As a litigation law practice, we regularly manage cases that involve some aspect of interpreting a critical set of documents, or attempting to (in)validate important documents. Our litigation experience enables us to effectively draft and amend documents for our clients with clear terms representing the stakeholders' interests. Every document will include a personal meeting with an attorney, ample time to discuss the client's interests and objectives, and as many reviews and revisions necessary for the client's satisfaction. Due to the variety of our caseload, we can assist with many issues that range from important personal matters to developing business policies and procedures that can enable secure growth.
Most Americans do not have wills, and generally do not consider them important priorities . However, most people do not know their states' intestacy laws (the automatic laws governing an estate's distribution of assets when no will is in effect). Without a will, property may be distributed to family members that the decedent (person who has died) may not have wanted the property to go to. Without any clear instructions as to who gets what property, a litigious battle may ensue over property rights.
Wills can explicitly describe who receives from the decedent's estate, and exactly what they receive. Since the creation of a will replaces the state's intestacy laws, it is important that a will be updated anytime the testator (person with a will) has a major relationship-changing event that could impact the will. For example, if the testator divorces, she may want to update her will to reflect that she does not want her ex-husband to inherit from it. Although the courts have some common sense rules to protect against unintended results, it is a safe practice to update a will after such a major event, or if the testator's interests change.
If you are interested in finding out who may inherit from you if you were to die without a will, this Nolo.com article briefly describes Intestacy Law in Virginia.
Related to wills, are trusts. Trusts enable a third-party to act as a fiduciary (person with duties and responsibilities toward another) to hold and manage assets on behalf of the trust's beneficiaries (the people who will receive something from the trust). Trusts can protect assets from estate taxes, creditors, and can be used to assure safe financial management for the beneficiaries. Depending on the assets, a trust may be a beneficial option to consider when drafting a will.
Although wills and trusts are often perceived as useful for older adults with significant assets, they can and should be maintained by young adults who wish to ensure sufficient protections for their loved ones in the event of a tragedy. Wills provide peace of mind that family members will receive what you want them to, and often assure a more streamlined judicial estate process.
One of the greatest frustrations a family can ever encounter is the inability to make decisions on behalf of a loved one when that person is no longer able to make decisions for himself. Without prior grants of power from that person, family members (and possibly non-family members) are designated automatically under Virginia law to be responsible for making healthcare decisions on behalf of their loved one. These events can create internal family strife as family members may have differing opinions about what they think their loved one would want.
It is advisable that while a family member is still able, she should create an Advance Healthcare Directive (also known as a living will), and provide Power of Attorney to a family member she trusts will make appropriate decisions on her behalf before she becomes infirm.
An Advance Healthcare Directive can inform healthcare providers and family members of the drafter's wishes concerning medical treatment in the event of terminal circumstances. These directives typically empower a specific person (the "proxy") to make healthcare decisions on behalf of the drafter, as well as describe what healthcare providers should do when faced with particular healthcare options. Virginia maintains an Advance Healthcare registry where a person can upload their directive so that healthcare providers can review the directive if no family members are available to discuss treatment options if a health emergency occurs.
Besides an Advanced Healthcare Directive, a loved one can provide Durable Power of Attorney to someone they trust in the event of incapacity, or inability to function as effectively as required. The Durable Power of Attorney can grant a person the power to make legal, financial, and medical decisions on the drafter's behalf while capable (mentally cognizant), as well as after becoming incapable.
Although these documents are typically first drafted by a school district's special education services office or local service coordinator for early intervention services, parents have a critical role in reviewing the proposed plan, and advocating for their children's needs by addressing every aspect of the draft plan that does not provide necessary services or is loosely drafted to relieve government accountability.
For example, a draft IEP goal might state, "Student will use proper conventions addressing the mechanics of writing with 75% accuracy." This standard first appears as an appropriate goal, but it is actually a fairly unmeasurable one upon further inspection. It does not state what a "proper convention" is, it does not state what those "mechanics of writing" are, it does not state whether the 75% accuracy is per "convention" or pertains to an entire assignment, it does not state a baseline for the student's current abilities, and it does not indicate how this goal will be tested. A review of a draft IEP or IFSP can help discover these issues to be addressed with the service coordinator, and provide a parent power to effectively advocate for their child's education.
In the event that there is a significant disagreement in implementing the plan, it may be worth considering litigation as an option to resolve a dispute. [See the Education Law practice area.]
Our office has assisted and represented businesses in a wide-range of industries such as e-commerce, entertainment, healthcare professionals, hospitality, realty, restaurant, and retail. We have also assisted religious and non-religious non-profit organizations with their activities.
Whether it is the beginning, growing, or winding up of a company, our office is experienced in assisting with business governance manners to assure regulatory compliance and effective organization. We can advise and assist an entrepreneur's startup plan by thoroughly discussing the benefits and detriments of different business entities (corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships, etc.), and helping to prepare the necessary documents. More importantly, we can help create an effective governance plan that will assist in organizing the business's governing operations and defusing future disputes to the business's benefit. The governance plan can include bylaws, emergency procedures, code of business conduct, and other documents, which can also be used to attract investors.
Our office can help craft contract forms unique to the business and industry which provide favorable terms in the event of a dispute. We also help prepare policies and procedures that can reduce legal and financial risk, assure industry-regulatory compliance, and have the flexibility to withstand significant changes in business. Some examples of policies and procedures that we can help with include employment practices, customer/vendor dispute resolutions, billing, health and safety, and privacy and confidentiality.
Besides our document generation services, we are always available to help answer general or industry-specific legal questions you may have that can affect your business. This Entrepreneur article discusses the importance of having a business lawyer available to help protect your business.
If you have any legal document drafting or amending matters, or are seeking business advisory services please contact our office.