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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.

Child Emancipation in Virginia

Child Emancipation in Virginia<br> NOVA Estate Lawyers - Leesburg, VA

Child Emancipation in Virginia
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

Until a person is 18 years of age, the legal age of majority in Virginia, their parents or guardians have the right to both custody and control. They have legal responsibility to provide the child with shelter, food, clothing, medical care, supervision, and education, and are legally responsible if the child breaks the law. Once a child reaches the age of majority, however, the parents’ legal responsibility ends.

There are, however, some circumstances under which a child or even parent/guardian may seek to have a child declared “emancipated” even though the child has not yet turned 18 years of age, so long as the child or the parent/guardian is able to convince the court that emancipation prior to age 18 serves the best interests of the minor child.

How does the Emancipation Process Work in Virginia?
In Virginia, a minor child of 16 years of age can petition the court to become emancipated. The parents or custodians are thereby made respondents and given notice of the petition. In addition, a parent or guardian of a minor child may also ask the court for emancipation.

A petition for emancipation must be initiated by a legal filing with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court for the county of city in which either the minor or his/her parents or guardian resides. It should contain the minor’s gender, and if the petitioner is not the minor, the name of the petitioner and his or her relationships to the minor.

The court will appoint a guardian ad litem to the child, as a matter of law, which is a licensed attorney trained and approved by the court to serve as a legal representative to a minor child. Depending on the circumstances, the court may also appoint an attorney for the parents or guardian.

The court may require that the local Department of Welfare or Social Services, or another agency, investigate any allegations within the petition, and report back to the court. A hearing will then be held with all parties present.

Necessary Findings for Child Emancipation
Emancipation may be declared following the hearing if: (1) the minor has entered into a valid marriage (whether or not it has been dissolved since); (2) the minor is on active duty in the U.S. armed service; or (3) the minor willingly lives separately and apart from his/her parents or guardian, with the consent of the parents or guardian, and is capable of supporting himself/herself and completely managing his/her own financial affairs.

Results of Emancipation
There are a number of significant legal ramifications if emancipation is granted, including:
• The child may thereafter enter into a binding contract
• The child may thereafter establish his/her own residence
• The child may thereafter purchase and/or sell real estate
• The child may enroll in a school or college of his/her choice
• The child may marry without parental, judicial or other consent

The parents of an emancipated minor will no longer be considered the legal guardians of the child, nor have any obligations regarding school attendance or support obligations.

Contact your Family Law Attorney
The issue of child emancipation is complicated, and there are many steps and repercussions that should be discussed with your family law attorney. This post just briefly touches on some of the aspects of the process.

To learn more about child emancipation in Virginia, please contact lawyers Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. We can help explain how the process works, and whether it works for you and your family. Call our office today.

Appraising Your Estate for Transfer, Divorce or Inheritance

Appraising Your Estate for Transfer, Divorce or Inheritance

Appraising Your Estate for Transfer, Divorce or Inheritance
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

When it comes time for disposal or transition of your marital property due to divorce or property inherited by you from a deceased relative, one of the first things you may need to determine is its appraised value, whether for re-sale or buy-out purposes.

There are many items to consider within a marital or probate estate, including your financial assets, furniture and household goods, vehicles, and property, and most of the time people say, “I don’t know what it’s worth.” That’s why you need a third-party professional.

Often having to determine this information through the turmoil of a divorce or loss of a loved one is too difficult, and, depending on the nature of the asset, it may be best to employ the services of a professional appraiser to help determine the value.

Although there may be free web services, it can be risky to rely solely on those alone to determine an accurate value, and, for purposes of a divorce, that type of information may be deemed inadmissible by the judge on grounds of “hearsay” or “speculation,” or “lay person lacking expertise to give the appraisal.” It is also likely you might find multiple values on the web and not have a real idea of the actual value of your specific asset. There are many intricacies such as age, condition and desirability that come into play that are not readily available through an Internet listing. Art, certain kinds of collections (such as rare coins), and even jewelry can be especially vulnerable to value fluctuations.

Finding a Professional Appraiser

In the case of a death, the executor or administrator generally determines whether to hire an appraiser, and the fees are paid either as a setoff against the proceeds from a liquidated asset (if the appraiser also sells it for the estate) or from the probate account set up by the executor to hold cash assets belonging to the estate. These expenses may be tax deductible to the estate if the probate estate owes any death taxes on the value of estate. The appraiser’s fee is typically based on either an hourly fee or a percentage of the estate if it is to be liquidated by that appraiser.

Be cautious when employing an appraiser who wants to both appraise and sell your items, or of one who may undervalue an item simply because they wish to purchase it themselves knowing it can be re-sold later at a higher price. This is a conflict of interest and an unethical practice. Watch also for ones who overvalue items when his or her commission is based on percentage of sales.

Inform the appraiser as to your particular need for an appraisal. Do you need the entire contents appraised, or only a select group of items? Your appraiser will help to establish the Fair Market Value for your items.

In the case of a divorce, seek and follow the guidance of your divorce attorney to determine what assets justify the use of an appraiser or which do not, noting that the most common assets involve real estate, a family-owned business or business interest, and pension/retirement benefits.

Your attorney may be able to refer you to a professional property appraiser, or you can check with the professional associations in your area, such as the American Society of Appraisers, the Appraisers Association of America, and the International Society of Appraisers.

Appraisers are not required to hold licenses, but, as members of their associations, they are required to conform to a code of ethics and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, pass tests and take continuing education.

Check with these Associations’ records on the appraisers’ backgrounds, looking for any appraisal challenges and their outcomes. Look for an appraiser who has done work similar to yours, and ask for references of people they’ve worked for.

Contact Your Estate Planning Attorney

Whenever there is a change in your estate, due to a divorce or the death of a loved one, it’s prudent to meet with an experienced family law or estate planning/probate attorney who can help you navigate through any processes and update your records appropriately. At the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., Northern Virginia attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi are ready to provide you guidance and legal representation in your divorce, estate planning, or probate matter. Contact us today.

What You Need to Know about Adoption in Virginia

What You Need to Know about Adoption in Virginia

What You Need to Know about Adoption in Virginia
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, VA

If you are considering adopting a child, there are several routes you can take to expand your family.

The first step is to decide what type of adoption works best for you. You can opt to adopt through a public or private agency that can facilitate the entire process, from locating birth parents to terminating their parental rights.

Or you can adopt privately by making all arrangements directly with the birth parents. Typically, private adoptions include close relative, adult, and step-parent adoptions, which entail a less-complicated procedure than other types of adoptions.

Most international adoptions are handled by agencies. Domestic adoptions, on the other hand, can be either done privately or with the assistance of an agency.

In Virginia, when adopting a minor child, a prospective adopting parent must be at least 18 years old to adopt, can be married, single or divorced, and must pass a home study to be approved for adoption. A home study is the assessment of the potential adoptive parent(s), performed by a licensed adoption agency. It includes detailed background checks, child protective service clearances, medical, educational, vocational, and other checks and histories, financial checks, and recommendations from non-relatives. After performing the home study, the agency can recommend whether the potential adoptive parent(s) are suitable to adopt a child, and state the recommended type of adoption (for instance, only infants or only domestic adoptions).

The most common types of adoption include:

    • Open vs. Closed Adoptions

In an open adoption, the biological parents and adoptive parents are open to sharing personal information and can stay in contact with each other throughout the child’s life if they choose. In a closed adoption, biological parents and adoptive parents do not have access to each other’s private information, and records may be sealed. There is no interaction between the two families.

    • Relative and Stepparent Adoption

Relative adoption and stepparent adoption refer to placement of a child in the permanent care of a relatives or stepparent.

    • Infant, Older, or Multiple Child Adoption

Minor children can be adopted at any age; however, there is a greater need for parents willing to adopt older children and sibling groups.
An adult child (age 18 or older) can also be adopted, by giving his or her own Consent; however, when the adult child is being adopted by a non-relative, some States (including Virginia) have a minimum age difference that must exist between the non-relative adopting parent and the adult child consenting to be adopted. In Virginia, that requirement is currently 15 years, meaning the non-relative adoptive parent must be at least 15 years older than the adult seeking to be adopted. A home study is typically not required for an adult child being adopted by giving his or her consent to that adoption.

    • Foster Care Adoption

Children placed in foster care are sometimes adopted by their foster family or through the foster care system, though this is a drawn-out legal process that can require the termination of the natural parents’ parental rights through multiple court-proceedings. Foster care adoptions can be completed through the Department of Social Services in conjunction with such court-proceedings.

    • Special Needs Adoption

In Virginia, many special needs children are available for adoption, and Federal and State programs exist to financially help adoptive parents.

    • International Adoption

Children under age 18 who are adopted from a Hague Convention country, and who enter the U.S. with an IH-3 visa may automatically receive U.S. citizenship. Those adopted from non-convention countries must qualify as orphans. Parents finalizing adoptions abroad must apply to the USCIS for an IR-3 visa for their child.

Do I Need an Adoption Attorney?
In Virginia, most adoptions are completed through an adoption agency or adoption attorney. You do, however, want to consult your family law attorney at the time when you are considering adoption. Your attorney can fill you in on your legal responsibilities, as well as provide helpful information to guide you through the process of adoption through completion. There are also important estate planning considerations to adoption, both for the parent giving up his or her rights if consenting to the adoption of a child, and the adopting parent who might also have natural children who then share any inheritance with their adopted sibling(s).

Contact Your Family Law Attorney
As you can see, there are many consideration and complications involved in adoption. Before you embark on this often overwhelming yet ultimately rewarding journey, consult with an attorney knowledgeable about Virginia’s laws on adoption, like attorneys Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor P.L.L.C. This way, you can receive all the necessary legal advice and support you need, and turn your focus to welcoming a child into your life.

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

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