Estate Planning: Act now and expect the unexpected

Major milestones are the best time to rethink your trusts and wills.

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We asked the 2017 Top Lawyers in Northern Virginia when are some of the best times to start a will and why. Here’s what they had to say.

“Folks put off estate planning because it is a grim and difficult subject, but oftentimes there are triggering events that signal to an individual that it is time to do the work. Generally, buying a house, getting married, having children, getting divorced and retiring are the life events that prompt clients to do or revise their estate planning.
While wills are important, I am as, if not more, interested in ensuring that clients have current and durable powers of attorney. No one thinks that they will be incapacitated, but the fact is that unexpected things happen. Ensuring that you have authorized someone you trust to make financial and health care decisions on your behalf if you are not able to do so can save a lot of money and a lot of stress.

I recommend that, at the age of 18, everyone execute powers of attorney, both medical and financial. As far as a will or other testamentary document, I recommend that be done at the time that one purchases real estate, [gets] married and/or has their first child. Those milestones, of course, happen for different people at different ages.” –Cary Z. Cucinelli, Partner, Cucinelli Geiger PC

“Anytime. Often we tell clients the best time to start a will is at the point of any life event: marriage, divorce, birth of a child, death of a family member. But really, it’s never the wrong time to be thinking about your estate plan! In a will, we need to know who is in charge (the executor), who will receive assets (the beneficiaries), what is in the estate (assets), what the beneficiaries will receive (the bequests) and how funeral arrangements and other debts will be paid.” –Heather R. Steele, Esq., Litigation Partner, Compton & Duling LC

A few important times to create or update a will are if you have minor children, you are approaching retirement or if you are going through a divorce. A will should address who should receive your assets at death (the beneficiaries), who should be responsible for wrapping up your affairs and ensuring the beneficiaries receive your assets (the executor) and if you have minor children, who should be responsible for their care until they reach the age 18 (the guardian).” –Lauren A. Jenkins, Partner, Offit Kurman PA

(2017 Top Lawyers, Advice from the 2017 Top Lawyers, December 2017)