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Hampton Roads Estate Planning and Administration Law Blog

Thursday, August 2, 2018

What is Estate Tax Portability and How Does it Affect Me?

Estate tax portability means that the unused portion of the first-to-die spouse’s estate tax exemption passes to the surviving spouse.  The current estate tax exemption is $5.45 million. This means that a married couple’s total estate tax exemption is currently $10.9 million (in 2016).  For example, a husband dies with $2 million in separate assets.  He has $3.45 million remaining in his estate tax exemption, which passes to his wife, giving her a total of $8.9 million in estate tax exemption.  Without portability, the husband’s remaining exemption might have been forfeited if the couple had not implemented special tax planning techniques as part of their estate plans.


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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Preparing to Meet With an Estate Planning Attorney

A thorough and complete estate plan must take into account a significant amount of information about your assets, your family, your property, and your wishes during and after your life.  When you make your first appointment with an estate planning attorney, ask the attorney or the paralegal if they can provide a written list of important information and documents that you should bring to the meeting.  


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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Preventing a Will Contest & Preserving Peace in the Family

The purpose of writing a Last Will and Testament is to make sure that you – and not an anonymous probate court judge – have control over the distribution of your property after your death.  If one or more family members disputes the instructions in your will, however, then it is possible  that a probate court judge may decide how your assets will be distributed.

Protect yourself, your family members and your last wishes by taking steps to prevent a will contest after your death.  Will contests (this is the legal term used to describe a family member’s challenge to the contents of a will) can be based on one or more of these claims:


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Monday, July 2, 2018

Preserving and Protecting Documents Is Part of Healthy Estate Planning

In the unsettled time after a loved one’s death, imagine the added stress on the family if the loved one died without a will or any instructions on distributing his or her assets.  Now, imagine the even greater stress to grieving survivors if they know a will exists but they cannot find it!  It is not enough to prepare a will and other estate planning documents like trusts, health care directives and powers of attorney.  To ensure that your family clearly understands your wishes after death, you must also take good care to preserve and protect all of your estate planning documents.


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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Basics of Conservatorships

Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. A tragic accident. A sudden, devastating illness. Have you ever wondered what would happen if a loved one became incapacitated and unable to take care of himself? While many associate incapacity with a comatose state, an individual, while technically functioning, may be considered incapacitated if he cannot communicate through speech or gestures and is unable sign a document, even with a mark. In some cases, an individual may have no trouble communicating, but may not be able to fully appreciate the consequences of their decisions and hence may be deemed to lack capacity. With proper incapacity planning which includes important legal documents such as a durable power of attorney, healthcare proxy and living will, the individuals named in such documents are empowered to make necessary financial and medial decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person without obtaining additional legal authorization.  Without proper incapacity planning documents, even a spouse or adult child cannot make financial and healthcare decisions on behalf of an incapacitated individual.  In such cases, a conservatorship (or guardianship) proceeding is necessary so that loved ones are able to provide for their financial and medical healthcare needs.


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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Important Issues to Consider When Setting Up Your Estate Plan

Often estate planning focuses on the “big picture” issues, such as who gets what, whether a living trust should be created to avoid probate and tax planning to minimize gift and estate taxes. However, there are many smaller issues, which are just as critical to the success of your overall estate plan. Below are some of the issues that are often overlooked by clients and sometimes their attorneys.


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Monday, June 4, 2018

Veterans’ Non-Service Connected Pension Benefits

The Veterans’ Administration’s non-service connected pension program can help supplement the income of elderly or disabled veterans. The VA deems any veteran age 65 or older to be permanently and totally disabled. This “disabled” classification entitles senior citizens who are veterans, or their widows, to tax-free pension payments regardless of their actual physical condition, provided they meet the needs-based criteria.


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Friday, June 1, 2018

The Family Trust

By: Joseph T. “Chip” Buxton III, Certified Elder Law Attorney

I often devote this column to a discussion of the use of various types of trusts in estate planning. For example, we've discussed the joint revocable trust, where a couple will create a trust for their joint benefit during their lifetime, and at the first death the   trust will continue for the benefit of the surviving spouse, and then pass to the children or other beneficiaries. We've also talked about the legacy trust that is created for children after the parents' deaths to protect assets for the children during their lifetimes from the risk of divorce, debts, death taxes and disability.


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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

What is Elder Law?

As the population grows older, many elders must face the difficult challenges of aging, such as declining health, long-term care planning, asset protection and other financial concerns. The practice of elder law is designed to assist seniors with meeting these challenges and give them peace of mind knowing that they will age with dignity.


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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Common Types of Will Contests

The most basic estate planning tool is a will which establishes how an individual's property will be distributed and names beneficiaries to receive those assets. Unfortunately, there are circumstances when disputes arise among surviving family members that can lead to a will contest. This is a court proceeding in which the validity of the will is challenged.


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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Top Five Estate Planning Mistakes

In spite of the vast amount of financial information that is currently available in the media and via the internet, many people either do not understand estate planning or underestimate its importance. Here's a look at the top five estate planning mistakes that need to be avoided.


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