Appraising Your Estate for Transfer, Divorce or Inheritance

Appraising Your Estate for Transfer, Divorce or Inheritance

Appraising Your Estate for Transfer, Divorce or Inheritance
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

When it comes time for disposal or transition of your marital property due to divorce or property inherited by you from a deceased relative, one of the first things you may need to determine is its appraised value, whether for re-sale or buy-out purposes.

There are many items to consider within a marital or probate estate, including your financial assets, furniture and household goods, vehicles, and property, and most of the time people say, “I don’t know what it’s worth.” That’s why you need a third-party professional.

Often having to determine this information through the turmoil of a divorce or loss of a loved one is too difficult, and, depending on the nature of the asset, it may be best to employ the services of a professional appraiser to help determine the value.

Although there may be free web services, it can be risky to rely solely on those alone to determine an accurate value, and, for purposes of a divorce, that type of information may be deemed inadmissible by the judge on grounds of “hearsay” or “speculation,” or “lay person lacking expertise to give the appraisal.” It is also likely you might find multiple values on the web and not have a real idea of the actual value of your specific asset. There are many intricacies such as age, condition and desirability that come into play that are not readily available through an Internet listing. Art, certain kinds of collections (such as rare coins), and even jewelry can be especially vulnerable to value fluctuations.

Finding a Professional Appraiser

In the case of a death, the executor or administrator generally determines whether to hire an appraiser, and the fees are paid either as a setoff against the proceeds from a liquidated asset (if the appraiser also sells it for the estate) or from the probate account set up by the executor to hold cash assets belonging to the estate. These expenses may be tax deductible to the estate if the probate estate owes any death taxes on the value of estate. The appraiser’s fee is typically based on either an hourly fee or a percentage of the estate if it is to be liquidated by that appraiser.

Be cautious when employing an appraiser who wants to both appraise and sell your items, or of one who may undervalue an item simply because they wish to purchase it themselves knowing it can be re-sold later at a higher price. This is a conflict of interest and an unethical practice. Watch also for ones who overvalue items when his or her commission is based on percentage of sales.

Inform the appraiser as to your particular need for an appraisal. Do you need the entire contents appraised, or only a select group of items? Your appraiser will help to establish the Fair Market Value for your items.

In the case of a divorce, seek and follow the guidance of your divorce attorney to determine what assets justify the use of an appraiser or which do not, noting that the most common assets involve real estate, a family-owned business or business interest, and pension/retirement benefits.

Your attorney may be able to refer you to a professional property appraiser, or you can check with the professional associations in your area, such as the American Society of Appraisers, the Appraisers Association of America, and the International Society of Appraisers.

Appraisers are not required to hold licenses, but, as members of their associations, they are required to conform to a code of ethics and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, pass tests and take continuing education.

Check with these Associations’ records on the appraisers’ backgrounds, looking for any appraisal challenges and their outcomes. Look for an appraiser who has done work similar to yours, and ask for references of people they’ve worked for.

Contact Your Estate Planning Attorney

Whenever there is a change in your estate, due to a divorce or the death of a loved one, it’s prudent to meet with an experienced family law or estate planning/probate attorney who can help you navigate through any processes and update your records appropriately. At the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., Northern Virginia attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi are ready to provide you guidance and legal representation in your divorce, estate planning, or probate matter. Contact us today.

What You Need to Know about Adoption in Virginia

What You Need to Know about Adoption in Virginia

What You Need to Know about Adoption in Virginia
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

If you are considering adopting a child, there are several routes you can take to expand your family.

The first step is to decide what type of adoption works best for you. You can opt to adopt through a public or private agency that can facilitate the entire process, from locating birth parents to terminating their parental rights.

Or you can adopt privately by making all arrangements directly with the birth parents. Typically, private adoptions include close relative, adult, and step-parent adoptions, which entail a less-complicated procedure than other types of adoptions.

Most international adoptions are handled by agencies. Domestic adoptions, on the other hand, can be either done privately or with the assistance of an agency.

In Virginia, when adopting a minor child, a prospective adopting parent must be at least 18 years old to adopt, can be married, single or divorced, and must pass a home study to be approved for adoption. A home study is the assessment of the potential adoptive parent(s), performed by a licensed adoption agency. It includes detailed background checks, child protective service clearances, medical, educational, vocational, and other checks and histories, financial checks, and recommendations from non-relatives. After performing the home study, the agency can recommend whether the potential adoptive parent(s) are suitable to adopt a child, and state the recommended type of adoption (for instance, only infants or only domestic adoptions).

The most common types of adoption include:

  • Open vs. Closed Adoptions
  • In an open adoption, the biological parents and adoptive parents are open to sharing personal information and can stay in contact with each other throughout the child’s life if they choose. In a closed adoption, biological parents and adoptive parents do not have access to each other’s private information, and records may be sealed. There is no interaction between the two families.

  • Relative and Stepparent Adoption
  • Relative adoption and stepparent adoption refer to placement of a child in the permanent care of a relatives or stepparent.

  • Infant, Older, or Multiple Child Adoption
  • Minor children can be adopted at any age; however, there is a greater need for parents willing to adopt older children and sibling groups.
    An adult child (age 18 or older) can also be adopted, by giving his or her own Consent; however, when the adult child is being adopted by a non-relative, some States (including Virginia) have a minimum age difference that must exist between the non-relative adopting parent and the adult child consenting to be adopted. In Virginia, that requirement is currently 15 years, meaning the non-relative adoptive parent must be at least 15 years older than the adult seeking to be adopted. A home study is typically not required for an adult child being adopted by giving his or her consent to that adoption.

  • Foster Care Adoption
  • Children placed in foster care are sometimes adopted by their foster family or through the foster care system, though this is a drawn-out legal process that can require the termination of the natural parents’ parental rights through multiple court-proceedings. Foster care adoptions can be completed through the Department of Social Services in conjunction with such court-proceedings.

  • Special Needs Adoption
  • In Virginia, many special needs children are available for adoption, and Federal and State programs exist to financially help adoptive parents.

  • International Adoption
  • Children under age 18 who are adopted from a Hague Convention country, and who enter the U.S. with an IH-3 visa may automatically receive U.S. citizenship. Those adopted from non-convention countries must qualify as orphans. Parents finalizing adoptions abroad must apply to the USCIS for an IR-3 visa for their child.

Do I Need an Adoption Attorney?
In Virginia, most adoptions are completed through an adoption agency or adoption attorney. You do, however, want to consult your family law attorney at the time when you are considering adoption. Your attorney can fill you in on your legal responsibilities, as well as provide helpful information to guide you through the process of adoption through completion. There are also important estate planning considerations to adoption, both for the parent giving up his or her rights if consenting to the adoption of a child, and the adopting parent who might also have natural children who then share any inheritance with their adopted sibling(s).

Contact Your Family Law Attorney
As you can see, there are many consideration and complications involved in adoption. Before you embark on this often overwhelming yet ultimately rewarding journey, consult with an attorney knowledgeable about Virginia’s laws on adoption, like attorneys Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor P.L.L.C. This way, you can receive all the necessary legal advice and support you need, and turn your focus to welcoming a child into your life.

Setting Up a Memorial Fund

Setting Up a Memorial Fund

Setting Up a Memorial Fund
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

Setting up a memorial fund is one of the best and most rewarding ways to pay tribute to a loved one who has passed away, and to help keep their legacy alive. With a memorial fund, families can both preserve the memory of departed loves ones and make a true difference in their community.

There are many types of memorial funds. They can include those aimed at supporting causes or charities that were important to the deceased, or those dedicated to providing assistance to people who are going through similar difficulties or experiences as the departed. They could also be created to provide scholarships or financial assistance to talented young people, or to further the advancement of science or medicine.

Any way it is set up, a memorial fund can truly honor the person who passed away, focusing on the good they brought to the world, while also helping others.

The process can also help family members cope with their loss and grief by directing their thoughts and energy into something positive. It is not uncommon for family members to set up a memorial fund that can aid an organization connected with the deceased’s cause of death, such as those with a mission to raise money for the awareness or prevention of a certain illness.

In some cases, family members are already aware of the deceased’s wishes. This makes setting up a memorial fund much easier, especially if the family knows which organizations or charities the departed held in high esteem. If this is not the case, however, the family should consider those pursuits about which the departed was passionate. A memorial fund could be set up to promote art or help build a library, for example.

Start with the Right Estate Planning Attorney
Setting up and maintaining a memorial fund can be burdensome and time-consuming, and there are many factors to take into consideration before the fund can begin serving its purpose.

Families in Northern Virginia do not have to go through this process alone. With the help of an experienced estate planning law firm like the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., family members can receive advice and guidance on gathering legal paperwork, contacting organizations or charities, and collecting and dispersing the funds. This framework can allow families to focus on other important aspects of setting up the memorial fund while knowing that all legal matters are promptly and properly promptly dealt with.

Attorney Patricia Tichenor is a specialist in the area of estate law and can assist with all matters concerning the creation and maintenance of a memorial fund. Contact her firm today.

You May Be Liable For Your Minor Child’s Actions

You May Be Liable For Your Minor Child’s Actions

You May Be Liable For Your Minor Child’s Actions
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

Children get into trouble; it’s a given part of their growing-up process. However, when their actions cause damage to someone else’s person or property, many parents may not realize that they too could be liable for their child’s actions.

The courts decided long ago that it was unfair for someone to bear the financial burden or medical expenses resulting from another person’s wrongdoing. In fact, the first state law of this type was enacted in Hawaii in 1846. The reasoning behind this legislation was that parents have a legal responsibility to supervise their minor children, and if the minor child causes property damage due to negligent, malicious or willful actions, the parents can be held liable.

A child may willfully disregard a parent’s direction, or the mischief may occur because of improper supervision, and the damage can be as simple as a baseball going through a neighbor’s window or spray-painted graffiti, or as complicated as a computer hacking issue. Far too frequently, you read in the news that a child finds a handgun and accidentally shoots another child, or that a minor child takes a car and causes an accident.

Parental liability extends to both criminal and civil liability. Parents may be legally forced to compensate an injured party or repair damage done by a child’s actions. Parents may also be subject to lawsuits or criminal sanctions in some cases. Parental liability ends when the child becomes of majority age of 18, or if the child is legally emancipated by statute and deemed no longer under a parent’s supervision or responsibility.

Non-Criminal Liability for a Minor
Non-criminal liability, also known as vicarious liability, extends to actions that might include vandalism, defacement, or property destroyed in a hate crime. Parents are also liable for negligent actions when they know they must supervise the child and fail to do so, known as negligent supervision. Not only parents, but grandparents, guardians, and anyone having custody of the child can be liable.

Use of the family car also carries liability. The Family Car Doctrine holds the owner of that car liable for any damage caused by the driver of that car, if the owner knew of and consented to the family member’s use of the car, even if the minor child is not listed on the auto insurance policy. The uninsured motorist provision would not apply if the minor child is living in the insured’s household.

Criminal Liability for a Minor
Some states hold parents criminally liable when children gain access to firearms, or if parents know that their child is in possession of a firearm and do not take it away. More serious penalties are applied if the minor child causes injury or death. In Virginia, it is considered a misdemeanor to recklessly leave a loaded firearm within reach of a child so as to endanger the limb or life of any child under the age of 15; however, exceptions can be made if the gun is stored in a locked box and secured with a trigger lock. Criminal liability also extends to certain unlawful computer and internet activities, such as hacking, cell-phone and video cameras, and viewing (or sharing – such as “sexting”) pornography or other inappropriate photos.

Delinquent youth also fall under the area of parental liability. In Virginia and nearby North Carolina, parents are required to reimburse the State for costs associated with the detention, care, support or treatment of their child while under state agency supervision.

Children under the age of 18 are typically processed through the juvenile justice system, and not the adult criminal justice system, and are subject to laws designed for juvenile offenders. In some cases, the child may need a lawyer to represent them. But since they cannot contract with an attorney on their own, parents need to be involved.

Contact Your Family Law Attorney
As family law attorneys in Northern Virginia, The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor P.L.L.C. can assist parents in addressing issues of parental liability or their child for acts of mischief leading to civil or criminal liability involving a minor child. Whether you need expert advice, or to engage the services of an attorney, call attorneys Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi today to get an experienced advocate on your side.

Explore the Tax-Saving Strategy of Lifetime Giving

Explore the Tax-Saving Strategy of Lifetime Giving

Explore the Tax-Saving Strategy of Lifetime Giving
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

Giving money or assets to your loved ones during your lifetime rather than having them wait until after your death to collect, is defined as lifetime giving. It is an estate-planning strategy used to reduce estate taxes by spreading gifts throughout your lifetime using certain exemptions created by the federal gift tax laws in the United States.

Gifting involves one person transferring cash, real estate, or assets to another while receiving nothing in return, rather like giving a birthday present to someone. With gifting, you may have the opportunity to help a loved one with needed cash, or you might make unlimited direct payments for their benefit to cover medical or education bills. Plus, you get to see their appreciation and the benefits of such a gift while you are still alive. To qualify, your gift must be a complete and irrevocable transfer.

For Tax Year 2017, the IRS allows a person to give up to $14,000 per year as a gift, without incurring a gift tax or having to report the gift being made on the giver’s tax return. For parents or spouses, the amount each parent can give becomes a “splitting gift” which allows a total gift to say a child of up to $28,000. The recipient also has no obligation to report the gift, and s/he does not owe taxes for the gift (unless it comes from a foreign source).

Amounts exceeding $14,000 given by a single person in a given year, however, require the giver (person making the gift; not the recipient of the gift) to file an IRS Gift Tax Form 709 with the federal government and pay any taxes owed (if applicable) for each dollar that exceeds the $14,000 limit.  Spouses splitting the gift must also file Form 709. However, there is no separate State Gift Tax for a person making a gift who resides in Virginia.  Gift tax is paid after your death.

Form 709 is merely a reporting mechanism for you to report in each calendar year that you are alive all gifts which then exceeded the annual excluded amount. This is because, under federal law, you have a Lifetime Exemption which is currently $5,430,000 (also known as the allowable amount). This Lifetime Exemption applies to the combined:  (1) value of all gifts made during your lifetime in any calendar year to any person which you reported on Form 709 as exceeding the then annual limit (now $14,000 but expected to increase in coming years); and (2) value of your entire estate passing to your beneficiaries at the time of your death, and any gifts provided from the estate over the yearly deduction are subtracted from that total.

A Helpful Example

For example, if you gift your daughter with $150,000 in a single year, the $14,000 is exempted, and you would need to file a gift tax return and report stating that you used $136,000 of your lifetime exemption of $5,430,000. It then reduces your lifetime exemption amount to $5,294,000. However, you could gift $14,000 per year without affecting your lifetime exemption. In addition, if you made additional payments directly to a medical or educational account, these amounts would also not count against your Lifetime Exemption.

Minimize Taxes

Upon your death, what remains of your Lifetime Exemption is subtracted from the total amount of your estate, thus relieving the estate tax burden upon your Estate and, in turn, those who inherit from your Estate. Using the annual gift exclusion, along with paying directly towards medical or educational accounts or providers of such services, may be a very useful way to preserve your lifetime exemption, and minimize taxes down the road.

Gift Tax vs. Inheritance/Estate Tax

Gift Tax and Inheritance or Estate Tax are often confused with one another. An estate tax takes into account everything you own plus your interests upon your death, and applies the estate tax on your right to transfer such property at your death. A Gift is money or property given during your lifetime and may or may not be subject to tax, depending upon your state. Virginia does not require a beneficiary living in Virginia to pay inheritance taxes, while nearby Maryland does. Virginia also does not have a Gift Tax.

Lifetime Gifting is an effective way to help your loved ones during your lifetime, and preserve your estate from possible future estate taxes, with the caveat to ensure that you retain enough money to support yourself throughout your lifetime.

Work with an Estate Planning Attorney

Working with an estate attorney, like Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. can help you avoid making costly mistakes when setting up and implementing your estate plan. If you need an estate planning attorney in Northern Virginia, contact us today.

The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C.
Professional Legal Services or Legal Representation
(703) 669-6700

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  • High quality service with both personal and a professional touch. I would highly recommend their services, they helped prepare my estate in the event of my demise. They also prepared the necessary documents to complete my wife's estate after her passing, both with outstanding results. - Jim D.
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