West Virginia wills and trusts attorneys

Since 2005, Harvit & Schwartz, L.C. has volunteered to prepare, free of charge, the Last Will & Testament for any West Virginian actively serving in The United States Armed Forces as well as The National Guard. Contact us for further information on this free service.

When you die without a will or other arrangements to distribute of your money, your possessions, and your property (known as your estate), it is called dying “intestate.” In that situation, intestacy laws of the state where you live determine who receives your estate. In order to avoid “intestacy” and to make sure that your money, possessions and property go to the people and/or institutions that you want, you need to do estate planning, which typically begins by creating a will.

A will allows you to choose who is to receive the assets you own at the time of your death. It also allows you to choose the person who will administer your estate through the probate process. You should have a will that sets forth, among other things, which family members and/or friends are to receive the assets you own. Wills are generally utilized for:

  • Estates with assets under the federal tax exemption.
  • Estates which contain assets that are easily transferable.
  • Estates that contain real estate in only one state.

Whether or not you have a will, most states require that your estate go through the process of “probate.” Probate is a term used to describe the legal process that occurs after a person dies. It generally involves the validation of a will, if any; gathering the assets of the decedent; paying any claims made by creditors; and distributing the remaining assets to the heirs.
Probate can be time consuming, cumbersome and costly depending on the complexity of the estate. In addition, probate is not private or confidential; all of the assets listed in probate will likely be made public for anyone to see. However, probate can often be avoided or limited by proper estate planning.

A trust is defined as “[a] right of property, real or personal, held by one party for the benefit of another.” There are many types of trusts which are utilized in estate planning. For example, there are “living trusts” (both “revocable” and “irrevocable”) which are established and take effect during the lifetime of the trust creator. Also, there are “testamentary trusts” that are not funded and go into effect only after the death of the creator of the trust.
Trusts may be used:

  • To avoid the costs, time and public nature of probate.
  • To provide protection to the trust creator in the event of mental and/or physical incapacity.
  • To provide financial protection to family members.
  • To allow access to tax savings.
  • For estates with real estate holdings in more than one state.
  • For numerous other reasons as well.

Estate Planning
Estate planning is a way of ensuring the financial security of your family. It is a way for you to make sure that your assets go to the people or institutions that you choose while keeping taxes, administrative costs and other fees to a minimum. If you own a business, estate planning can also address how the business will be handled if you become incapacitated or die. The planning process includes wills, trusts, health care directives, life insurance, and funeral expenses.

If you have questions about wills, trusts, probate or estate planning, call Harvit & Schwartz at (304) 343-4100, or email us for a free consultation.