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ESTATE PLANNING AND LITIGATION

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Making end of life choices and the disposition of your property and belongings is difficult. Nobody enjoys contemplating their own mortality. We listen to your needs, come up with a personalized solution and try to make these decisions easier. Having your affairs in order provides peace of mind that your wishes will be accomplished.


Unlike many estate planning firms, we are also asbestos mesothelioma lawyers and car accident lawyers. Therefore, we  are very comfortable in the courtroom litigating estate matters if necessary to prevent or remedy fraud or undue influence. Call us today to find out how we can help.

What is an estate plan?

An estate plan is a series of legal documents that plan for disposition of your property in the event of your death as well as decision making in the event you are incapacitated. Estate plans often consist of a Last Will and Testament, a Durable Power of Attorney and an Advance Medical Directive. Each of these documents have specific signature and witness requirements, and it is important to understand the unique purpose of each document.

Why do you need an estate plan?

Estate plans are recommended to plan for the unexpected. Making end of life choices and considering the disposition of your property and belongings is difficult. Nobody enjoys making those decisions. At Harty Jewell, we listen to your needs, come up with a personalized solution and inform you of all of your options, to try to make these choices easier. Having your affairs in order provides peace of mind that your wishes will be accomplished, and that your family will not encounter unnecessary delay or expense should something unexpected happen to you.  Many people put off estate planning, thinking that they are not wealthy enough, or that an estate plan is too costly. However, a good estate plan can save your family significant time and expense and prevent your spouse, children and family members from having to pick up the pieces while also grieving. Failure to have an estate plan in place can also result in unnecessary delays in accessing money or property held in your sole name.  

Why do I need a will?

Many people do not need a complex estate plan. However, as the saying goes, a failure to plan can be a plan to fail. Executing a Last Will and Testament is necessary to determine how your property will pass upon your death. While Virginia law does provide a statutory scheme for distribution of an individual’s property upon his or her death when there is not a will in place, how the law automatically distributes your property upon your death may not be consistent with your wishes.

 

In addition, your family’s access to money to pay expenses is delayed if you do not have a Last Will and Testament in place. Depending upon who your survivors are, Virginia law may require at least sixty days from your date of death before a family member can be appointed as the Executor or Administrator of your estate. This can delay payment of funeral expenses, last medical bills, and even the mortgage on your home. 

Why do I need a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that appoints an agent to conduct business or make decisions on your behalf. A Power of Attorney can give your agent very broad power, to essentially do anything you can do on your own behalf. A Power of Attorney can also be drafted more narrowly, for a very specific purpose, such as the sale of a home or execution of a contract.  

 

A Power of Attorney can also be drafted to be “durable,” which means that if the person executes the Power of Attorney when he or she has the capacity to do so, if the individual later is unable to make decisions on their own behalf, the agent appointed under the Power of Attorney can continue to act on that person’s behalf. This can include paying bills, filing taxes, applying for benefits, and even selling a home.

 

However, without a valid Power of Attorney in place, if you become unable to handle your own affairs, it would become necessary to petition the court for a guardian and/or conservatorship to be appointed to handle your affairs for you. This can be a time-consuming process and is costly. In addition, conservatorships require continued filings with the court in the future, which also results in unnecessary court filing fees and expense. Executing a Power of Attorney appointing a spouse, trusted family member or friend as your agent can give you peace of mind that your affairs will be handled if you cannot handle them and can save time and expense in the future if you are faced with an unexpected illness.

Why do I need an Advanced Medical Directive or a Health Care Power of Attorney?

An advanced medical directive or a Power of Attorney for Healthcare is a witnessed legal document that permits another person to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself.  In an Advanced Medical Directive or Power of Attorney for Healthcare, you authorize another person to make decisions about your healthcare you if you are incapable of making those decisions for yourself. That individual is often a spouse, child, friend, or other family member, who is designated to be your “agent” under the Advanced Directive or Power of Attorney for Healthcare. You can also specify the types of healthcare that you want or do not want in the event you are unable to make decisions on your own, which is referred to as a “Living Will.”  Considering these decisions and specifying your wishes in your Advanced Directive takes the guesswork out of these important matters for your family and allows you to communicate your wishes for important healthcare decisions.

What is probate?

Probate is a process that occurs after a person dies.  This is also referred to as estate administration.  Probate includes specific court filings and is required in situations where a person’s estate exceeds certain thresholds, which may or may not be necessary depending on how assets are titled and how much money and property a person owns at date of death.  Whether our firm prepared the estate plan or not, if probate is required, the attorneys at Harty Jewell can help guide you through the probate process, and the filings required to settle an estate.

Estate Litigation

Disputes regarding a will or issues with family members who have taken assets that belong to an estate without permission can tear families apart. At Harty Jewell, we are also experienced litigators, who are very comfortable in the courtroom litigating estate matters. If you have reason to contest the terms of a will or if you need to prevent or remedy fraud or undue influence, call us to discuss how we can help. Harty Jewell, PLLC represents executors, administrators, heirs, and beneficiaries in estate litigation.

While planning for the “what-ifs” is not always what we want to focus on, the attorneys at Harty Jewell are ready to discuss how to help you plan for the unexpected, and how to create a personalized estate plan that best accomplishes your wishes. Call us today at 757-568-3000 or fill out our contact form to schedule a time to discuss your estate planning options further here: Contact Harty Jewell, PLLC

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