Estate Planning and the Changes to Virginia Law

[dropcap4 variation="red"]E[/dropcap4]ffective Monday, October 1, 2012, several major sections of the Code of Virginia will be forever changed.  The legislation by the Virginia Senate and House, which was signed into law by Governor McDonnell, creates Title 64.2 (Wills, Trusts, and Fiduciaries).  Title 64.2 incorporates the previous Titles 26 (Fiduciaries Generally), 31 (Guardian and Ward), and 64.1 (Wills and Decedents’ Estates), as well as parts of Titles 37.2 (Behavioral Health and Developmental Services) and 55 (Property and Conveyances).  Why does this matter?  Well, for most people, it probably doesn’t matter that much.  But here are a few important things to take away:

  • It will make legal research easier for the general public (and attorneys).  Rather than looking for estate planning law in five different places, you can now find it in the same place.  Makes sense.  So why split it up in the first place?  Good question.  But at least we got there eventually.
  • All new estate planning documents need to reference the new code provisions -- make sure your attorney knows this.  Don’t just assume that he or she is staying up to date on the changes.  If you don’t use an attorney, then you are taking a serious risk of whether your documents refer to the correct code section.
  • Do I need to update my current/old documents?  No.  You may need to update them for other reasons, but not to change the code provisions.  All documents drafted prior to October 1, 2012 that reference the old code provisions will be “grandfathered-in” and incorporate the applicable new code provisions.
  • There are several substantive changes included in the new Title 64.2.  I’m not going to go into them today, but talk to an attorney if you want to know whether the substantive changes will affect you.  I will post a new article soon summarizing some of the important changes.

I commend the Virginia Code Commission for its diligent work during the past three years to make this revision happen.  The law should be easier to understand and accessible to the general public.  This is a step in the right direction.