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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a last will and testament?

A last will and testament (often just called “a will”) is a legal document that states your wishes regarding the distribution of property owned in your sole name. To qualify as a will in Virginia, this document must be signed in the presence of two witnesses who testify that you are of legal age and sound mind. Wills should also have a “self-proving affidavit,” which is a notarized statement signed by you and the witnesses.

What is probate?

Probate is the process by which a court oversees the recording of your will, the qualification of the executor you appointed in your will, and the disposition of all assets that were in your sole name at the time of your death.

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Why might I want to avoid the probate process?

If you have complex assets or a unique family situation, you may want to avoid the probate process. Probate is a court proceeding, and many probate records are public records. If you want to avoid the costs associated with court oversight, or you have assets or situations that you do not want to make public, you may want to avoid probate. The probate process can also provide certain statutory protections for your estate and your executor, so a decision to avoid probate should be made in consultation with an attorney.

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What is a power of attorney?

A power of attorney (often abbreviated “POA”) is a legal document that empowers an agent to act on your behalf. Usually, when we speak of the POA, we are referring to the financial power of attorney, which allows an agent to manage your finances and real property. The POA can allow an agent to act if you are incapacitated. The POA ends at death.

What is an advance medical directive?

The advance medical directive (or “AMD”) is a document that states your wishes regarding health care decisions, including end-of-life decisions, and empowers an agent to receive confidential health care information and make informed health care decisions if you are unable.

What is a revocable living trust?

A revocable living trust is a structure that can provide for you during any incapacity, state how you want assets distributed after your death, and provide for your spouse and your descendants after your death. A trust is a private arrangement between you and your trustee, therefore assets that are funded into a trust during one’s lifetime will avoid the probate process.

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