Alexandria, VA Estate Planning Blog

Friday, March 30, 2012

Estate Planning Fees

Estate Planning Fees: Generally

Estate Planning Fees vary depending on the complexity of your plan. Estate planning fees are determined relative to the amount of estate work involved. If a person's estate is Will Based (doesn't include a trust plan), the estate planning fees can be very inexpensive. If a person estate includes a basic trust than the estate planning fees may also be relatively inexpensive.

Estate planning fees increase when we incorporate advanced asset protection or draft great detail into an estate planning document. If you want to restrict a beneficiary's access to the estate inheritance, or protect the estate inheritance from divorcing spouses, Medicaid, Bankruptcy or creditors, your estate planning fees begin to increase. 

Estate Planning Fees: Simple Will Estate Planning Fees

Every person needs a Will, Powers of Attorney & Living Will. Since 90% of the attorney's time is spent meeting and collecting client information, it will generally take the attorney the same amount of time to draft a Simple Will as it would to draft all the other documents also. This should always be the the case because the attorney's estate planning fees, whether transactional or hourly, are based on estimates of time. Consequently, its almost always more cost effective to purchase the aforementioned documents with a Simple Will.

Because of the aforementioned, we only prepare Simple Wills in a package.

Estate Planning Fees: Complex Wills, Detailed Wills & Testamentary Trusts Estate Planning Fees

Complex Wills,  Detailed Wills & Testamentary Trusts require more time to prepare because they are being prepared to address a specific issue. Because Living Trusts are almost always superior to these more expensive Wills, frequently it makes more sense to draft a Living Trust instead (exceptions exist; e.g., Will w/ testamentary trust for Medicaid planning). 

Consequently, if the estate planning fees for your Will are excessive, and you haven't ruled out a living trust for planning reasons, you should really consider incurring a little more estate planning fees to eliminate or reduce future probate costs, estate administration fees and probate fees. By spending a few hundred dollars more now on your estate planning fees, you may likely save many thousands of dollars on later costs, fees and taxes.  

The following Spring 2012 Promotion outlines our estimated estate planning fees and costs for two of our basic estate plans. The estate planning fee promotion is limited in scope and duration.  

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Simple Trusts


Simple Trusts: What is a Simple trust?


A simple trust does’t have any specific meaning. When I refer to simple trusts, I often am referring to a trust that doesn’t have complex or detailed provisions. A simple trust is appealing to many people because they want to avoid perceived expensive estate planning fees and costs.


Simple trusts: What does a Simple trust do?


Simple trusts are better understood as probate avoidance trusts. Simple trusts pass all assets outright to a beneficiary as soon as practically possible (after decedent’s death). Simple trusts have little to no asset protection. Because simple trusts are probate avoidance tools, than there is no reason to create it after your dead (via WILL). 


Simple Trusts: The problems?


Simple trusts are problematic because they have to be funded correctly. Funding is the process of titling assets into the name of the trust (or making the trust a beneficiary upon death). If they are not funded correctly, probate may likely result and the purpose of the trust would have been defeated. Simple trusts also should generally not hold tax deferred assets because they lack the necessary provisions to avoid a tax disaster. 


Have questions about simple trusts, call our office. 


Thursday, March 29, 2012

What is a Will?



Will: What is a wIll?


A will is document by which a person directs his or her probate estate to be distributed upon death. Will governs probate assets. Will doesn’t direct your non-probate assets. Will probate assets are those assets that pass by beneficiary or operation of law upon death. 


Will: Execution

Will must comply with certain rules regarding execution for every jurisdiction it must be probated in. A non-holographic will must be signed, witnessed & notarized in accordance with the applicable jurisdictional law. Will must be probated in the jurisdiction where the decedent died for personal property and probated in the jurisdiction where the decedent owned real property (situs or located physically). If the decedent owns a business entity that owns real property, than the Will should govern that asset because under Will law the decedent owns the business entity not the land.


Will: Costs

Will costs and Fees very. However, we have a current spring promotion indicating flat fee fixed prices. Click below for more information. 




Virginia code Section 64.1-45 "Will" construed

Except when it would be inconsistent with the manifest intent of the legislature, the word "will" shall extend to a testament, and to a codicil, and to an appointment by will, or by writing in the nature of a will, in exercise of a power; and also to any other testamentary disposition.


Virginia code Section 64.1-46 Who may make a will; what estate may be disposed of

Every person not prohibited by §64.1-47 may, by will, dispose of any estate to which he shall be entitled, at his death, and which, if not so disposed of, would devolve upon his heirs, personal representative or next of kin. The power hereby given shall extend to any estate, right or interest to which the testator may be entitled at his death, notwithstanding he may become so entitled subsequently to the execution of the will.


Virginia Code Section 64.1-49 Will must be in writing, etc.; mode of execution; witnesses, and proof of handwriting

No will shall be valid unless it be in writing and signed by the testator, or by some other person in his presence and by his direction, in such manner as to make it manifest that the name is intended as a signature; and moreover, unless it be wholly in the handwriting of the testator, the signature shall be made or the will acknowledged by him in the presence of at least two competent witnesses, present at the same time; and such witnesses shall subscribe the will in the presence of the testator, but no form of attestation shall be necessary. If the will be wholly in the handwriting of the testator that fact shall be proved by at least two disinterested witnesses.






Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Need a Will



I Need a Will: Really?

Answer: Absolutely you need a Will. A will is document by which a person directs his or her probate estate to be distributed upon death. Will governs probate assets. Will doesn’t direct your non-probate assets. Will probate assets are those assets that pass by beneficiary or operation of law upon death. 


I need a Will: How much does a Will Cost? 

Wills cost vary on the level and complexity of your Will plan. If you have basic Will plan, then the costs of a Will can be very inexpensive. A basic Will plan includes a financial power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, living will, & HIPPA authorizations. Because ii takes the same amount of time to prepare a Will as it takes to prepare all the aforementioned documents, a Will plan is generally a better option for someone looking for a will.



I need a Will: Do I need a Will Attorney?

Wills are one of the most difficult documents to execute. Because Virginia wants to prevent abuse, the requirements for a Will are extensive. Additionally, because much of you assets pass outside of probate, you need an Attorney to help direct your non-probate assets according to the Will.




Thursday, March 29, 2012

Estate Planning Attorney


Estate Planning Attorney:


I am an Estate Planning Attorney. An Estate Planning Attorney may do many things. Estate Planning Attorneys should understand property, asset protection, wills and trusts, and tax law. Estate Planning Attorneys use their knowledge of the law to distribute your estate (your assets) to your beneficiaries. 


Estate Planning Attorney: Coordinating During Life


An Estate Planning Attorney also helps to ensure that if you lose capacity you and your dependents will be cared for. Estate Planning Attorneys plan for financial and business related issues by using Living Trusts & Financial Power of Attorneys. An Estate Planning Attorney plans for medical and health decisions by using a HealthCare Power of Attorney, HIPPA Authorizations and Living Will. 


Estate Planning Attorney: Asset Protection Estate Planning Attorney


An Estate Planning Attorney uses his knowledge of Creditor, Bankruptcy & Divorce Law  to protect assets for your beneficiaries. Asset protection estate planning is very important and there are multiple asset protection estate planning techniques that begin for very to little estate planning fees and costs. Medicaid planning for surviving spouses and beneficiaries is also very important to asset protection estate planning. 


Estate Planning Attorney: Estate Planning Attorney Tools?


An Estate Planning Attorney has many tools of the trade. The Estate Planning Attorney can use the aforementioned estate planning documents. Also Estate Planning Attorneys frequently use business entities, special tax trusts, annuities, disclaimers, marital agreements and other property agreements. An e Estate Planning Attorney’s tool bag is very large and contains many other tools. 


Contact us & speak with an Estate Planning Attorney today.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Trusts for Children

Trust for Children; Because your child is the most important Asset 


Trusts for Children Defined: protects children by using the child's inheritance to give each child the best chance of personal and financial success.


Trusts for Children; Most Important Estate Planning Issue

Its simple and inexpensive to create trusts for children. For a parent of a young child, its the number one reason to estate plan. Sadly, many attorneys fail to advise clients to create trusts for children.


Trusts for Children; Why?

Trusts for children are trusts designed to address the likely catastrophe if a child's parent dies. When a parent dies, or both parents, the child experiences a terrible lifelong loss of love and resources. Additionally the child looses the crucial rearing influence that helps form their moral compass and directs them towards a more prosperous path. The child's formative years, which should have been guided by a parent, are now guided by friends and popular culture. Deep feelings of sorrow, pain and injustice further aggravates the problem. 


Trusts for Children; Purpose

The purpose of trusts for children is to give the child the best chance of personal and professional success. Trusts for children use the decedent's financial resources (e.g., life insurance) as a tool to influence the conduct of the child and ensure that the named caregivers (there should be many named) have sufficient assets to care for the child. Trusts for children are designed to protect an immature child from the destructive influence of receiving a large amount of money while simultaneously protecting the assets from caretaker abuse and creditors.


Trusts for Children; Trust Provisions

Trusts for children should be designed to contain trust provisions designed to rear the child in a parental fashion. Trusts for children frequently have the following provisions;

  • to protect assets from immature beneficiaries (child gets management control as trustee at a certain age; e.g. 30)
  • to promote conduct (pay for college, higher education, trade-school, ect
  • to inhibit conduct (stop all or certain payments if child joins a cult, develops a drug problem, abuses drugs)
  • to provide positive assistance for life events (pay for a wedding, buy a first car, start a business)
  • to protect the trust assets from a caregiver wasting trust assets
  • to support the caregiver financially (caregiver will have great financial and personal responsibility)


Trusts for Children: Multiple Children & Giving

Trusts for children may be established for one or more children. Sometimes creating trusts for multiple children can be more effective and flexible than trusts for one child. During life, parents give to their child based on need. However they immediately assume that upon death that each child should get an equal share. However I believe the best solutions is a hybrid-solution. While the child is dependent (young, going to college or disabled), consider giving based on need (equitably). When that disability is lifted, consider distributing the remainder more equally. 


Trusts for Children: Cost Effective & Efficient

Trusts for children are not terribly expensive. Estate planning fees are generally based on expectations of attorney time. The parent is best suited to determine what trust provisions to include. If the attorney properly involves the parent in planning, and efficiently collects information, than the estate planning fees should be significantly reduced. 


Trusts for Children: Collecting Information

We collect asset information from the parent via an Estate Planning Worksheet. We help the client select caregivers during a conference. We present the client with a trust Provision Template for their trust for children and allow them to modify and craft the provisions for their child’s care and wellbeing. 


Trust for Children: Selecting Trustees & Caregivers

Trusts for children frequently have caregivers who also serve as trustee. Our position is that while that may work, its generally not preferable. Consider separating the duties of caregiver and trustee in your trust for children. When selecting a caregiver or trustee, the client has much to consider. What make a good candidate for a caregiver may not necessarily be the case for a Trustee. Additionally, by separating the money supply from the caregiver, you can both comfortably provide for the caregiver and protect the trust assets from caregiver abuse. 


Trusts for Children: Grandparents & Extended Families Roles

Trust for children can be created by grandparents and extended family. Consider notifying every person who may likely name you or your child as their beneficiary that you have created a trust for children. By having said person name your trust for children as beneficiary (as opposed to your child), than the money can be directed to the trust for the reasons identified above (as opposed to going directly to the child). 


Trusts for Children; Not just for the rich


Trust for children are not exclusively for the rich. Anybody who has a young child should consider creating a trust for children. Anybody with young children should have life insurance (insuring your future wealth) to provide a security net for your family. Most young people can easily purchase a life insurance policy sufficient to fund the trust for children. Of course, the more assets the parent has, the more necessary the trust for children becomes for a young parent.


Trusts for Children: Getting Started

Trusts for Children are very important estate planning devices. It is easy to get started on your own trust for children. Review some of the paperwork we have provided and give us a call. We are happy to discuss establishing your own trust for children.



Monday, March 26, 2012

Power of Attorney: Power to Amend Estate Plan



The following analysis pertains to the effect of a durable power of attorney on estate planning. Although the specific jurisdiction is Florida, the same general issues (not the law) may apply.   


Sometimes its nice to read other attorney's analysis on certain aspects of the law. I have pasted below a Florida attorney's analysis of their law. I don't certify the validity of the attorney's analysis, but I find it interesting. 


""Foreseeable Problems Under Florida’s Revised Power of Attorney Act Regarding Agent’s Authority to Modify an Estate Plan

In October of 2011, Florida amended its Power of Attorney Act under Section 709 . . . Notably, under section 709.2202, the new act provided additional safeguards regarding the agent’s ability to exercise special powers. In order for the principal to grant certain powers to the agent, the former must sign or initial next to each special power and such power cannot be prohibited by another agreement. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 709.2202 (2011). For example, where a mother seeks to grant the specific authority for her son to create a trust, gift property, or disclaim assets on her behalf, the former must initial next to every enumerated power for the latter to exercise such powers. In all, 709.2202 vests broad powers for an agent to materially affect the principal’s estate plan.

Problems may arise in the following contexts: (1) although the power of attorney grants the agent the ability to make gifts or amend the principal’s trust, the trust instrument itself may prohibit such powers, (2) the agent may wish to make certain changes on the advice of those who may not be competent to render advice regarding the principal’s dispositive plan, and (3) the agent’s proposed changes directly conflict with the trust drafting attorney’s design plan. The following may be helpful to sidestep such issues to ensure a proper balance exists between the agent’s fiduciary responsibility of making necessary estate plan changes and the need to protect a settlor’s current estate plan.

Problem #1: First, in drafting the trust, the attorney should inquire as to whether an outstanding power of attorney exists and whether it contains special powers that, if used, can have a substantial impact on an estate plan. If such powers are present, the drafting attorney should determine whether the principal intended to grant such broad powers to the agent and whether the trust document should either prohibit or limit the agent’s powers. Also, the power of attorney may need to be revoked to conform to the settlor’s/principal’s intent. While drafting a trust for a client, knowing whether a Power of Attorney exists and exactly what type of powers it conveys will ensure that a client’s estate plan remains consistent.

Problem #2 & #3: The drafting attorney should have a candid discussion with the principal/settlor to determine whether the agent is the proper person to hold such powers. For example, the power of attorney can be drafted in a way to appoint co-agents which can only act upon the concurrence of both. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 709.2111 (2011). Similarly, if properly counseled, an agent can limit his authority by not acting upon the powers conferred to her regarding modifying a principal’s estate plan. Regarding #3, it would be wise for an agent or someone who advises the agent to discuss the potential repercussions of any proposed changes with the principal’s estate planning attorney. Since the agent is bound by fiduciary standards especially in exercising powers delineated under 709.2202, the agent may have a duty to confer with the settlor’s counsel prior to making any material changes to a trust.

A Power of Attorney that allows one to change a principal’s dispositive scheme is a powerful tool. Attorneys should be cautious when inserting section 709’s estate planning powers to ensure that principals are aware of the powers they are conveying. Further, Power of Attorney and trust documents should be drafted or amended to be consistent with the principal’s/settlor’s estate plan.

*The above is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice to any such persons. Please seek a qualified attorney in your area to discuss specific facts and how the applicable laws in your area apply.""

Friday, March 23, 2012

Do I need an Estate Planning Attorney? How much does Estate Planning cost?


Do I need & Estate Planning Attorney? Yes

Estate Defined: An Estate is the amount, degree, nature and quality of a person's interest in land or other property. 

When we talk about basic estate planning, we mean the following:

(i) estate planning for the cost efficient transfer of that persons estate (all a person's interest in property) upon their death. Estate planning methods include executing a basic will, basic trust or a probate avoidance living trust or inter-vivos trust and ensuring beneficiary designations are properly completed. 

(ii) estate planning means preserving a person's assets when that person looses capacity. That could mean anything from making sure the mortgage is paid (home is an estate asset) or keeping a business running (a business an estate asset). Estate planning methods include powers of attorney (POA), joint accounts ect.

(iii) estate planning means planning for health decision, including life or death decisions, made upon a person's incapacity. Estate Planning methods include healthcare powers of attorney (HCPOA), Living Wills, HIPPA Authorizations & Advanced Medical Directives. 

Consequently, every person needs an estate planning attorney. 

Why? Because everybody dies, everybody may become incapacitated and almost everybody has some asset that they want to leave to some person they care about. Fortunately, these basic estate planning documents are not time consuming and fairly inexpensive.

See below for the 2012 Spring estate planning costs & fees estimates for two of our basic estate plan packages 


How Much Does Estate Planning Cost?

The cost of estate planning is respective to the amount of work involved. If a person doesn't want to trust plan, the cost can of estate planning can be very inexpensive. Additionally, if the person wants a trust for probate avoidance purposes alone, than that person's estate plan is also relatively inexpensive. 

Estate planning costs go up when we incorporate advanced asset protection or draft great detail into an estate planning document. If you want to restrict a beneficiary's access to the estate inheritance, or protect the inheritance from divorcing spouses, Medicaid, Bankruptcy or creditors, your estate planning costs begin to increase. 


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Special Needs Trusts for Special Needs Beneficiaries

A special needs trust is a special trust that allocates trust assets for the benefit of a person who has special needs and is (or may likely be) Medicaid eligible.  Special Needs Trusts may take many forms. For estate planning purposes, Special Needs Trusts generally are drafted so that the special needs beneficiary may receive distributions of trust income and trust principal without having the trust principal or trust income being considered countable (as assets or income) for Medicaid eligibility purposes. 

Special needs trusts are not overly complicated to draft. Well drafted asset protected trusts often have dynastic provisions that protect beneficiaries’ who may possibly Medicaid eligibility even when Medicaid doesn't appear to be an immediate issue. If you are interested in estate planning for a special needs beneficiary, or have questions about special needs trusts, feel welcome to contact the firm. 

Note Special Needs Trusts frequently are referred to as Supplemental Needs Trusts when a trust grantor creates the trust for the benefit of a third party special needs beneficiary (as opposed to the grantor being a special needs beneficiary) 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Estate Tax & Generation Skipping Tax (GST) Return & Payment Deadline Approaching

Deadline Extension Approaching under Notice 2011-76, 2011-40 IRB 479, 09/13/2011

The IRS on 13 September 2011 made effective Notice 2011-76, 2011-40 IRB 479. The notice concerned the Estate Tax Return, Estate Tax Payment & Generation Skipping Tax Return Deadline.

The tax deadline is fast approaching for decedents who filed Form 4768 for automatic relief from late filing and late payment penalties. By 19 March 2012, the applicable estates must file Form 706, United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, or Form 706-NA, United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, and pay the estate tax.

If you have any questions about the United States Estate Tax, United States Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax, please feel welcome to contact the law firm.



Luke Lenzi, Esq. (Attorney & Counselor at Law)


Monday, March 12, 2012

Reasons for a Pre-Marital Agreement; Asset Protection

There are many reasons why soon-to-be married couples should consider entering into a Pre-Marital Agreement. Most people who enter into a Pre-Marital Agreement do so with the primary concern of Asset Protection.  

It’s important to recognize that a Pre-Marital Agreement is an estate planning device. Because each person is unique, their Pre-Marital Agreement should contain unique asset protection provisions narrowly tailored to their finances, expectations, desires, concerns and family dynamics. However there are common or typical asset protection reasons for entering into a Pre-Marital Agreement.

Asset protection driven Pre-Marital Agreements are generally drafted for the following Asset Protection Reasons:

  • insulate and protect significant assets acquired before the marriage,
  • insulate and protect the growth of separate assets during the marriage
  • protect separate assets from being transmuted into marital property during the marriage,   
  • protect a business,
  • protect the inheritance of children born from a prior relationship or marriage (blended family),
  • establish what assets are to be separate property and what assets are to be marital property,
  • protect retirement benefits from the claims of a divorcing spouse,
  • eliminate or fix surviving spouse’s survivorship or inheritance rights (e.g., elective share); and
  • minimize or eliminate potential tax liabilities (e.g. estate tax & income tax);


 Entering into a Pre-Marital Agreement makes sense for asset protection purposes. It also makes sense for additional reasons not related to asset protection. Ultimately, it’s a big decision to enter into a Pre-Marital Agreement prior to marriage.

The process of negotiation and presentation to the other spouse needs to be thoughtfully and artfully conducted. Otherwise, you may risk unnecessarily hurting feelings and causing serious issues before the marriage. It’s important to select a competent attorney who is willing to thoughtfully allocate the necessary time and take the necessary action to address your asset protection issues.

If you have any questions about Pre-Marital Agreements and asset protection, feel welcome to contact the law firm.


Luke Lenzi, Esq.       

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The Lenzi Law Firm, PLLC assists clients throughout Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. including Fort Washington, Falls Church, Ft. Myer, Vienna, Rosslyn, Springfield, Mount Vernon, Annandale, Fort Belvoir, Fairfax, Dunn Loring, Merrifield, McLean, Oakton, Reston, Burke, Great Falls, Fredericksburg, Stafford and Herndon in Arlington County, Alexandria County, & Fairfax County.

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