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.

How to Handle a Surprise Divorce

How to Handle a Surprise Divorce

How to Handle a Surprise Divorce
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

You think things are fine with your marriage, and then your spouse suddenly says they want a divorce. Although you may have suspected that there were issues within your marriage, you are completely thrown by their announcement.

Negotiating your way through a divorce is never easy, even when both sides agree to the split. Navigating through it when it is a surprise is even more difficult. Here are some steps that can make it easier.

Find someone to talk to
Your emotions are going to go crazy, so find a professional you can talk with, like a clergy member, spiritual leader, or therapist. Speaking with an unbiased professional can help provide clarity to your thoughts and help you think rationally when emotions flare.

Engage a family law attorney
Immediately begin looking for an attorney, and interview them to make sure you find the right fit; chances are your spouse may have already engaged an attorney even before breaking the news to you.

Knowing your rights, and what the law in your State allows, will be important as you negotiate your divorce. An experienced family law attorney like the Law Offices of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. can assist you to set a plan in action and help you avoid costly mistakes.

Your family law attorney can help understand the legal process, develop a strategy of what steps to take next, how to react to your spouse’s legal actions, draft legal documents for court, negotiate settlement, or even assist with obtaining temporary custody and support orders, injunctive relief to protect assets from being depleted by the spouse seeking the divorce, or a seeking a restraining order if there are issues of abuse. Be open with your attorney about what’s going on even if you feel ashamed or embarrassed, as that will ensure you get accurate advice about your case and your best course of action.

Be proactive and preemptive
Don’t just sit back and wait for your spouse to take charge. Set up your own action plan for dealing with the divorce. You will want to protect your assets, bank accounts, living accommodations and child custody arrangements, and be ready with your wishes when it is time to sit down and negotiate.

Photocopy all documents relating to finances and other legal property, and photograph your valuables. If papers seem to be missing, directly ask your spouse for them; they may be attempting to protect their own interests by hiding documents. Set up your own bank accounts and credit cards (tell your spouse if you cancel a card), but do not attempt to take all the money or run up large bills out of spite. Seek advice from your attorney about permissible uses of assets or lines of credit.

Be communicative
Although the news can come with a plethora of emotions ranging from disbelief to anger, and thoughts from sadness to revenge, it is best to remain communicative and open with your spouse. Even if they make you furious, they have rights too. It will make the entire negotiation process easier.

Keep the children out of it
Don’t involve the children in your battle, or make them take sides. They are merely bystanders to your divorce from your spouse. It is okay to let them see that you are sad, but refrain from bad-mouthing your spouse or attempting to manipulate your children to your side. It is best if you and your spouse break the news to your children together, and assure them that the divorce is not their fault.

Consult with friends who have gone through a divorce
Some of your most valued support may come from friends who themselves have gone through a successful or collaborative divorce. They may have tips on how to survive during this family upheaval, and may be able to assist in other ways, like watching the children or being there when you need to talk. Every case, however, is different, so do not use their input to gauge what you should ask for or obtain in court; instead, leave that subject to your attorney’s expertise. Beware of counsel from those who have not undergone a divorce, and avoid advice that instructs you to “get back at” your spouse to punish them.

Take care of yourself
Avoid letting your emotions drag you into a depressive or otherwise harmful state, even though you should take time to grieve. You are suffering a loss, similar to a death. Use this time to create a new life for yourself. A little pampering never hurts either. Take time to be with friends and do enjoyable activities that will take your mind off your current situation. Don’t let the divorce devastate your self-esteem, and don’t beat yourself up over it. You are still a worthy and valuable person. Don’t however, jump immediately into a new relationship; that would be disastrous for all.

Contact the Family Law Attorneys at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C.
Trust the counsel of Northern Virginia attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi to help you navigate through the separation, settlement, support, and child custody issues involved with your divorce. You’ll want to have a passionate, experienced attorney on your side. Contact us today.

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

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