Does Your Teenage Social Media Influencer Need an Estate Plan?

teen social media influencers | estate planning for influencers

Estate Planning for Teen Influencers | NOVAEstateLawyers.com

With the rise of social media influencers like the Kardashian sisters and popular YouTubers, some pre-teens and teenagers are acquiring fame — and money — at an early age. Take it from 8-year-old Ryan Kaji, who earned $22 million in revenue in 2018 from his YouTube toy reviews.

If your child has begun accumulating their own wealth before age 18, you might want to consider creating an estate plan together. While no one wants to consider the possibility of death, especially so young, there are many important conversations to have regarding their assets.

Here are some tips for how to approach estate planning for your teenage social media influencer.

Estate planning for influencers: What to consider

Create a list of your child’s digital assets and their approximate value.

Influencers become successful through social platforms, such as YouTube or Instagram. It’s important to determine what might happen to these accounts, as well as the content that lives on them, if the influencer is no longer around to manage them.

Additionally, you’ll want to understand how much your teen is worth in relation to industry standards. First, make a list of all their digital assets. This includes all of their social accounts, images and videos, textual content and other intellectual property.

From there, you can calculate their value by considering their follower count, engagement rates, demographics and more. Then, speak with your teen about who they want to handle their digital assets if they were to pass away.

Consider a will and medical directives in case of incapacity

In 2017, Alec Sutton, an 18-year-old who suffered a head trauma in a car accident, was taken off life support in a local hospital, despite his loved ones’ pleading for more time and second opinions. While this was a tragic incident to say the least, the hospital’s decision was entirely legal. Because Sutton, a legal adult, lacked a medical power of attorney and a living will, his parents and relatives did not possess an absolute right to make decisions regarding life support.

When your child turns 18, you’ll want to prepare the right documents for such a situation, as failing to do so can be detrimental. One crucial form is a Durable Medical Power of Attorney. This includes HIPAA release form, which enables an adult child’s healthcare providers to disclose medical records with selected individuals (including parents), as well as living will provisions.

Without a Durable Medical Power of Attorney, parents of an adult child who becomes incapacitated might not be able to obtain a copy of their child’s medical record to get a second opinion or make other important decisions based on having that information.

Some decisions involved in these advance directives include emergency treatments, such as:

  • CPR
  • Ventilator use
  • Artificial nutrition (tube feeding)
  • Artificial hydration (IV, or intravenous, fluids)
  • Other life-prolonging treatments
  • Comfort care

Take time to discuss these decisions with your teen, as physical or mental incapacity can happen to anyone at any time. When your teen decides to appoint a proxy to make these medical decisions for them, ensure they sit down with that individual and has an open conversation about their preferences.

Decide who is responsible for financial assets if your child is under 18

Another consideration is your teen’s financial assets. The top-earning influencers often bring in thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars per post, which adds up to a lot over the course of a year. Even if your teen hasn’t reached this level of income, it’s important that they dictate what will happen to their earnings in the case of incapacity or death.

Similar to choosing a medical proxy, your child should designate someone to assume responsibility of any financial decisions via a financial power of attorney. Make sure you sit down with your child and discuss this arrangement in great detail. You’ll want to respect their wishes while offering your support and insight from a parental standpoint.

Depending on your child’s earnings and income streams, you may also need to consult with a business planning attorney to set up a corporate entity can hold their assets until they turn 18 and can actively participate as a CEO or CFO.

Since many influencers are still young and financially inexperienced, they might not understand or even want to consider the implications of estate planning. Remind your child that you aren’t trying to control their lives, but that this simply a part of growing up and transitioning into adulthood.

Contact an experienced estate planning attorney for help

Whether it’s for yourself or your child, estate planning is not something you want to do alone. That’s why we recommend working with an experienced estate planning attorney.

If you’re looking for professional guidance with your Virginia estate planning needs, contact the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor.

Planning for Incapacity: What Documents Do I Need?

planning for incapacity - will, power of attorney documents

Planning for Incapacity | NOVAEstateLawyers.com

Creating a valid will or trust plan gives comfort and clarity to your loved ones when you pass away. Equally important, though, is having an incapacity plan.

In the event that you become unable to make decisions for yourself due to an accident or health complications, an incapacity plan lets you appoint a capable adult to make medical and/or financial decisions on your behalf. While you hope that you or your loved ones will never have to experience this, it could happen to anyone at any time.

Having an incapacity plan in place can save you and your family money, time, and needless anguish during a difficult time. Here is what you need to know about planning for your potential physical or mental incapacity in the future.

What is an incapacity plan?

Be it from a traumatic accident, serious illness, or worsening mental condition, one can become incapacitated quickly and suddenly. Planning ahead allows your wishes to be protected by giving someone having the legal authority to represent you, your well-being, and your interests.

An incapacity plan covers three aspects of your life: financial, personal, and health. With these arrangements pre-made, it allows your family, doctors, and legal team to carry on smoothly and protect you.

Documents in an incapacity plan

An incapacity plan isn’t a singular document; rather it’s a series of advance directives to be followed if you are physically and/or mentally incapacitated. Below are some or all of the legal documents you may include in your incapacity plan:

Living will

A living will (sometimes known also as an advanced medical directive or health care proxy) outlines your wishes should you become diagnosed with a terminal illness or condition where end of life planning is required to be made on your behalf if you are incapacitated. This document is entirely separate from a Last Will and Testament and has absolutely nothing to do with your property or who inherits from you when you die.  At the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., we include living will provisions in our durable medical power of attorney.

Do-not-resuscitate order (DNR)

A DNR states under what conditions you refuse to accept medical treatments after you stop breathing or your heart stops. It can also be a part of the living will provisions set forth in a durable medical power of attorney.

Durable Medical or Health care power of attorney

This is a document that gives someone the legal right to make health care choices for you should you not be able to communicate your wishes. Combined with a living will, a health care power of attorney ensures your medical choices set forth in that document and conferred upon your attorney-in-fact (also commonly referred to as “your agent”) under your power of attorney are honored.

Durable General power of attorney for finances

You can legally grant someone permission to manage your financial affairs through a durable  general power of attorney for finances. This allows a designated and trusted person selected by you to manage all aspects of your financial affairs during a period of incapacity, from paying bills, paying taxes, managing investments or bank accounts, and much more.

Revocable living trust

A revocable living trust allows you to transfer title during your lifetime of your assets to a legal entity considered separate from you so that your assets can be managed for your benefit as well as your family during your lifetime and after your death.  It can be a very effective tool to avoid probate, obtain creditor protections for assets held by the trust, and stagger inheritance distributions to your children (or grandchildren) until they reach ages at which you feel they may be readily able to handle what you leave them.  While typically you are the trustee of your living trust, you can choose a successor to take over the trust responsibilities should you become incapacitated.

What happens if I don’t have an incapacity plan? 

Failing to have an incapacity plan or any estate plan in place may cause great financial and emotional stress for your family. Without an appointed attorney-in-fact or agent, a court will have to decide based on whomever files a petition if they qualify to serve as a guardian of your person and a conservator of your assets.  The person filing to serve and the person appointed to serve in these roles may not be a person you would want to be handling these decisions for you.  Thus, it is critical to ensure you have a plan in place that meets your specific wishes and needs.

Second, if you have minor child(ren), you should seriously consider designating a “living guardian” for their protection, called a designation of standby guardian in Virginia.  Without one, you will have little to no control over where they end up if you are unable to care for them. If you become incapacitated without appointing a legal guardian for your minor child(ren), the court may decide who will house and care for them. This may be especially concerning if you are unmarried/divorced or if your child(ren)’s other parent is otherwise no longer in the picture.

Contact an experienced estate planning attorney for help with your incapacity plan

If you become unable to care for yourself or communicate your wishes, an incapacity plan can help your loved ones make difficult decisions about your health care and financial assets.  The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor can help you create a proper plan that protects your interests. Contact us today to discuss your estate planning needs.

What Is a Revocable Living Trust and Do You Need One?

revocable living trust

What Is a Revocable Living Trust? | NOVAEstateLawyers.com

There are several different legal mechanisms that allow you to pass your estate on to your loved ones after you die. Many people opt to draft a Last Will and Testament. However, estate death taxes and other considerations can complicate things for families.

While increases in exemptions from estate death taxes have worked in the past for some families, there are alternatives to consider. Revocable Living Trusts, for example, can guarantee a smooth passage of property from decedent to beneficiaries.

A will vs. a revocable living trust

A will is a legal document that details your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and the care of minor children upon your death. Generally speaking, this document outlines which money and assets go to which beneficiaries, who will become your children’s legal guardian (if applicable), and who is in charge of managing your affairs. When you die, a probate court uses your will to help your executor distribute assets and settle any debts that are owed.

Like a will, a revocable living trust is an estate planning tool that determines who will inherit your property. However, instead of waiting until your death and having your beneficiaries go through the expensive probate process to inherit your assets, you can leverage a trust to transfer certain property to a trustee during your lifetime.

Depending on what property is held in the trust, your family may be able to avoid probate administration for these assets upon your death. This is because the trust is considered to be a separate entity that “owns” the assets within.

Most individuals who create a living trust will serve as both the trustmaker (also called a grantor) and the trustee, or the person in charge of managing the property held in the trust. Upon your death, the assets will simply pass to another trustee of your choosing – no probate administration required. The “revocable” aspect of a trust means you can adjust and change the details as your life circumstances or wishes change, making it a very flexible estate tool.

It’s important to note that a revocable living trust is not an alternative to a will. Instead, it’s a planning tool that should accompany a last will and testament.

The benefits of a revocable living trust plan

There are several overall benefits to adding a revocable living trust to your estate plan:

1. Avoid probate

One of the most important benefits of a trust is avoiding probate on those assets, which can save your loved ones time and money. This can also be helpful if you own assets in more than one state/jurisdiction, as your out-of-state property would be subject to the local probate laws.

2. Maintain privacy

Wills are public documents that can be read by anyone once they’re processed through the courts. No one except your named beneficiaries can read a revocable trust planning document.

3. Manage assets for minor children

If you have minor children, a trust can ensure their inheritance is managed by an appropriate trustee until your children are mature enough to manage it for themselves. It also ensures that your estate does not end up in the hands of someone else through a child’s estate plan should the child inherit from you outright.

4. Ensure your wishes are met if you become incapacitated

One of the important mechanisms of a revocable planning trust is to plan for what happens to your estate, and how you’re treated, should you become mentally incapacitated. Your document can specify how you are determined to be mentally incapacitated and appoint who manages your finances. A will can’t directly specify this.

5. Potentially reduce your estate taxes

Transferring assets to a trust can reduce the size of your taxable estate, which will ultimately save your family from paying higher estate taxes. While most estates aren’t large enough to be impacted by the estate tax (for tax year 2019, the estate tax exemption is $11.4M per individual and $22.8M for married couples), this is an important consideration if you have assets valued above these limits.

Which is right for you?

Not every individual needs a revocable living trust, so it’s important to assess your needs to determine the right course of action. However, if you have minor children, or you are concerned about how your finances will be managed, how your estate will be transferred and who should take care of you in the event of mental incapacitation, then a revocable living trust is a good addition to your will.

Have questions? Contact an experienced estate planning attorney.

While a will is important, a revocable living trust plan can provide you with more options and security. It’s worth looking into with your estate planning attorney.

At the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., we specialize in estate planning, probate, and family law for Virginia residents. Contact us today to start planning for your family’s future.

Virginia Inheritance Laws: What Is Your Family Entitled to After You Die?

probate court judge signing paperwork

Virginia Intestate Succession | NOVAEstateLawyers.com

If you die away without a will, this is known as “dying intestate.” The terms “intestate” and “testate” come from the longer name given to wills, which is a “Last Will and Testament.” So, if you pass away with a will, this is known as “dying testate.”

Dying without a will has serious consequences and means that the people who inherit your estate will be controlled entirely by Virginia’s intestacy statute, not you. It also opens the door for costly and drawn-out fights between your family members over your assets and over who might serve the role of administrator of your estate. Worse yet, the individuals who inherit from you may not even be those you ever intended to receive your assets.

That’s why it’s crucial to create a comprehensive estate plan, including a will, and update you will consistently throughout your life as your circumstances and wishes change. That way, you’ll have more control over what happens to your money and property after you’re gone.

If you don’t currently have a will, here’s what may happen if you die without having prepared one.

What is the probate process if you die without a will?

For decedents in Virginia without a will, the Commonwealth’s laws of intestate succession apply to any and all property or assets owned by that person. These laws dictate a specific “pecking order” of relatives and/or entities in line to receive all or some of the decedent’s estate.

Keep in mind that your estate will still be subject to the probate process even if you have a valid will at the time of your death. However, this process is generally much smoother, as the court can simply refer to your will and empower your named executor to settle debts and distribute assets to your beneficiaries.

Virginia’s inheritance laws also include a probate tax, which is currently a $1 state tax and $0.33 local tax for every $1,000 within the estate. Regardless of whether there’s a will, unless you follow the advice of an experienced attorney on how to avoid probate, your assets passing through the probate process cannot be distributed to any beneficiaries or heirs until your debts are paid, including taxes, court fees, credit card debt, and more.

Virginia intestate succession laws

Here’s a brief overview of Virginia’s current distribution scheme for persons dying without a will:

If you’re married

Spouses of deceased individuals have many inheritance rights — especially if there are no children involved. Even if you have children together, your spouse will inherit your entire estate, so long as all children were born of your current marriage.

However, if you have children born or adopted by you from a prior relationship, your spouse will only receive one-third of your estate, with the remaining two-thirds evenly divided among your children.

If you have children, but no spouse

If you do not have a surviving spouse but have children, those children will inherit your entire estate, regardless of whether they’re biological or adopted.

Inheritance rights do not exist for your stepchildren or foster children, regardless of how long they may have been under your care. To ensure they receive some of your assets, you’ll want to include them in your will.

If you’re unmarried and have no children

If you have neither a spouse nor children at the time of your death, your estate will be distributed accordingly:

  • Surviving parent(s): entire state to parent(s)
  • If no parents: estate split evenly between siblings
  • If no siblings: estate split evenly between nieces and nephews
  • If no nieces or nephews: estate split evenly between grandparents
  • If no grandparents: estate split evenly between aunts and uncles
  • If no aunts and uncles: estate split evenly between cousins
  • If no cousins: estate split evenly between great-grandparents
  • If no great-grandparents: estate split evenly between great-aunts and great-uncles
  • If no great-aunts and great-uncles: entire estate to ex-spouse’s family (if they died while married to you)

In cases where a decedent has no surviving heirs, ownership of their estate is transferred to the Commonwealth of Virginia (known as “escheatment”).  Your estate might also pass to the creditors of your estate, such as your mortgage company, if you owe money to a large creditor and they file with the court to serve as the administrator of your estate if no other person files and becomes qualified to do so on your behalf.

By creating a valid will, you can control and avoid the above outcomes and ensure your assets are controlled by and pass to the persons you would want to have them.

Draft a will to protect your assets and your family’s future

While all estates are subject to the probate process, taking the time to write and update your estate plan, including a will, makes it much easier for your family and loved ones, and much more likely that your exact wishes will be honored.

Need some guidance? Contact the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor to schedule a free consultation to discuss your estate planning goals and needs, from drafting your will or trust to preparing a financial or medical power of attorney setting up a trust.

Estate Planning Questions You Never Thought to Ask

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Important Estate Planning Questions to Ask | NOVAEstateLaywers.com

To say estate planning can cause stress is an understatement. When you sit down to plan for the unthinkable, you’ll find it can be emotional and downright confusing as you navigate the plethora of “what ifs.”

Many people postpone their estate planning for as long as possible as they may feel they are being faced with their own mortality. Some are afraid they won’t have all the bases covered when they do eventually pass away. Others are simply overwhelmed by the legal process of formalizing their wishes. However, asking the right questions will bring you peace of mind, knowing that your assets and family are taken care of.

Here are six estate planning questions you may have never thought to ask – but should.

What happens if my child’s appointed legal guardian passes away?

If your appointed guardian passes away before you, be sure to change the appointed guardian in your will to another person best fit for your child. It may also be important to discuss who they would appoint in their own will were they to pass away or become incapacitated with the child in their care. Keep in mind the court will appoint a guardian for your child if you do not do so; therefore, this is an especially important part of your estate planning if you have minor children.

Can a probate court overrule my will?

Probate is the process of authenticating your will, including distributing your assets and taking care of any debts owed. A probate court will also address any challenges to your will. For example, per Virginia law, disinheriting your spouse in your will won’t take away their rights to your estate, unless you have a signed premarital (prenuptial) agreement in place that is found legally binding and precludes them from inheriting from you unless you choose to make them a beneficiary.

The requirements in your last will and testament will vary from state to state, so if you own property or assets outside the Commonwealth of Virginia, be sure to discuss this with your attorney to find out how it may impact your estate plan and a future probate process at your death.  Using a trust plan rather than a traditional Will might be best for your estate plan to avoid costly probate taking place in more than one state as well as avoiding probate altogether.

What will happen to my digital accounts?

From social media (ex. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) to your financial accounts managed on-line, it’s important to think about the future of your online accounts once you pass away. You may wish to carefully document and store all passwords in a safe place, and consider whether your executor should receive access to those passwords and accounts as part of their duties in settling your affairs.  A power of attorney is an ideal document to have in place if you become incapacitated, and it needs to be properly written in order to authorize your agent (also known as an attorney-in-fact) to manage your social media and financial accounts.

How long would I want to be kept on life support?

This is a question that may make you sweat in your seat, yet it’s a necessary one to ponder when estate planning. Documenting your preferences is helpful to your loved ones so they don’t have to make such difficult decisions on their own. Were a tragedy to happen, your preferences will be conveyed to health providers, giving your family peace of mind that your wishes are being met.

A medical power of attorney with end-of-life provisions (sometimes called “a living will”) clearly spelled out and naming a trusted friend or family member as your agent to make these decisions, in case you are no longer able to do so for yourself, is a key addition to any comprehensive estate plan.

Who will take ownership of my pets?

Many pet owners consider their animals as part of the family. However, this may not be the first question you’d think about when estate planning. You may wish to consider who would be able to give your pet a loving home if you pass away before them and want to be sure they are not placed in a “kill” shelter.

Today, states like Virginia have adopted statutes that allow you to create a Pet Trust for your pets’ care and protection, into which you can place funds as well as detailed care instructions for the person you name as the Trustee of that trust.  An experience estate planning attorney can also discuss additional documents or options available to protect your pets, not only at the time of your death but, also, during a period of incapacity.

Who would I want to be my power of attorney?

Power of attorney gives you the ability to name someone to make decisions for you if you were incapacitated or unable to speak for yourself. You also have the option to choose someone as a medical power of attorney solely for medical decisions, or a financial power of attorney for financial decisions. Whomever you choose, it should be someone you trust to make the best decisions for you, your family, and your assets.  Lastly, you may want a kind of “power of attorney” for the protection of your minor children if you (and the other parent) are both incapacitated (but not dead) and unable to care for them during a period of recovery, and, in Virginia, that document is called a Designation of Standby Guardian.  Think of this final document as a way to avoid a foster care event for your child and the process of a Department of Family Services investigation/home visit and approval process to approve a family or non-family member to serve as a foster or guardian of your child.

Have more estate planning questions? An experienced attorney can help.

Estate planning does not have to be as confusing or intimidating. The right attorney can make it empowering and use their experience to help you answer questions you might never have thought you’d have to ask. Attorney Patricia E. Tichenor and the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor have nearly two decades of experience helping Virginia residents with estate planning matters. Contact us to discuss your circumstances so we can help you tackle these difficult questions.

The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C.
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(703) 669-6700


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