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316 W Boscawen St
Winchester, VA 22601
ph. (540) 722-6800
fax. (540) 722-6801

Wills, Trusts, and Estate Administration

A variety of legal issues arise throughout an individual’s lifetime regarding estate planning and disposition of assets. In Winchester, Va., Ms. Fine counsels clients locally and in surrounding counties regarding their legal options and is focused on client goals, especially in succession planning for business owners.

Joan K Fine Working with Client

Ms. Fine is experienced in counseling, document drafting and conflict resolution in the following areas:

  • Financial powers of attorney – In this document you name an agent to take care of your financial matters (writing checks, selling personal and real property, etc.). This is a useful document if you travel or if you have a serious surgery scheduled. Powers of attorney end at death, and the Will takes over.
  • Medical powers of attorney – This document is important to make your medical wishes known to your family and is requested when you are admitted to a health care facility.
  • Living wills – Living wills are also called Advance Medical Directives (Medical powers of attorney).
  • Wills – It is important if you own real estate in Virginia to have a Will. If a person dies without a will in Virginia, or has a will that did not grant their Executor the power to sell their real estate, the Personal Representative will have to file a Petition and appear in Court to have an Order entered to sell the estate. This is time-consuming and expensive. Virginia streamlines the probate process for people who have Last Wills and Testaments (see Planning for Your Future).
  • Trusts – Revocable trusts established during a person’s lifetime (called inter vivos trusts) are useful in certain circumstances such as if the individual travels extensively, anticipates prolonged recovery following an illness or surgery or for other health reasons.
  • Pet Trusts – Do you own pets? Do you want to make sure that your pets are taken care of when you die? Pet Trusts make sure that your animal(s) are taken care of. Not only does this provision within your Will allow you to name a caretaker for your animal(s), it also set aside a certain amount of money from your Estate to make sure that costs and expenses associated with your animal(s) are taken care of. One less worry!
  • Mediation – Disputes between family members can be caused by a misunderstanding of what each person will inherit, by a disagreement among the beneficiaries that the Testator was competent at the time he or she signed the Will or, can be a disagreement about a word definition such as “descendants.” If these disputes cannot be negotiated between the parties, mediation is frequently a successful alternative dispute resolution instead of litigation because the parties remain in control of the process (as opposed to a Judge) and a skilled Mediator can effect a settlement without escalating the conflict.
  • Estate Planning – Ms. Fine will help walk you through the steps of estate planning as the attorney for the Estate. She will help you probate the Will, make sure all of the documents are in order and prepare the accounting for the estate that may be required by the commissioner of accounts.
  • Probate Litigation – Disputes between and among siblings following the death of a parent that are not successfully mediated and that end with a lawsuit filed in Court are some of the most emotional and divisive cases. These cases can result in family members no longer communicating with one another. Probate litigation including challenges to wills and partition suites for real estate. It involves the filing of a complaint with the court, depositions of parties and experts, interrogatories to answer and request for admissions, among other discovery, all adding up to expense: financial, emotional and time. (see What is Probate Litigation and How Can You Avoid It?)
  • Transfer of family-owned business including stock purchase agreements
  • Lost wills – If you cannot find your original Will, you need to make a new Will because copies of Wills are not always accepted by the Clerk for probate. It will save your estate time, money and hassle to redo the Will now.

Recent Work

  • Represented a relative of an heir with diminished capacity to achieve a court-ordered conservatorship and guardianship with flexibility to protect the heir and his funds, and also give the heir the ability to make many of his own decisions.
  • Corrected two-trust estate plans drafted when the Federal Estate tax threshold was $600,000.
  • Advised clients regarding estate planning, including real estate in multiple jurisdictions.