At Alperin Law, our services extend beyond planning for the future. When your needs are in the here and now, such as going through probate or administering a loved one’s trust or estate, we are here for you. These tasks can be complicated, and you do not want to attempt them on your own, particularly if you are grieving the loss of someone special. That said, we do also encourage you to think about planning ahead so that your loved ones will not have to go through the same process after you are gone. Get more information here about the probate process in Virginia, trust and estate administration, and planning to avoid probate, and then make a call to our central number to schedule an appointment in one of our convenient Hampton Roads offices.

What Is Probate?

People often assume that if a loved one dies without a will, dividing up assets will be a free-for-all. Further, they believe that if a will exists, the property will pass automatically to the people named in the will. Both of these assumptions are false. In either situation, the deceased’s estate will have to go through probate, which is the judicial process of validating a will or dividing property according to state law if no will exists. People often try to avoid probate because:

  • It is lengthy, usually taking at least 12-16 months.
  • Filing fees, attorney fees, and other costs can add up.
  • It is a public process, meaning anyone can see what your loved one’s assets were and who got what.

Unfortunately, if your loved one did not plan ahead to avoid probate, it is simply something you will have to go through. With the help of our attorneys, though, it can be a much smoother process than going it alone.

How Can Our Probate And Estate Administration Lawyers Help You Avoid Legal Issues With Advance Planning

If the estate in question is worth less than $50,000 or there is no property to pass on, there is usually no need to go through probate. However, in most other situations, it is worth investigating your options to avoid probate. At Alperin Law, we will help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of a variety of methods and strategies that will eliminate the need for probate, including the following:

Joint Tenancy

Adding another person to your assets as a joint owner “with rights of survivorship” will ensure that the asset or property will pass directly to them upon your death without going through probate. However, this will also mean that the joint tenant will have access to the assets while you are still alive and will also be jointly responsible for any claims against the assets, possibly exposing the assets to the claims of creditors of the joint tenant. Also, joint tenancy will not avoid probate upon the death of the surviving joint tenant. Joint tenancy is an option to avoid probate but is not ideal in most cases.

Beneficiary Designations 

Virginia allows Transfer on Death (TOD) or Pay on Death (POD) beneficiary designations to be added to bank accounts. Transfer on Death Deeds are also permitted for the direct transfer of real estate at death. Beneficiary designations like these are preferable to joint tenancy in that they allow you to transfer property upon your death without giving away ownership while you are alive, but there are disadvantages to this method as well. This is especially true if asset protection for the beneficiary is a goal, in which event an outright distribution to that beneficiary is not the best approach.

Revocable Living Trust 

This legal document allows you to establish a separate entity (the trust) to hold legal title to your assets while you are alive. Typically, you serve as the trustee while you are alive, managing your assets for your own benefit. Upon your disability or death, your successor trustee manages or distributes the assets held in trust.

Determining the best strategies for protecting your assets from probate will largely depend on what kind of assets and property you have and what you are hoping to do with them after your death. Our attorneys are well-versed in all of the available options and will help you develop the best possible plan.

Our Probate And Estate Administration Lawyers Provide A Variety Of Services

If you have been named as a personal representative or a successor trustee, you will have many tasks to complete, including the following:

  • Contacting beneficiaries
  • Gathering, valuing, and managing assets
  • Dealing with potential creditors
  • Paying debts, taxes, and final expenses
  • Distributing any remaining income and assets in compliance with the trust terms

Successor trustees often lack the time, resources, and knowledge to personally administer a trust, but Alperin Law can help you deal with the complexities of trust administration, whether or not our office drafted the original trust.

Don’t Hesitate to Get the Legal Help You Need

Many of our clients first contact us when dealing with a loved one’s messy estate. Along with helping them sort out the mess, we are often able to ensure that they have taken advantage of the tools and strategies available to protect their assets and their family members from a similar fate. If you have questions about probate or estate administration, contact us today. We serve all communities in Eastern Virginia, including Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Newport News, Isle of Wight County, Hampton, and the Eastern Shore.

Scott Alperin
Experienced Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney Serving Virginia Beach Area Clients Since 1994.