Estate Planning


Many people believe that estate planning is only important after you’re retired. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you own a house, a car, bank accounts, furniture or other personal items, you have an estate that’s ready to be managed now.

Estate planning is the process of deciding what happens to your estate after your passing. At Goodall, Carper & Dillon, PLLC, our goal is to use the simplest and least expensive methods that will fully accomplish your estate planning goals.

We start the process by asking four basic questions:

  1. What assets do you own?
  2. How do you own each asset - individually or jointly with someone else? 
  3. Who do you want to benefit from your estate?
  4. How and when do you want them to benefit?

Once we discuss these answers with you, our attorneys will guide you through the basics of estate law to determine which tools are best for your situation.


A will is a legal document that details how to handle your estate after your death. Wills cannot override non-probate transfer provisions, but they do allow for highly customizable beneficiary instructions for all of your other assets. In most cases, our attorneys can accomplish all of your estate planning goals with non-probate transfer provisions and a well-written will. 

Advance Medical Directives

Advance medical directives allow you to designate someone to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf. These documents become effective when you are unable to make informed decisions for yourself. The most common advance directives are living wills, power of attorney, and health-care proxies. Our attorneys understand these are big decisions and we will help you make them with confidence. 


Trusts are similar to wills. The main difference is that trusts are managed by a trustee who distributes your assets according to your wishes. Trusts can also be used to separate the legal ownership of an asset from the benefit of its use.


  • A car title grants legal control of the car, but the owner physically possesses and drives the vehicle.
  • A house deed grants legal control of the property, but the owner actively lives in the home.

There are many practical applications for trusts in an estate plan. Some of the most common uses include:

  • Parents and/or guardians often use trusts to allow their minor children, elderly or disabled family members, and other dependents to benefit from using the home without being responsible for repairs, insurance or other homeowner responsibilities.
  • Trusts are also often used in second marriage estate plans. A widow or widower may want their new spouse to benefit from an asset if they die before them, but ultimately want their children to be the final owners of the asset.

Several types of trusts that may be effective for your estate such as living trusts, revocable trusts or irrevocable trusts. Our experienced attorneys will help you decide which is best for your situation. 

Non-Probate Transfers

An important step to estate planning is getting familiar with non-probate transfer provisions, also known as rights of survivorship, pay-on-death benefits, or transfer-on-death benefits. These provisions are the simplest estate planning tools to use because they are built into the existing legal documentation for many common assets such as house deeds, car titles, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts and life insurance policies. When you pass away, the assets automatically transfer to your surviving spouse or other named beneficiaries. We encourage reviewing the non-probate transfer provisions of your legal documents. This task may seem daunting, but we’re here to walk you through each policy, deed and agreement. 

Guardianships & Conservatorships

Minors, adult children, and elderly parents are left vulnerable if guardianships and conservatorships are an oversight in your estate plan. We’ll work with you to ensure the fate of your loved ones isn’t left to the Virginia circuit courts to decide. 


Probate is the legal process of validating a will and distributing an estate. Virginia circuit courts start the process by appointing an executor or administrator of the estate. This is usually a surviving spouse or family member. If there is a will for the estate, the courts will follow its direction throughout the probate process. If there is no will, the estate becomes intestate. In these cases, Virginia’s intestate statutes will determine who will become the owner of any property that isn’t covered by a non-probate transfer provision. In other words, the courts decide what happens to your estate, which is not ideal in most cases. 

Even though there is no separate probate court in Virginia, the process is still long and involved, lasting anywhere from six months to over a year. The emotional toll and grief during this time can be difficult to manage alongside the probate process, especially if you are the appointed executor or administrator of the estate. You can rely on our probate attorneys to support you during these hard times with compassionate legal advice and representation.

We're Here to Help

These are just some of the tools our attorneys will use to guide you to the simplest and least expensive estate plan that works best for you and your family. With the uncertainty of life, every day is a blessing and tomorrow is not guaranteed. It is never too early to secure the future for your loved ones. Get started today with the estate planning attorneys at Goodall, Carper & Dillon, PLLC.

More services

Connect with an attorney.

Call today for a consultation.Contact Us