Author: Tara Tighe, Stafford, VA Personal Injury Attorney
Although having important documents like a will is not something we typically think about, everyone should have documents like these in place to protect you and the people you love in case something happens to you.
What is a Will?
A Will is probably the document that we are most familiar with. It states what you want to happen to your money and belongings when you pass away. Is there someone in particular who should have your great-grandfather’s pocket watch? Who will take care of your dog? Is there a charity or organization you would like to donate to? All of that can be stated in a will. For parents, one of the most important reasons to have a will is to have a say in where your children should go in the event of your death.
What happens if I don’t have a will?
That depends on what state you live in and your life circumstances, which can get quite complicated when you consider blended families, remarriages, and adoptions. The important thing to remember is that the law considers your legal relationships to the people who survive you, not people who are “like family” to you.
- For people who do not have a will, Virginia law assigns an order of priority to the following categories of people: Spouse (and children who are not your spouse’s children);
- Children, and if any children are deceased, then grandchildren;
- Brothers and sisters.
If something happens to you, your spouse is first in line to inherit from your estate. If you do not have a spouse, your belongings will go to your children, and so on down the line. If you do not have anyone in these categories, then your extended family will inherit your assets.
Other legal documents you should have
- Durable Power of Attorney. This document that will allow someone else to act on your behalf if you are unable to do so due to an illness or disability. For example, the person who is assigned to act on your behalf can sign checks and pay bills for you, or even hire an attorney.
- Living Will. Also known as an advanced directive or medical directive, a living will states what your wishes are in critical medical situations where you may be unable to convey those wishes to your doctors. The document tells your doctors what your wishes are. You can also nominate a Healthcare Surrogate, who will be the person responsible for carrying out your wishes in accordance with your living will.
It’s important to remember that this is not an exhaustive list of important documents, but a few to keep in mind. Your particular circumstances will dictate what you should consider. If you're injured in an accident, these documents will help your family and your attorneys as you move forward with a legal claim.
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