Archive | December 2013

Limits on Wills


A will can give peace of mind by determining how your assets will be distributed after you die.  However, there are limits on what property a will can cover.  Assets that cannot be subject to a will include:

  • Property held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship.  This generally affects married couples, but anyone can acquire and own property jointly.  A right of survivorship means that if one co-owner dies, the other automatically takes over the other’s share.
  • Pensions, retirement, life insurance, and other accounts that have right of survivorship and/or named beneficiaries.  These accounts already have beneficiary provisions that a will cannot override.  Transfer of ownership would be effective immediately at death and before a will goes through probate.
  •   Assets held in trust.  While a will can set aside assets to create a trust, it cannot affect property already held in trust for a named beneficiary.

The common thread in these instruments is the named beneficiary.  In short, a will only can dispose of assets whose ownership would be in question upon death of the testator.  Any will provision that tries to change named beneficiaries for established trusts or payable-on-death accounts is automatically invalid.  Furthermore, payable-on-death and right-of-survivorship assets are not subject to estate taxes.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.

Philip R. Yabut, Esq. || 1100 N. Glebe Road, Suite 1010, Arlington, VA 22201 || (571) 393-1236 || pyabut@prylaw.com

Where’s there’s no will, there’s still a way


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“food NOW! food NOW!” by author

When a person dies without a will, state law substitutes and property is distributed according to statute.  This is called “intestate succession.”

In Virginia, if you die with:

  • Children, but no spouse — children inherit 100%.
  • Spouse, but no children — spouse inherits 100%.
  • Spouse and children, all of whom are descendants of that spouse — spouse inherits 100%.
  • Spouse and children, at least one of whom is from someone other than than that spouse — spouse inherits 1/3, children inherit 2/3.
  • Parents, but no spouse or children — parents inherit 100%.
  • Siblings, but no spouse or parents — siblings inherit 100%.

For a complete list of intestate inheritance rules, including decedents with no siblings, parents, spouses or children, see Va. Code § 64.2-200.

In the District of Columbia, if you die with:

  • Children, but no spouse — children inherit 100%.
  • Spouse, but no children or parents — spouse inherits 100%.
  • Spouse and children from you and that spouse, and spouse has no other descendants — spouse inherits 2/3, children inherit 1/3.
  • Spouse and children from you and that spouse, and spouse has descendants from another relationship —  spouse inherits 1/2, your children inherit 1/2.
  • Spouse and children from you and someone other than that spouse — spouse inherits 1/2, your children inherit 1/2.
  • Spouse and parents — spouse inherits 3/4, parents inherit 1/4.
  • Parents, but no spouse or children — parents inherit 100%.
  • Siblings, but no spouse, children or parents — siblings inherit 100%.

For the complete rules of intestate succession for DC, go to D.C. Code § 19-306§ 19-307§ 19-308§ 19-309, § 19-310§ 19-311, and § 19-312.

Because these are default rules, it is important that you create a will so you do not have the state distributing your property in a manner that is against your wishes.

This blog is an advertisement for the Law Office of Philip R. Yabut, PLLC, and the information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship. Please do not post confidential information in the comments section.

Philip R. Yabut, Esq. || 1100 N. Glebe Road, Suite 1010, Arlington, VA 22201 || (571) 393-1236 || pyabut@prylaw.com