Parker, Pollard, Wilton, and Peaden - Attorneys at Law

Category Archive: Estate Planning and Administration

  1. Paula Peaden speaks at Virginia Coalition for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, Inc. 26th annual conference

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    Paula Peaden speaks at the 26th annual conference of the Virginia Coalition for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, Inc. at Kingsmill Resort & Conference Center. The convention focus was Renew, Refresh, Refocus: Elder Abuse Prevention in Times of COVID.

    Ms. Peaden discussed What is a Fiduciary? Representative Payees, Trustees, and Court-Appointed Conservators in Virginia.

    It’s not your money! If you have been named to manage money or property for someone else, you are a fiduciary. The role of a fiduciary is a serious one and carries with it legal responsibilities to act only in the best interest of the principal, the party whose assets you are managing, not your own. Ms. Peaden discussed the different kinds of fiduciaries and their responsibilities under the law in Virginia. She provided tips on both making financial decisions for someone else as well as protecting assets from fraud and scams.

    If you wish to discuss how you can have Paula Peaden and the law firm of Parker Pollard Wilton & Peaden become your fiduciary or have questions that about your role as fiduciary, or know of a loved one who is may need assistance, please contact us at or (804) 262-3600.

  2. Is Your Loved One’s Will Legally Binding?

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    In the months after a loved one’s death, procedures and deadlines are far from the minds of the family. Unfortunately however, a death in the family often leads to legal disputes over the deceased’s property. Lean economic times and the increased availability of legal forms on the internet have led more and more people to attempt to draft wills, trusts and powers of attorney without the assistance of a lawyer. In this climate, the potential for disputes increases.

    Even if the deceased has left a will, disputes can arise as to the will’s validity. To be legally acceptable, a will must be signed by the deceased (the testator). It must also be signed by two witnesses, unless the testator writes every word in his or her own handwriting. Most importantly, the testator must have sufficient mental capacity. A testator must understand that a will is being made, what property is held, and who family members are. If any of these elements is missing, a court can find the will invalid.

    In addition, a will can be deemed invalid if it seems likely that the testator wished to do one thing, but a third person coerced or unduly influenced him or her to do something else. The coercion does not have to be physical, and usually is not. Rather, the typical case of undue influence involves a testator who is alert but feeble, and a person in a position of trust—a relative, friend, or spiritual advisor—who takes advantage of the person’s frailty, convincing them to change the will.

    Finally, even if a will is valid, the executor under the will has an obligation to administer the estate fairly with respect to the persons named in such will. If an executor abuses such power, or favors certain interests over others, then such executor may be liable for any harm done.

    Whether you are the beneficiary under a will that is being challenged, or your loved one has left a questionable will, it is important that you seek the advice of a qualified attorney. Most will challenges must be filed within one year after the will is probated, and even shorter deadlines must be observed in some cases. Similarly, if an agent under a power of attorney, an executor, or a trustee has acted improperly, the law imposes short deadlines for seeking relief.

    The Estate Litigation Team at Parker, Pollard, Wilton & Peaden has extensive experience in these types of disputes—from challenging forged wills to defending claims of undue influence.  If you find yourself in a similar situation, we invite you to contact us for a consultation.

  3. Power of Attorney and Conservators: Important Planning Tools

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    A power of attorney enables you to select who it is that you would want to handle your affairs in the event of your incapacity, as opposed to having the court decide this for you.  The primary purpose of a power of attorney is to give one or more persons the legal authority to handle your assets on your behalf during your lifetime.  Absent a power of attorney, if you become legally incompetent to handle your legal affairs and otherwise direct the disposition of your assets, the court would have to appoint someone to act on your behalf with respect to your property.

    This court-appointed person is called a conservator. More often than not, the person appointed as your conservator is the person closest to you and the one you would want to serve in that capacity in any life-altering event, such as your spouse and/or one or more of your children.

    Appointing a conservator before incapacity is a good idea. It avoids the related expense associated with having to go to court to have a conservator appointed and to have accountings filed with Commissioners of Account. The process can also avoid having a court declare you as being legally incompetent to handle your legal affairs, thereby depriving you of your right to make decisions on your own behalf.