for taking care of the pet are generally covered by allocating some asset into the care of the trustee that is to be used for the care of the animal.  If there are assets remaining after they are no longer needed by the pet, those assets are generally then distributed to other beneficiaries.

A pet trust allows the owner to ensure that this special part of their lives is taken care of when they are no longer able to care for that pet themselves.

If you would like to add a pet trust to your estate plan, or if you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

Another New Year! Time to review your estate plan!

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Happy New Year!  I hope that everyone has a great and wonderful 2013.

And, to get things off to a good start, I’d like to suggest that you review your estate plan to make sure it is up to date and has taken into account all of life’s changes since you created the previous version.

New members to the family?  Some members no longer with us?  Perhaps a new pet that you want to make sure is taken care of if you are not able to care for him or her yourself?  Have you become involved in a new charitable organization that you think deserves a gift?  Perhaps the person you have named as the agent under your Power of Attorney is no longer capable or willing to do the job?  Perhaps someone in your family has received a college degree that would make them a better fit for the job of executor or agent?  Perhaps you have new acquisitions that need to be re-titled in the name of your trust?  Planning a job change this year?  Perhaps retirement?  Is your health status changing?

This is a good time to take a few minutes to just think about these ideas.  And if you think your estate plans needs to be updated, please give us a call.  We’d be glad to help!

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.

Being Prepared Works!

Monday, August 29th, 2011

I hope this finds everyone safe.  Hurricane Irene has come and gone and it appears that most of us on the Virginia Peninsula are ok, although some of us are still without power.

I know that in my family, we are fine.  We were pretty lucky in that the power in our house never went out.  However, we put all of our frozen foods into a cooler with dry ice ‘just in case’.  We also brought in everything from the yard that might be picked up in the high winds, tied down those things that couldn’t be moved inside, and got most of the ‘stuff’ off of the floor in the garage (our garage almost always floods in a storm).  We moved our vehicles to higher ground so they wouldn’t be flooded.

And then we left town since the area where our house is located was told to evacuate.

It was hard to sit and wait with that feeling of being powerless.  However, it helped that we had done everything we could to be prepared for whatever might have happened.

I think of this today as I am also grateful that we have the proper legal documents to assist our family if an emergency were to happen and we were unavailable.  We have the Power of Attorney so that someone could pay our bills.  We have the medical directive so that our family would know what to do if we were injured and unable to make our own decisions.  We have the Will and Trust documents so that our property could pass more easily in the case of our deaths.

Estate plans are just one more way to be prepared.

I could have been really irritated that we went to so much trouble last Friday to get prepared for things that (luckily) we did not need.  Instead, it was comforting to know that our preparations were done ‘just in case’.

If you want to discuss how you can be prepared for a personal emergency, call the office for an estate plan consultation!

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at http://www.BeaversLaw.com.