Coates & Davenport, P.C.

Richmond Legal Blog

Anticipate the unexpected through estate planning

Most people in Virginia don't anticipate dying young. Unfortunately, it can happen. People develop fatal illnesses; are involved in deadly car crashes; or have their lives cut short in other ways. When the unthinkable happens, what will happen to your loved ones who must move on from their loss?

This is why estate planning is so important, even for young people. Of course, when people think of an estate plan, they may initially think of a Will or Trust, which spell out who is to receive assets when someone passes away. However, there are many other estate planning documents that may prove useful to young people in Virginia.

It pays to have an understanding of the estate tax

Many people in Virginia may have heard of the federal estate tax, but may not be entirely sure what it is or if it even applies to them. In fact, under current law most estates do not wind up being taxed when a person dies. And, for those who would pay an estate tax, this obligation may be repealed by 2024 if certain pieces of legislation are passed.

Currently, the estate tax essentially taxes a person's right to bequeath their assets when they pass away. A person's assets -- including all money, real property, insurance policies, business interests, trusts and any other valuable items -- are added up, in order to calculate the total amount of the person's gross estate. Deductions, such as those for assets transferred to a spouse or charity, a mortgage and other items -- will then be taken from this amount. After that, the total value of taxable gifts a person made while alive is added in. The final total is what is considered to be the person's taxable estate.

The holiday season can be special, even after divorce

The first holiday season after a divorce can be challenging, especially if a couple has children. They may wonder how the child will react to the changes divorce brings at this time of year. However, with some cooperation and advanced planning, parents in Virginia can ensure that the holiday season is one of celebration for all involved.

First, when creating a child custody schedule parents will have to decide how they want to handle the holidays. Some parents may alternate years celebrating the holiday with their child. For example, the child might spend Christmas Day with one parent on even years, and with the other parent on odd years. Or, parents might decide to split holiday time. For example, one parent could have the child Christmas morning and the other parent can have the child on Christmas afternoon. Also, if the child is old enough, parents might want to ask the child how he or she would like to celebrate the holidays.

Be safe and smart this Thanksgiving holiday to avoid a DUI

The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is a time for gathering families and friends together to share a meal and express our gratitude for all that the year has brought.

But it is also a time where alcohol flows quite freely, even before the big day itself. Thanksgiving Eve has earned the term "Black Wednesday" for all of the drunk driving arrests it generates for law enforcement all over the nation.

Virginia companies have options to structure their businesses

When a person in Virginia is forming a business, they have a number of choices as to how to structure their company. Of course, they could simply head out on their own as a sole proprietorship, but other options include a limited liability company or a corporation.

Some small business owners feel that an LLC is a good fit for them. It offers flexibility and simplicity when compared to a corporation. An LLC also shields the company from the issue of double taxation, which could crop up if a company is a corporation that owns assets that appreciate in value. If that is the case, then the corporation is taxed on the basis of its increased value if the corporation liquidates, but so too are the shareholders of the corporation. When a person owns an LLC, the LLC's taxes "pass through" to those who own the LLC, so the LLC itself is not taxed on its appreciation in value.

Don't fool yourself -- marijuana is illegal in Virginia

Some states in the nation are decriminalizing the use of marijuana or even making it entirely legal to sell, possess and use the drug. However, marijuana possession remains illegal in most states in the U.S., including Virginia.

Virginia does not even carve out an exception for medical marijuana - even the mere possession of under two ounces of marijuana could mean a fine of $500, a 30-day jail sentence, or both. And, should a person in Virginia try to sell five pounds of marijuana or more, he or she could face imprisonment from anywhere from five to 30 years.

Virginia man found not guilty in caterer's death

Arguments between people in Virginia can become heated, sometimes escalating into violence. Sometimes a person has no choice but to harm a person who is actively trying to kill them. Things become complicated, however, when a person who believes they acted in self-defense is accused of a crime.

A young man from Virginia who was accused of fatally stabbing a wedding caterer will not be convicted of the crime. He argued at his retrial that he acted in self-defense and after the jury could not reach a verdict a mistrial was declared and the young man was found not guilty.

Are sobriety checkpoints in Virginia legal?

Every so often, especially around holidays such as the Fourth of July, Halloween and New Year's Eve, police in Virginia will set up sobriety checkpoints as a means of identifying and apprehending drunk drivers. Sometimes a police department will publicize when and where these checkpoints will take place, but sometimes they do not make this information known to the public. This may lead Virginia residents to wonder if such checkpoints are even legal in the first place.

First of all, checkpoints cannot be set up in areas where other drivers, pedestrians or police could be put in danger, due to high speed limits. Also, a sobriety checkpoint can only minimally interfere with the flow of traffic. As far as timing goes, a sobriety checkpoint can be in place for two to six hours. Also, every sobriety checkpoint must be under the supervision and management of a site supervisor and police officers working at them must be in uniform.

What types of child custody are there in Virginia?

When parents in Virginia decide to divorce, they may have many questions about what access they will have to their child post-divorce. In fact, child custody decisions deserve careful thought, as they will affect the relationship each parent is able to have with their child for years to come. Therefore, it is important to have a basic understanding of child custody and visitation in Virginia.

In Virginia there are three types of custody. One is joint legal custody. If awarded joint legal custody, each parent will have the right to make decisions regarding the care of the child. This is true even if the child primarily resides with only one parent.

You never want to make these estate planning mistakes

There is never a good time to make an estate planning mistake. It only takes one of these to cost you serious time and money, and that's not a situation you want to find yourself in.

Fortunately, once you are familiar with the most common estate planning mistakes, you can formulate a plan for avoiding these at all times.

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