Dos & Don’ts of Wills & Trusts in WV

Tips for getting the most out of your estate planning

Wills and trusts are important components of a comprehensive estate plan. When properly executed, these instruments can protect your wealth and carry out your wishes for managing and distributing it. But there are potential pitfalls in creating these documents, especially without legal guidance. At Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe in Charleston, we want our clients to be fully informed so they can make the best decisions for their future. We give you personal attention and your concerns professional scrutiny. We are meticulous about every detail of your estate plan, so you can realize the maximum benefit.

If you’re thinking about executing a will or establishing a trust, here’s a brief list of dos and don’ts to consider.

Don’t download a DIY will from the Internet

It’s a good idea to look at standard will forms in preparation for meeting with an attorney. But don’t rely solely on a DIY will. It’s easy to make rookie mistakes that could invalidate your will totally or in part. If you want to “rough up” a draft will, that can be helpful, but consulting an attorney is the best way to ensure your will is clear, complete, valid and enforceable.

Do provide for distribution of jointly owned property

In West Virginia, a decedent’s ownership of property in a joint tenancy is treated as a share of a tenancy in common unless it is clear that there is a right of survivorship. That means your interest in such property would not go to the co-owner but instead would pass through your estate and be divided according to your will or to state intestacy law. You can avoid this result by executing a deed that makes clear the right of survivorship exists.

Don’t name a pet as a beneficiary in a will

Animals cannot own property. If you are deeply invested in your pet, you can set up a trust to provide for their care and maintenance. Since pets are considered property, you can leave your pets to a person you trust to take good care of them.

Do have impartial witnesses attest to the execution your will

It’s a mistake to choose as a witness anyone who is a beneficiary under the will or who assisted in drafting it. If a witness may have influenced the will’s provisions or may stand to benefit from them, the will’s validity may be challenged during probate.

Don’t make living trusts irrevocable

Establishing an irrevocable trust affords protection of property from taxation and liability claims. But these come at a price: your use of trust assets is restricted. A better course of action is to create a revocable trust, appointing yourself as the trustee. This allows you full use of the assets until your death, with the remainder then passing to a successor trustee who will distribute them as you have instructed.

Do review and amend your will and trust in response to life changes

You should meet with your attorney every two to three years to review your estate planning documents. Also, be sure to do so after a major life event, such as marriage, divorce, death of a beneficiary or the birth or adoption of a child.

For further information about trusts, wills and probate, schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer at our firm. The PF&F difference will convince you that you’ve made the right choice for your future.

Contact our Charleston, WV office to discuss our will and trust services

Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe in Charleston drafts wills and trust instruments for clients throughout West Virginia. To consult with a knowledgeable attorney, call 304-344-0100 or contact us online. We have offices in Charleston, Morgantown Beckley and Martinsburg to serve you.