Legally Changing Your Name in Virginia

Legally Changing Your Name in Virginia

Legally Changing Your Name in Virginia
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

There are a number of reasons people change their name: marriage, divorce, adoption, escaping domestic violence, privacy/anonymity, difficulty in spelling, ethnicity, or for no other reason than they choose another. Wanting to change your name, and legally doing so, involves—no surprise—paperwork and fees.

Getting Married or Divorced
Virginia allows people to change their last name (surname) when applying for a state marriage license. Hyphenated names are also allowed. After the marriage, the valid marriage license serves as proof of name change.

In a divorce, name change can be accomplished as part of the regular divorce process. Under Virginia law, a divorce court can restore a former last name with the final divorce decree, when asked to do so. If the name being sought is not a restoration of a spouse’s former name, they can file a separate Petition for Name Change in Virginia, as provided by a statutory law separation from Virginia’s divorce statutes, and obtain a new name. The latter option may be favored in situations of domestic violence where the spouse does not want the soon-to-be ex-spouse to know the new name sought nor obtain their endorsement (or that of their attorney) on the Order of Name Change.

Petitioning a Name Change
According to Virginia Code, you may not seek a name change for fraudulent purposes, like to avoid debt or defraud creditors, or if the new name will infringe on the rights of others.

You must submit your name change to the Circuit Court in the county where you live, and must have lived in Virginia and the city or county of application for at least the past six months. Name change documents include a notarized Petition and Order that are presented to the Court. If the Judge grants your Order requesting a name change, you receive a certified copy of the Order.

Changing the Name of a Child or Ward
The Court looks at the best interest of the child when a name change is requested, and both parents (if living and not otherwise having had their legal rights terminated) must consent to the name change of a child or ward. If a parent’s location is unknown, notice through a newspaper publication, called an Order of Publication, may be used as a valid substitute for obtaining consent. If the parents fail to appear at the hearing date and time noticed in the newspaper, the Court will grant the name change so long as it finds the change to be in the child’s or ward’s best interests.

Avoid Mistakes in Name Change Documents
The Circuit Courts of Virginia and the Virginia Supreme Court website provide basic Forms that a person may use to accomplish a Name Change. However, filling out your name change forms correctly is of paramount importance. There is a format to follow, and all previous name changes (including any from marriage) must be included. Both the Petition and the Order must be signed by the petitioner and the Petition must be notarized. Any mistakes in information or formatting will delay your name change and require submission of new documents.

Places to Notify of Your New Name
When you’ve made a name change, you will want to notify the following: driver’s license, social security administration, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Passport Office, and Voter Registration. In addition, you will need to update your information on bank accounts, insurance records, medical records, utilities, legal documents, wills, etc.

Do You Need an Attorney in Order to Change Your Name?
You don’t need a lawyer to legally change your name, however, you certainly are advised to consult one to ensure that your name change documents are prepared correctly and otherwise done legally. Many law offices, including the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, PLLC, offer such services at a flat fee (rather than an hourly fee rate).

Contact Your Family Law Attorney
To discuss the legalities of changing your name, contact the family law attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, PLLC. Contact us today.

Trust Funds for Minors and People with Challenges

Trust Funds for Minors and People with Challenges

Trust Funds for Minors and People with Challenges
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

Trust funds aren’t only reserved for the rich; they are excellent opportunities to create protection for minor children, disabled adult children, and other family members who may be incapacitated due to mental and physical challenges.

Setting up a trust fund for someone you care about is one of the best ways to ensure that they will benefit from your assets.

To set up a trust fund, you, as the grantor, place money or assets allocated for that trust into a fund that is managed by a trustee for your beneficiary according to comprehensive instructions given by you on how they should manage the trust. This guarantees that your assets will be distributed or invested according to your wishes.

Types of Trust Funds
Each type of trust fund brings different benefits to the grantor and beneficiary. Based on when they take effect, trust funds can be divided into living and testamentary funds: living trusts serve a wide variety of purposes, such as tax mitigation; testamentary funds take effect after you pass away and are typically used for inheritances.

Another way to classify trust funds is by whether they can be amended or revoked. If you opt for a revocable trust, you can change the terms of the trust or revoke it at any time. An irrevocable trust, on the other hand, cannot be changed or revoked, although some limited powers can be reserved to amend the named trustee, trust protector or certain aspects of administration of the trust.

Benefits of a Trust Fund for a Minor
Establishing a trust fund for your minor child or children is one of the safest ways to pass money to them, as you determine how and when the assets will be distributed. Overseen by your trustee, it can provide your child with financial guidance even after you are gone. It can also give you peace of mind that your child will have some sort of financial security well into adulthood.

One of the biggest advantages is that you control how the money will be used. For example, you can dictate that the money be used for educational expenses until your child graduates from high school or college. For even more control, you can also leave instructions that your child shall receive monetary rewards for positive behavior and even include requirements such as drug testing. You might also use the trust to preserve a residence in which you want your guardian to raise the minor children after your death, or to allow your children to continue to live in the residence until the youngest reaches a specific age or completes his or her undergraduate education.

With a trust fund, your child cannot lavishly or wastefully spend all the money; by receiving money in accordance with your instructions, they can build a brighter future for themselves and learn how to responsibly manage finances.

Benefits of a Trust Fund for a Person with Disabilities
Setting up a trust fund for your loved one with special needs is one of the smartest financial decisions you can make. Special needs trusts are created with the sole purpose of benefiting mentally- or physically-challenged individuals, taking into account their specific care, lifestyle, and other needs, and funding those needs for the future.

One of the most important advantages of establishing a special needs trust is that you can ensure that your beneficiary will continue receiving government benefits, which is often not possible with a will. Even if your disabled loved one doesn’t need government benefits at the moment, you don’t know what the future will bring, so it’s better to have all options available.

Another benefit of a special needs trust fund is that if your beneficiary is ever sued, the money in their fund cannot be used in the lawsuit. In other words, the funds from their trust can only be used for the intended purpose which you set forth in the trust instrument.

How to Set Up a Trust Fund
Depending on whether you are setting up a living or testamentary trust, you can select yourself as a trustee or need to appoint one. You may also be required to select a custodian.

The next step is to decide when and how your beneficiary will receive the assets, a process followed by preparation of trust documents. When all this is in place, with the guidance of an experienced attorney and your financial advisor, you can then determine the best time to place your assets (which can include money, stocks, savings bonds, investments, and more) into the trust fund for future access.

Consult with an Experienced Estate Attorney
Since trust funds are often complicated, it is strongly recommended that you consult with an estate attorney, like the lawyers at The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. if you are living in Northern Virginia. Attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi are experienced in creating trust funds for minors and those with physical or mental challenges and can help provide advice, guide you through the process and prepare and review your documents. Contact us today.

Where to Store Your Important Records

Where to Store Your Important Records

Where to Store Your Important Records
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

With all the news about natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and earthquakes, it makes one think about how to store and protect important records like your birth certificate, will or power of attorney designation.

Keeping originals of these important records in your home may make them easy to reach, but may not be the best method for safekeeping them in the long run. Here are some alternatives to storing important records.

On Site
It is okay to keep one copy or original of your important documents on site in your home or office, as long as you choose a protected location for them. Place them into a waterproof, fireproof box or home safe that will protect them and enable them to be retrieved in the case of a fire or other disaster. Documents stored here can include: insurance policies, deeds, living will, will, powers of attorney, and trust documents, along with a list summarizing what you have for open credit cards accounts, other lines of credit, all investment and banking accounts, other assets, and any pre-paid burial arrangements or wishes regarding burial.

Safety Deposit Box
Storing the original documents offsite in a safety deposit box at your banking institution may add an extra layer of protection. Items like your birth certificate, CDs, legal agreements, marriage/divorce/ adoption documents, prepaid burial plots and funeral contracts, property deeds, personal property inventory and documentation, vehicle titles, and stocks and bond certificates should be stored here. Only store your original will there if one or more of your named Executors is a signatory and authorized to access the box without you being present. Otherwise, do not store your original will here, as your safety deposit box will be sealed upon your death; a copy is fine. Documents can also be scanned into a flash drive that is kept in the safety deposit box.

With Others
Depending on how likely it is that you will update or make changes to your estate plan within the next 5 years, there are certain documents you should both maintain photocopies of with your attorney and share photocopies of with your first alternate designated agent(s) or executor(s) or trustee(s), along with instructions. You may also want to share photocopies of your financial and medical powers of attorney, financial plan, burial instructions, and perhaps a second safety deposit box key, along with the name and contact information of your attorney and executor. Another approach is to let a trusted friend or family member know where you are keeping these items in your home should you die. At the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., we only retain a photocopy of the final signed documents for our clients, as we disfavor the practice often engaged in by other law firms of keeping clients’ originals in storage with our firm. We strongly believe our clients should be given all originals of their documents to take home after signing.

In the Cloud
Important documents can be scanned and stored on a cloud storage provider such as Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox or Microsoft SkyDrive as well as in an external hard drive. In the case of a natural disaster, however, these documents can only be accessed through a powered device; if electricity is lost, they may not be readily accessible, so keep a hard copy on hand as well.

Wallet Card
You should always carry information on a device or in a purse/wallet of who to contact in case of emergency. You may be unconscious, or heaven forbid, dead, and unable to give instructions. Items to keep in your purse/wallet include your driver’s license and personal identification cards, health insurance cards, medical information such as your blood type, an organ donor card and any specific medical information, including the contact information for your doctors. However, do not carry your social security card in your wallet, or any document containing your social security number. Photocopy both sides of any documents (including credit cards) kept in your purse or wallet, and keep those copies at home in a safe place. Many folks now store such photos on their mobile devices, stored in the cloud and on services like Dropbox, thus eliminating the need to carry hard paper documents everywhere.

Places Where You Should Not Store Important Documents

On Your Computer
Scanning important documents and storing them in your computer may not be the best alternative, as computers crash and all your valuable information can be lost, unless you use a cloud-based backup service like Carbonite or iCloud. In addition, unless you implement proper and up-to-date security software, computers remain vulnerable to being hacked, giving thieves access to your personal information.

In a Box or File at Home
Simply placing your important papers into a file will not protect them against damage. If you must keep them, consider storing photocopies with another trusted individual at a different location than your home.

No matter where you decide to store your documents, keep a list of where they are and how to access them. Share that list with your designated executor and consider perhaps keeping that information on file with your certified financial planner, CPA, or attorney.

Create Important Documents with Your Estate Attorney
If you have not prepared a will, trust, power of attorney, or other needed estate planning document, please know that it is never too soon or too late to do so. The lawyers at The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor are here to help. Contact attorneys Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi at their convenient Leesburg, Virginia office for an appointment. Disasters, unexpected accidents, and illness can hit us at any time, so don’t wait. Get your affairs in order now.

Child Support & Enforcement in Virginia

Child Support & Enforcement in Virginia

Child Support & Enforcement in Virginia
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

From the perspective of a non-custodial parent paying child support, it often feels like a continuing injustice to be relegated to barely seeing his or her children full-time while carrying the financial burden of providing regular monthly support to the children until their age of majority. The child support order determines who will pay for a child’s basic support and medical care, and normally it is the non-custodial parent who must make the regularly-scheduled payments to the custodial parent.

In addition, if the non-custodial parent does not make the regularly-scheduled payments, the custodial parent has the right to file an enforcement action with the court, asking the judge to force the delinquent parent to make the payments. The failure to follow a child-support order can also result in the non-custodial parent being held in contempt of court and fined or sent to jail, with possible criminal charges brought if the nonpayment extends.

Child Support Enforcement Methods
In Virginia, one method for enforcement of a child support order is provided though the Virginia Department of Social Services, Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE), which can result in:
• The withholding the non-custodial parent’s income from his or her paycheck, social security, workers’ compensation, unemployment payments or veterans disability compensation
• The placing a lien(s) on the delinquent parent’s real estate or personal property
• The garnishment/seizure of the non-custodial parent’s tax refunds (state and federal)
• The suspension of the non-custodial parent’s driving license
• The denial of a passport
• The reporting of the delinquency, if a judgment is entered against the non-custodial parent, to credit bureaus
• The court’s entry of orders of contempt (civil or criminal), which can possibly lead to a jail sentence; and
• The use of a bench warrant for arrest, including extradition from another state if appropriate.

In Virginia, upon entry of a finding of contempt, interest will also added to any past-due payments at the rate of 6% per annum. Another method of enforcement is for the custodial parent to hire an attorney to immediately file for a hearing to determine if the non-custodial parent is in contempt, which can result in an award of the custodial parent’s legal fees to be paid by the non-custodial parent on top of the child support arrears already owed by the non-custodial parent.

If the issue goes before the judge and the court determines that the non-custodial parent was capable of paying, that parent can be held in contempt of court, with the above-listed penalties. In addition, this parent could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony, and face jail time.

If the non-custodial parent moves out of Virginia, the child support order can still be enforced through the Uniform Federal Family Support Act in any other U.S. state. For missing parents, the federal government utilizes a Federal Parent Locator Service.

Can’t Afford the Child Support Payments?
If the non-custodial parent is truly struggling, or unable, to make child support payments, he or she should contact an experienced family law attorney to determine what motions might be filed with the court to obtain a temporary reduction, suspension or modification of his or her current support payment, and to set a hearing to obtain a permanent order that may reduce monthly child support moving forward. If the non-custodial parent cannot afford to consult with or hire an attorney, he or she may file for a review with either DCSE or the court directly. If granted a modification, then any reduction (as mandated by Virginia statute) will be retroactive to the date of any court filing to seek modification.

Contact Your Family Law Attorney
If you have questions about Virginia’s child support laws, your local family attorney in Virginia, the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., is there to help. We are conveniently located near Loudoun Hospital in Leesburg, Virginia to serve clients throughout Northern Virginia. Please contact attorneys Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi for advice.

What You Really Do and Don’t Need from Your Estate Planning Attorney

What You Really Do and Don’t Need from Your Estate Planning Attorney

What You Really Do and Don’t Need from Your Estate Planning Attorney
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

Meeting with an estate planning attorney at various stages or milestones throughout your life can save you – and your heirs – a substantial amount of money and headaches, and ensure that your wishes are carried through in the event that you are disabled by illness or injury, and following your death.

Here are two things that you really do need to put into place with your estate planning attorney, and one that you may not:

You DO Need to Assign Powers of Attorney
Everyone DOES, however, need, and should have, a financial and medical power of attorney. Thinking about death is scary, but being under a medical or other disability without a plan in place as to who you trust to manage your assets, pay your bills, or make your medical decisions for you is even scarier.

Without an assigned attorney-in-fact (sometimes referred to as “an agent”) to manage your financial affairs and medical decisions (including end-of-life decisions), the courts may be called upon to decide, and could select a person that you may have never wanted in those roles. It is also far more expensive to go this route than to have powers of attorney drafted and signed in advance—about 10 times more.

You DO Need a Standby Guardian
When individuals have children under the age of 18, they need a Designation of Standby Guardian that appoints a trusted friend or family member to wait “on standby” in case they are needed to care for a child or children should the parent suffer a severe illness or injury that does not kill them but prevents them from being able to care for the children during a period of recovery.

Not Everyone Needs a Trust
“Many people coming to see me for estate planning services for the first time are confused about whether they really need a Trust,” according to attorney Patricia E. Tichenor, managing attorney of the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. “Trusts can be very useful, but they are also very expensive and require additional steps after you sign to fund them or re-title your assets in the name of the Trust.”

With the current Federal death tax “credit” (sometimes referred to now as “the allowable amount”) being more than $5.46 million and subject to annual cost of living adjustments, meaning you owe no additional death taxes to the I.R.S. if your estate is less than that amount, there is a lot less pressure on individuals to use Trust Planning for tax reasons. Of course, some States have adopted their own separate state death tax provisions which may still result in a tax being owed by an individual’s estate. In addition, some States have very costly probate taxes (i.e., California), which make the use of Trusts absolutely necessary.

This is why it’s very important to use an attorney licensed in the State where you reside; one who is very familiar with both Federal and State tax death tax laws. Moreover, if the beneficiaries of your estate are residents of a State that does not have an inheritance taxes, you may then only need a well-written Last Will and Testament rather than a Trust as part of a comprehensive estate plan.

Non-Probate Planning
Along with your Will, you do need to get guidance from your attorney on the pros/cons of utilizing non-probate planning, which means that you by-pass your Will and instead designate beneficiaries by name as a payable on death or transfer on death beneficiary on your bank accounts, insurance, retirement funds, etc., to avoid probate altogether. This is call non-probate planning, as these assets will never pass through your Will, and therefore, will escape probate taxes.

Contact Your Estate Planning Attorney
If you do not have powers of attorney in place or if what you have is more than five years old, we strongly recommend that you meet with your estate planning attorney to set them in place immediately. You never know when illness or an accident will strike, nor do you know the impact it will have on your family or children if you have no plan or an outdated plan in place.

We, at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., will be glad to help you with any legal advice or documents needed to ensure your estate’s security. Contact Northern Virginia attorneys Patricia E. Tichenor and Camellia Safi today to set your appointment.

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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