Tag Archives: estate law attorney northern Virginia

4 Common Estate Planning Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

Estate Planning

Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

Estate planning can be a difficult and stressful process, and mistakes and oversights are common. After all, there’s a lot to consider when writing a will and naming beneficiaries, and it’s easy to miss a thing or two.

Unfortunately, the cost of these errors often falls on your loved ones when certain aspects of your will are not properly carried out.

Below are four frequent estate planning mistakes that could jeopardize the execution of your final wishes.

1. Only writing a will

A will is the most commonly discussed estate planning document, but it’s not the only one you need. You should also have a power of attorney – a legal agreement to give another person the authority to make important financial and medical decisions for you if you have lost the capacity to do so yourself while you’re alive. You can have separate POA agreements for financial versus medical decisions, but whoever you choose for the role(s) should be someone you trust to act in the best interest of you and your family. Without these documents, a court-appointed agent or a doctor could be the one making decisions about your assets and medical care.

2. Assigning responsibilities to the wrong individuals

Naming someone as an estate executor, a trustee, or a guardian to your minor children may seem like a great honor, but it also comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility. Think about whether the people you choose for these roles can handle the duties involved, as well as whether they might let family conflicts or greed get in the way of carrying out your intentions. Sometimes, it’s better to name an objective non-family member or hire a professional trustee who does not stand to benefit from your assets.

3. Never updating your will or beneficiaries

Estate planning is not a one-and-done activity. As you go through life, your circumstances and relationships will change, and you need to continually update your estate planning documents to reflect your current situation, especially if someone you’ve named as a beneficiary passes away or is otherwise no longer in your life.

Many experts recommend reviewing your will every three to five years, but at minimum, you should update it whenever you experience a major life event – marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, the death of a relative, etc. It’s also important to keep track of assets that are transferred outside the probate process – such as retirement accounts, life insurance, and joint property – and ensure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date.

4. Not making estate plans at all

A 2017 BMO Wealth Management survey found that a staggering 52 percent of Americans have not made a formal will. Verbally telling family members about your intentions or writing a letter for your children to open upon your passing does not constitute a legally valid last will and testament.

It can be scary to face your own mortality and procrastinate on estate planning, but it’s even scarier to think about the legal, financial, and emotional aggravation your children and surviving relatives will have to deal with if you don’t have a plan in place.

How to Avoid Estate Planning Mistakes

The best way to secure your family’s future is to work with a professional to create and update your estate planning documents. An experienced estate planning attorney will help you cover all your bases, and include the right legal language to ensure your wishes are honored. Even if you write your own will, you should still hire a lawyer to review and revise it.

Contact The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. to speak with one of our counselors about your estate plans today.

Protect Yourself During Times of Charitable Giving

Protect Yourself During Times of Charitable Giving

Protect Yourself During Times of Charitable Giving
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

December could be known as the “giving season” because that is when many people’s thoughts turn to gift giving and charitable donations.

You may also see that charities use this time of year to solicit donations. This is where you need to be careful, and do your due diligence to discover whether this organization is a legitimate one or not. Here are some tips to protect your donation:

1. Know who wants your money. You may receive telephone calls, letters or emails asking for money, but you have every right to ask what percentage of your donation actually goes to the charity or fundraiser. If you don’t get a clear answer or don’t like the answer, look at donating to another group.
2. Verify the charity. Before handing over money to an unknown person or caller, check with the charity to make sure this solicitation is legitimate. Unfortunately, there are scammers who use an organization’s identity to grab money.
3. Keep records of your donations. You may get a solicitation from someone thanking you for your donation of last year and asking if you’d like to repeat it again this year. If you don’t have a record of your pledge or don’t remember it, don’t automatically say “yes.”
4. Understand the difference between “tax deductible” and “tax exempt.” If the donation is tax deductible, you can deduct your donation on your tax return. Tax exempt only means that the organization doesn’t have to pay taxes.
5. Don’t send cash. For both tax records and security reasons, never send cash through the mail or give a cash donation. Use a credit card or check that can be tracked. If giving online, check the organization’s URL in the browser bar and make sure it begins with “https”. The “s” means that the site is secure and the private information you are entering (such as your credit card information and password) is encoded and protected from hackers.
6. Don’t trust the drop box. Groups place drop boxes around the area where you can donate clothing and household goods. Verity that the organization is legitimate before donating by calling the phone number posted on the box and checking the website.

Laws for Charitable Solicitation
Charitable organizations are required by law to register with the government before soliciting contributions, and those in Washington, D.C. must register in Virginia and Maryland as well as D.C., since their solicitation circulated in the Metro area.

Ways to Check Up

There are several ways to verify that the soliciting organization is legitimate. Try these resources:
BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Arlington, VA, 703-276-0100
Guide Star, Williamsburg, VA, 757-229-4631
• Military Relief Societies

How to Reduce Solicitations

If you feel like you are getting too many solicitations, there are ways to reduce the contact you receive:
Sign up on the Do Not Call Registry. Although charities may be exempt from the rule, this should reduce the number of calls you receive. Register online or call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone you wish to register.
• Sign up for the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service. This will allow you to opt out from receiving unsolicited mail for five years.
• Send a note to the charity. Along with your donation, send a note requesting that your personal information (email, phone, address) and donation history not be shared, rented, sold or exchanged.
• Ask the charity to put you on their Do Not Call list. Legally, they cannot contact you again upon receiving this request. If they do, report their contact to the state Attorney General or the local consumer protection agency.
Bear in mind that the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule requires that telemarketers reveal immediately the charity they represent, and to restrict their calling times to between the hours of 8 AM and 9 PM.

Contact Your Estate Law Attorney

If you have questions about selecting or verifying a charitable organization, or the tax or estate planning ramifications of a giving campaign, contact Patricia E. Tichenor or Camellia Safi, estate law attorneys at The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. We’re conveniently located in Leesburg, VA to serve clients throughout Northern Virginia.

If you have never thought about including a charity aspect in your estate plan, we can help you put that into place as well. Contact us today.

Navigating the Costs of Nursing Home and Long-Term Care

Navigating the Costs of Nursing Home and Long-Term Care

Navigating the Costs of Nursing Home and Long-Term Care
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

When you’ve worked a lifetime to accumulate wealth, you don’t want to lose it all due to a disability, prolonged illness or cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease. Since approximately 69% of the population aged 65 and older will develop disabilities before they die, and 35% will eventually enter a nursing home, reports the Family Caregiver Alliance, it is imperative to plan ahead.

The organization goes on to report that in 2010, about one in eight people age 85 or older (13%) resided in institutions, and by 2012, 1.4 million people lived in nursing homes nationally. Alarmingly, one in four people age 45 and up are not at all financially prepared if they suddenly required long-term care for an indefinite period of time.

Elder law and estate planning attorneys work with families to discuss techniques to protect families in the event that long-term care is necessary.

One method of protecting your financial security is to shift as much of the cost as possible onto a third party such as Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance. But be aware that Medicare does not cover the costs of long-term stays in nursing homes.

Long-Term Care Insurance
Another method is to purchase long-term care insurance. This is available to healthy individuals for potential coverage in the event that long-term care is required. However, this insurance can be costly, and therefore is not widely utilized.

Medicaid
A third option is Medicaid, the most likely to provide financial assistance. Qualifying for Medicaid is complicated, and may require an experienced attorney to help navigate its rules. For example, you may not be eligible if you carry assets above the allowance levels. Some of these assets can be used for debt reduction prior to applying for Medicaid. Medicaid also does not include assets like your home, car or personal assets in its qualification process. This allowable spending to purchase such items can reduce your cash assets and enable eligibility for Medicaid benefits. For example, instead of turning your money over to nursing home care, spend it on home improvements, a new car, or funeral arrangement prepayment, or use it to pay off outstanding debts.

Convert Assets into Income
Assets can also be converted into income, such as annuities, but specific requirements are needed in order to qualify for Medicaid planning. This again is where you need to speak to an estate or elder law attorney.

Transfer Assets

Some seniors pass along assets to their children or heirs early to preserve wealth and “spend down” their assets before applying. In order to prevent fraud in this area, Medicaid has implemented a five-year look-back transfer penalty law. To avoid a penalty, advance planning is a must. In fact, the farther ahead you plan, the more options you will have.

Create a Trust
The creation of an irrevocable trust can also help to preserve assets while allowing eligibility for Medicaid coverage. Select one person to act as your primary agent.

Set up Your Will
Leaving your money to a spouse can backfire when that spouse is in a nursing home or has developed a cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s disease. The inheritance of assets may render them ineligible for government assistance such as Medicaid.

Consult with an Estate Law Attorney
What you don’t want to do is make a costly mistake. It is worth your while to speak with an estate law attorney to explore your options and select those that make sense for your particular situation. Again, planning early is the key—even if you are healthy now and don’t expect to need nursing home or long-term care in your future.

Contact The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor
Attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi provide estate planning legal services. They can help you navigate the complicated maze of nursing home and long-term care options available to you that will help you plan a secure future and protect your hard-earned assets. Contact us today at The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor.

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

Contact

  • 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.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19