Tag Archives: Estate Planning

How Do I Choose a Legal Guardian for My Child?

Choosing Your Child's Legal Guardian

Choosing Your Child’s Legal Guardian
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

It’s something no parent wants to think about, but eventually must ask themselves: Who would take care of your child if you passed away before they reach adulthood?

For most people, the answer is their spouse or partner. However, if you’re a single parent – or, if you’re considering the unlikely event that both you and your child’s other parent die – this decision can be an incredibly difficult and emotional one.

In order for someone to become the legal guardian of your child after your death, you must name that person (or people) as such in your will. If circumstances require your legal guardianship clause to be invoked, a probate court will then review and, almost invariably, approve the nomination(s). Failing to name a guardian in your will means your child’s caretaker will be appointed by the court – which could ultimately mean foster care if none of your loved ones step up.

Given the significance of this choice, you’ll want to make sure the guardian you choose is competent, financially stable, and trustworthy. Here are a few important factors to weigh when deciding who your child’s legal guardian should be.

Think about who would love and care for your child in the way you would.

People often choose close family members – parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, etc. – as legal guardians because there is already an existing bond between them and your child. If you have a loving, supportive relationship with your family and feel confident that they would extend that love to your child as a guardian, it makes sense to appoint one of them.

Depending on your dynamic, a family friend or other non-related trusted adult in your child’s life could also be a viable choice.

Consider your potential guardian’s background, values, and lifestyle.

You may think your sister would be the perfect guardian because she’d love your child as much as you do. But if she has children of her own and is struggling to make ends meet, you may not want to place that potential burden on her. Similarly, you may have a wealthy aunt who could easily provide for your child, but you’re concerned about how her political or religious views might impact your child’s development.

It’s important to strike the right balance between someone who is both emotionally and financially available to raise your child. Ideally, you’ll choose someone whose values and beliefs align well with your own, so your child’s transition into their care and household will be smoother.

Have a conversation with your potential guardian about raising your child.

Think you’ve found the perfect guardian? Make sure you give them a heads up. Although you do not legally have to obtain someone’s permission before naming them a guardian in your will, it is strongly advised that you speak with the person and give them the option to back out. That person has the right to refuse guardianship if asked by a court, so getting their permission is not only courteous, but crucial to ensuring that your wishes are honored. Ask your potential guardian if they feel comfortable filling that role in your child’s life, as well as shouldering the financial responsibility for your child until adulthood.

Made your choice? Make it official.

Once you’ve chosen your child’s legal guardians and spoken with them about taking on this responsibility, it’s time to add it to your will. Set up a meeting with your estate planning attorney to add this information your will and make the decision official. Remember, if circumstances change or if your original choice no longer feels comfortable being named a guardian, you’ll need to update your will with a new choice as soon as possible.

Deciding who you want to be responsible for your child if you die can be intimidating, but take your time and make this choice carefully – it’s one of the most important estate planning decisions you’ll make as a parent. Hopefully your legal guardians will never have to step up to the plate, but if they do, you’ll feel good knowing that you’ve made the best choice for your child’s future and well-being.

Need an estate planning attorney? The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. is here to help. Contact us today to speak with one of our experienced, compassionate counselors about drafting or updating your will.

Will Your Estate Plan Be Impacted by the New Tax Law?

Estate Planning Under the New Tax Law

Estate Planning Under the New Tax Law
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was signed into law in December 2017, it brought numerous, significant changes for individuals and businesses alike.

With Tax Day 2018 behind us, many taxpayers have already felt the impact of this sweeping tax reform. Overall, the changes promise to benefit the average American – some of the provisions of the new law include:

– A lower top tax rate
– Increased standard deductions
– New or increased credits for qualifying children and dependents
– A deduction equal to 20 percent of “qualified” pass-through business income; and, beginning in 2019
– The repeal of the “individual mandate” for minimum essential health coverage and its associated penalty

One important change to the tax code under the TCJA is an increase to the estate and gift tax exemption. Previously, estates and lifetime gifts valued at $5 million (or $5.49 million, indexed for inflation) and higher were subject to federal estate taxes. The new limit, effective January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2025, is $11.2 million ($10 million base) for individuals and $22.4 million ($20 million base) for married couples. Put simply, the vast majority of American estates are now exempt from federal estate taxes.

It’s important to note that if you live in one of the 15 states with an estate or inheritance tax (or both), your estate may still be subject to state taxation if its exemption limits are not tied to the federal limits. Detailed information can be found on the Tax Foundation website.

Why Now is the Right Time to Review Your Estate Plans

Although your current assets may be nowhere near the new federal exemption limit, now is a good time to review your current will, trust, powers of attorney, or other estate planning documents. These new limits are only in place through the 2025 tax year, and will return to the previous $5 million limit afterward. The limit increase could even be reversed sooner, depending on congressional and presidential elections between now and then.

During this temporary increased exemption period, you can clarify your estate plan and ensure that your loved ones are set to reap the maximum benefits – with the least amount of taxes – when you pass away.

Of course, taking advantage of these exemptions requires estate planning documents with the proper legal language and specificity to make sure your wishes are honored. For example, married couples must invoke portability in their estate plan for the surviving spouse to avoid the estate tax on spousal inheritance that was within the exemption limits.

It’s also critical to customize your powers of attorney with specific instructions regarding the distribution and gifting of your financial assets. If your POA is too vague or general, your estate executor and/or financial agent now may not be able to distribute your estate plan to ensure the greatest tax savings to your estate or may have access to  a loophole to legally distribute your money as they see fit – and  not  in ways you intended.

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer

Any time there is a change in tax law, life circumstances, or both, you’ll want to consult an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you navigate the complex and often emotional facets of planning for your family’s future. Contact The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. to speak with one of our counselors about your estate planning needs today.

You May Want to Consider Holding Power of Attorney for Your Adult Child

You May Want to Consider Holding Power of Attorney for Your Adult Child

You May Want to Consider Holding Power of Attorney for Your Adult Child
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg

Your child is always your child, except in the eyes of the law where an 18 year old is considered to be legal adults. However, as many parents know, at this age, or even beyond, many children are still not ready to be on their own and may need your input or assistance in major life decisions or managing finances. Even though they may be off to college, or entering military service, and you still may be paying their way, you may not have any say in their affairs should something happen and they need your help.

At age 18, children are also deemed emancipated for HIPAA purposes. This means that their privacy is protected under the law—even from their parents—unless they have a medical directive or medical power of attorney in place.

If an unfortunate circumstance should occur, as for example, your child was injured in campus violence incident or had a serious car accident, you, as parents, would have no access to health-related records, or would not be able to make decisions on their behalf if needed, unlike when they were minor children. With the increase of gun violence on campuses and distracted driving, pre-determining a plan might just help put your mind to rest, and offer protection for all parties.

Every 18-year-old needs these two essential documents

That is why we at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor P.L.L.C. highly recommend creating two essential estate planning documents: a durable general power of attorney (for financial matters) and a durable medical power of attorney (for health-related matters). Encourage your child to put one in place after they turn 18, so they can ensure that you will be able to make decisions as to your child’s finances and health care in the event they are unable to do so themselves. Doing so will avoid the greater expense, stress and delay, if they are not in place, of seeking those rights for your child through a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding in the courts. Even though you most often hear about these two documents for older people, they should be considered for younger folks as well.

A financial power of attorney can be customized to your child’s needs, general (covering all financial matters) or specific (relating to just one aspect of the adult child’s finances). Your child can appoint these responsibilities as well to different family members or trusted advisors as alternates or successors to you.

A power of attorney can be useful in other ways too, such as if your child is traveling abroad and requires money wired from the adult child’s bank account, or needs to have legal documents like a lease signed in the child’s absence. The small fee you pay to set up proper powers of attorney will be well worth it in the end.

Contact your estate planning attorney

At the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., we are specialists in estate planning and can help you protect your family members. Please call to set an appointment at our convenient Northern Virginia office with either Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi, attorneys at law.

Divorce 101 in Virginia

Divorce 101 in Virginia

Divorce 101 in Virginia
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

Nobody likes divorce, but sometimes getting a divorce becomes a necessity, and apart from the emotional impact divorce imposes on families, there are a number of legal issues that need to be addressed. This is why it is always a good idea to speak with an attorney, like the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C, from the start of the separation and divorce process. Here are some of the basic topics to consider, or what we call Divorce 101:

Grounds
To get a divorce in Virginia, grounds, or the reason the court should grant a divorce, need to be established. There are five grounds in Virginia that include: adultery or sodomy outside marriage; conviction of a felony; desertion and cruelty; one-year separation (with minor children); or six-month separation (no minor children) with a signed Separation and Property Settlement Agreement.

Legal Separation
In Virginia, “separation” occurs when at least one spouse forms the intention to permanently separate from the other spouse and ceases to act as a married couple with his/her spouse to the spouse and the rest of the world around them. When this occurs, they are considered separated even if they have not yet signed a formal separation agreement. This typically can include living in separate bedrooms and possibly separate parts of the marital home and living as merely a roommate. It can but does not require that one spouse physically move out of the marital home. Upon separation, spouses should not engage in activities that could be construed to be them acting as a married couple, such as taking vacations together, expecting on spouse to cook or clean, etc.

Separation Agreement
A separation agreement is a contract between the parties that spells out each person’s rights and responsibilities during the separation through the divorce, and should include issues surrounding child support, custody and visitation; spousal support; and division of debts and marital property. The separation agreement aids in determining the terms of your separation and divorce, otherwise, a judge may decide them. It is in the best interest of all parties to outline an amicable separation agreement as soon as possible.

Child Custody and Visitation
To determine child custody and visitation, the courts look at the best interests of the child or children, taking into account a number of factors including: safety; maintaining meaningful and positive relationships with parents; minimal disruption to the child’s life; relationships with parents, siblings and family members; and a child’s preference if they are old enough to express an opinion. Parents are encouraged to work out a custody and visitation schedule and submit it to the judge.

A variety of visitation options can be considered, including “bird-nest” co-parenting. This allows the child(ren) to remain in the family home while the parents rotate in and out like birds alighting on the nest. When not living in the home, the alternate parent must reside in a separate residence. This approach works best with co-parenting agreements and with both parents living in close proximity to the family home.

Property Division
Since Virginia is not a community property state, each spouse does not automatically receive one half of the other spouse’s property. Instead, property is classified as “marital” or “separate.” Separate property refers to property acquired prior to the marriage, inherited or gifted, or proceeds from the sale of separate property. Marital property refers to property titled in both spouse’s names, and non-separate property acquired during the marriage. Property divisions can be outlined in the separation agreement, otherwise, the courts may divide property.

Spousal Support
The courts will generally not award spousal support to the party who has committed adultery so long as that adultery is proven by clear and convincing evidence to have taken place within less than 5 years from the date of separation and the non-adulterous spouse has not engaged in a sexual relationship with the unfaithful spouse after learning of the adultery. If denying spousal support could result in severe harm (sometimes called “manifest injustice”) to the spouse seeking it, even an adulterous spouse will be entitled to spousal support.

Contact Your Attorney
This post outlines the very basic elements of Divorce 101, but since each divorce is unique, it is always wise to contact an attorney. Each party should engage an attorney separately; we do not and cannot represent both sides in a divorce issue.

At the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C, attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi specialize in family law issues, including separation and divorce, please contact us today.

Avoid the Common Pitfalls of Estate Planning

The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C Virginia

Avoid Common Pitfalls of Estate Planning
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

Surprisingly, even well-educated Virginians can err when it comes to planning their estates. No matter what one’s financial situation is, there are elements to a solid estate plan that need to be set in place that often get overlooked.

Here are some of the common pitfalls of estate planning:

1. No Will. Without a will, assets are distributed in accordance with state law. This can result in unintended allocations. Having a will gives you the opportunity to decide who gets what and when assets are distributed.

In addition, you should try to avoid the one-size-fits-all estate planning documents so often found via the Internet. They often fail to take into account the unique facts and circumstances of your life. What’s more, because Virginia law contains several nuanced requirements, these computer-generated documents might end up being invalid.

2. Life Insurance Proceeds Not Transferred. Life insurance proceeds can affect estate taxes. If an insured person owns their insurance proceeds at death, the proceeds become part of the estate and are, therefore, taxable. However, an insured person can transfer ownership of their life insurance proceeds before death through a trust, for example, thereby minimizing estate tax liability.

3. Not Using Gift Exclusions. Several available gift exclusions are provided in the Tax Code, where you can gift portions of your estate to others prior to your death without tax penalties. Giving gifts can be an effective and fulfilling way to decrease future estate tax liability.

4. Naming the Wrong Executor. The person you assign to handle your estate upon your death can be demanding. Be sure your executor is up to the job.

5. Not Planning Ahead. It is important to start planning as soon as possible, although it is never too late to create an estate plan. An estate plan provides the opportunity to plan your healthcare wishes and create financial strategies for a number of different situations.

6. Not Updating Your Estate Plan. If circumstances change in your life, you should revise your estate plan accordingly. Failing to do so could result in problems transferring your estate down the line.

At the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., we are specialists in   estate planning procedures and can help you draft and solidify your plan for a secure and rewarding future. Please call (703) 669-6700 to schedule an appointment with either Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi, attorneys at law.

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

Contact

Social Media Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com