Alexandria, VA Estate Planning Blog

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What's the issue with "issue" anyway?

The Virginia Supreme Court has determined that the term “issue” has a different meaning then similar terms, like “children”. Yet many people throw caution to the wind and rely on documents that use “issue”, “children”, “descendants”, “lineal descendants”, “heirs” and “heirs of the body”, either interchangeably or arbitrarily. All of the aforementioned words have specific meanings and, depending on the particular term used, the results can differ dramatically. 

Even less comforting, the date that the will or trust was executed has an effect on the meaning. A Virginia trust executed in 1976, with language devising property to the “issue” of a child, would likely have a different meaning if the trust were executed in 1980. Why? Because particular terms, like “issue”, have a common law meaning and sometimes state legislatures decide to abrogate that meaning. However rules of constructions may require that the will or trust terms be construed according to the law existing at the time of execution, rather than the current meaning.  But, then again, if that same Virginia trust were construed according to another state’s laws, the analysis may be completely different.

What does it all mean? Have an estate planning attorney create your documents. Estate planning is an enormously huge and complicated legal sphere.  Consult a competent attorney. Estate planning is not, and I repeat emphatically, not, a form driven exercise. Contact us today and let a knowledgeable estate planning attorney go to work for you.

Authored by Luke Anthony Lenzi, Esquire         

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