Why is a Will Necessary in Virginia?
The importance of a Last Will and Testament (Will) cannot be overemphasized. A Will is a legal document by which an individual expresses his intention for named beneficiaries to receive assets following death. In fact, a Will is one of only a few valid legal mechanisms available to designate the transfer of property following death. Furthermore, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a Will is the only legal document wherein a parent can designate a legal guardian for minor children.
Without a valid Will in place, an individual’s assets will be distributed pursuant to state laws; this, of course, can lead to unintended consequences. By way of example: if a person has children with his first wife, then he and his wife divorce, and he remarries and dies without a Will, his estate will be distributed pursuant to Virginia’s intestacy statues, as follows: 1/3 to his current spouse and 2/3 to his children born of any of his marriages. If a person dies unmarried and without a Will, his estate will pass to his children upon his death, but if he has no children, his estate will pass to his mother and father, if they are still living.
By having a Will in place, a person is able to direct the specific terms of distribution of his estate – to whom, how much, when and how the estate will be distributed - are all controlled by the terms of the Will.
A Will also may contain the individual’s desires regarding cremation, funeral, burial; the types of services desired; designation of the final disposition of the body or cremains as well as the ultimate resting place; and other pertinent information regarding the body post-death.
In summary, if an individual wants to control disposition of his estate following death, he must pre-plan by entering into a Will or similar estate planning document. Failure to do so will result in state statutes controlling these dispositions.