Choosing a Power of Attorney

Choosing a Power of Attorney

Choosing a Power of Attorney
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg

Quickly defined, a Power of Attorney (POA) is a powerful estate planning tool that allows you to appoint a spouse, trusted family member, or friend to assist with handling your financial and medical affairs during a period of disability when you might not be able to do this for yourself. This person may be referred to as your attorney-in-fact or agent. Your agent may be given these powers immediately the day you sign your POA, called non-springing, where you believe any delay to obtain a finding of disability by a doctor would be create greater problems or, instead, as springing powers granted only when one or two licensed physicians determine in writing that you no longer have the capacity to manage your financial or medical care decisions.

A Power of Attorney is a binding legal agreement that must be put into writing, witnessed, and notarized to become valid. For purposes of a financial POA, you must also make it clear, in writing, whether you are giving your agent permission to access and handle all or only some of your accounts for the POA to hold up in court.

You do not have to choose the same person as your agent for financial and medical matters; however, they do need to work together to make decisions on your behalf, according to your wishes. For instance, if you need medical treatment, your financial POA must work together with your medical POA to disclose financial information, fill out forms, or provide funds.

What’s important to keep in mind is that, absent a POA, if you become disabled and no longer have the capacity to handle your finances or make your own medical decisions, there will be delays and greater legal expenses incurred for a member of your family (perhaps even someone you would never choose for the job) to petition a court to be appointed Conservator of your assets or Guardian of your person. It is not unusual even in an uncontested matter for the costs to equal ten times the amount it would cost to simply retain an attorney to prepare a well-written POA to address these matters now before the worst happens.

Choose the Right Person for your Power of Attorney

Choosing the right person is of paramount importance. Select someone you can trust, who has your best interests at heart. Do not select someone who has had legal issues in the past or a person with whom your family does not get along. You may want to discuss your choice of person with your family before signing any documents, but this is not necessary. There are, of course, exceptions to this general rule, including same-sex couples and unmarried couples who may want their partner in the driver’s seat even if their family does not like or approve of the partner.

It is absolutely critical that you designate a person who is capable of handling your affairs and ensuring that the provisions of the POA you sign do not open the door for abuse by someone to benefit himself or herself over (which you should be their first priority) as well as your other family members by engaging in self-dealing behavior with your assets. They must fully understand their duties and be committed to taking them seriously. It is, therefore, recommended to talk to the person(s) you designate to discuss what you expect, and disclose the scope of your affairs before signing any documents. Note whether this person will charge a fee for their services; family members generally do not, but professionals like accountants and attorneys usually do.

You may also want to select a second person to serve as your secondary Power of Attorney in the event that your first choice cannot or will not perform their responsibilities, or passes away.

What if I Want to Change my Power of Attorney?
You may at any time change your assigned Power of Attorney by using a Revocation of Power of Attorney document and creating a new POA document, as a new POA document typically provides for revocation of all prior documents upon signing it. Shredding your older POA after signing a new one is absolutely critical to ensure that only the most current POA is found and utilized in the future.

Consult Your Attorney

Selecting your Power of Attorney may be one of your most important life decisions, so your choice should be considered carefully. Attorneys Patricia E. Tichenor and Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., specialize in Estate Planning issues and can assist in creating the legal documents you need. Please contact us today.

Grandparent Visitation Rights

Grandparent Visitation Rights<br>NOVA Estate Lawyers - Leesburg

Grandparent Visitation Rights
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg

Until as recently as 40 years ago, the legal concept of grandparent visitation rights did not exist. This is because parents have a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution to make decisions regarding the upbringing of their children.

There are a number of reasons why grandparents might be denied visitation by family members, including a rift or estrangement within the family, divorce, death, adoption, incarceration, abuse, substance abuse, or chronic problems. In some cases, there may be actual safety issues for the grandchild. Communication problems, or control or boundary issues, can also be the cause for disallowing communication. In other cases, grandparents have been left to raise the grandchild, sometimes for years, but later find themselves confronted by the return of a parent seeking to reclaim their rights to the child.

Whatever the reasons, these life events can cause grandchildren to experience a sudden break and extended separation from a grandparent with whom they may have a strong bond, causing long-term damage to the child.

Several States sought to address the concerns these life events raise through statutes, applying a best interests of the child test to establish statutory visitation rights for grandparents, but with two different approaches being taken:
1. Restrictive Visitation Statutes, under which grandparents can seek visitation rights if the parents are divorced or if one or both parents are deceased.
2. Permissive Visitation Statutes, under which grandparents can request visitation rights even if both parents are still married and still alive.

However, as these State statutes became more commonplace, their constitutionality came under attack, leading to a 2000 United States Supreme Court Ruling which found such statutes could, in fact, be unconstitutional and thus unenforceable. Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Troxel v. Granville, that a Washington State statute was unconstitutional as written because it allowed a judge to substitute and/or overturn a parent’s decision regarding denial of visitation with a grandchild where the parent was also found to be perfectly fit to make such a decision. The Supreme Court held that parents have a fundamental right under the constitution to make the decision as to visitation between a grandparent and a grandchild absent a finding of unfitness on the part of the parent.

Because of the legal complexities surrounding grandparent’s rights to visitation, it is often best to try to mediate these issues when possible between parents and grandparents with the help of an experienced attorney-mediator. Through this process, a neutral third party can assist in creating a legally-binding agreement for all parties. If however, a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached, an experienced family law attorney should be employed to assist grandparents with preparing the most persuasive court pleadings possible in order to address why their specific case warrants the granting of visitation rights with their grandchildren.

Contact Your Attorney
If you have questions about grandparent rights, or wish to petition for rights in your own case here in Northern Virginia, it is good to have an experienced attorney by your side to walk you through the process. At the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., Attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi specialize in all aspects of family law. Please contact us today.

The Advantages of Domestic Partnerships

The Advantages of Domestic Partnerships

The Advantages of Domestic Partnerships
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg

Not everybody gets married, and not everybody wants to get married or can get married. That is why as Family Law attorneys, we are called upon to create legal documents to protect parties in different types of relationships, such as Domestic Partnership.

A Domestic Partnership, sometimes referred to as a Civil Union, is defined as a relationship between two people who live together and share a common domestic life, but are not married to each other or anyone else. It can include male-female couples as well as same-sex partners, and is especially prevalent in states that ban same-sex marriage because it enables a couple to create a bond and acquire some benefits. It is also easy to enter into and easy to end.

In some States, in order to have a legally-recognized Domestic Partnership, a couple must declare that their relationship is a serious one at a courthouse or designated government office. Documents must be filed and generally a fee is due for registration of a Domestic Partnership. In others, the mere preparation of a private Domestic Partnership Agreement or Non-Marital Partnership Agreement is enough, and no court filing is required unless a dispute arising that requires enforcement of that contractual agreement.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Domestic Partnerships

Domestic Partnerships can allow partners to enjoy some, but not all, of the benefits and rights similar to a married couple, as marriage, including the following (Note: Benefits may also vary by state or municipality).
• Family health insurance coverage with proof of commitment such as a shared bank account
• Rights to leave for sick partner or bereavement under the Family and Medical Leave Act
• Visitation rights (hospital or jail)
• Right to be considered next of kin for medical decisions (a well-written power of attorney is best)
• Protection of assets and ownership interests, including real estate holdings and bank accounts
• Adoption rights

Some of the drawbacks of a Domestic Partnership vs. marriage can include:
• Not recognized by other states, countries, the government, or many workplaces
• Health benefits provided for a partner are considered taxable income
• Transfers of assets, funds, or inheritances are considered taxable income
• Partners must file separate tax returns
• No entitlement to Social Security benefits or pensions
• No survivorship inheritance

Partners living together have few, if any, legal rights without a formal declaration, therefore it is important to formally lay out the terms of a domestic agreement to protect and respect ownership interests and assets. It is also extremely useful to have that attorney prepare an estate plan that grants certain rights by Power of Attorney or by Will that may not otherwise be recognized absent a marriage. Our experienced family law and estate planning attorneys can help.

Contact Your Family Law Attorney

To discuss setting up a Domestic Partnership, contact attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. We specialize in Family and Estate law. Contact us today.

Modifying Your Estate Plan: How and When To Do It

Modifying Your Estate Plan: How and When To Do It

Modifying Your Estate Plan: How and When To Do It
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg

Congratulations for setting up your estate plan. You have taken the right steps to insure that your estate is distributed as you wish following your passing. But how long ago did you create this plan? If it has been longer than three to five years ago, you might want to look at modifying it.

Life is never constant. Things can change in an instant, and circumstances in not only your life but in those of your beneficiaries surely change over time. That is why you must set periodic reviews to keep your estate plan up to date, and make changes should a significant life change event occur.

When to Modify Your Estate Plan
Common events that can change the directives in your estate plan include, but are not limited to:
• Divorce, separation, death of a spouse, marriage or remarriage
• Death of a beneficiary—family or friends
• Death of a family member from whom you might inherit
• Birth or adoption, or emancipation of a child; guardianship issues
• A child who may suffer from a disability, including drug addiction
• An elderly parent becoming steadily incapacitated due to illness or injury, to avoid the cost of a guardianship/conservatorship court case
• Your own health issues
• Starting or closing a business
• Acquisition or loss of assets
• Changing your mind

How To Make Changes
The most common way to alter your estate plan documents that can include your Last Will, Living Will, Trust or Power of Attorney is through a Codicil to Will or Living Trust Amendment. These documents replace old clauses in your will with new ones. In some cases the change involves only a simple amendment to existing documents, while at other times, an entire rewrite may be necessary. Your estate attorney will assist you in creating and filing the appropriate documents.

Overall, the best strategy is to review your estate plan at regular intervals, and update it should a significant event occur. This will ensure that your estate, and your legacy, will pass on as you planned as smoothly as possible.

For Questions About Modifying Your Estate Plan, Contact the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C.
To modify your existing estate plan, or to create a new Will, Living Will, Trust, Power of Attorney or any other estate document, contact estate planning attorneys Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C.

Did You Know that Your Attorney-Client Privilege Survives Even After Your Death?

Did You Know that Your Attorney-Client Privilege Survives Even After Your Death? NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

Did You Know that Your Attorney-Client Privilege Survives Even After Your Death?
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

As estate planning attorneys, we help our clients develop estate plans, or how they plan to manage and pass along their wealth and property after they die. What people may not realize, however, is that sometimes our job extends past death, as in the case of what happens when family members challenge the terms of a Will or Trust.

Our loyalty is always with our client, which means that your attorney-client privilege will survive you, even after your death. This should provide you with some reassurance that any disinherited heirs or other family members cannot pick apart your estate plan or obtain private communications you hold with us, your attorney, in order to challenge the Will or Trust. This private information includes verbal, written and recorded communications.

However, not everyone can challenge a Will or Trust, according to basic probate laws, only “interested persons” may, and only for valid reasons. Interested persons may include children, heirs, spouses, devisees, creditors or anyone else who may have a property right or claim against the estate, and generally fall into one of three categories: the beneficiaries of a prior will or a subsequent will and intestate heirs.

According to our code of legal ethics, our duty continues post-representation in perpetuity, even after the client is deceased. A lawyer may, however, disclose the deceased client’s information if the lawyer believes the decedent would have wanted the information disclosed if he or she were still alive. In addition, a lawyer may disclose confidential information to the decedent’s successor (their executor or trustee) when it is necessary to facilitate administration of the decedent’s estate.

Have Questions About Your Estate Plan? Contact Us.
There are many questions about ethics when it comes to the law, and what an attorney can and cannot legally do, and what you can rely on. We would be glad to answer any questions you might have.

If you are just setting up your estate plan, or have questions about your existing documents, we encourage you to contact attorneys Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. We specialize in estate planning law. 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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