Author Archives: Dr. Caroline I. Esche

Why a “Joint” Estate Plan May Not Be a Good Idea for Many Couples

Married couples most often prefer to set up a “joint” estate plan. Even if they are represented jointly, each will still have his/her own will and other documents. It is perhaps a misconception that spouses’ estate plans should mirror each other. They absolutely don’t have to, and in many cases should not. Even in the case of a married couple, each

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What is Probate? An Introduction for Foreign Nationals

Probate is the official process, supervised by the local district court, of winding down the estate of a deceased person and transferring the assets to the heirs and other beneficiaries. In most cases, ownership of the deceased’s assets does not pass automatically to the heirs upon death. One very important exception is joint ownership with right of survivorship, in which

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Estate Planning for Diplomats in the United States

Diplomats in the United States are considered non-resident aliens. Many US laws do not apply to them. Some of their assets located in the United States, however, pass according to the local law.  In certain cases it is advisable for married couples to hold real estate as tenants by the entirety. Thus, the surviving spouse becomes the sole owner by

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Estate Planning Differences between Europe and the United States

Europeans who live in the United States are often surprised when they learn that many assets in the United States do not pass through wills, or the court-supervised probate process. Probate is the formal proceeding through which the local court names a personal representative of the estate and supervises this person as he settles the estate: pays the debts of

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Spousal Inheritance Rights in Virginia

I was recently asked whether spouses can be disinherited in Virginia. I found this question quite amusing. While in this country parents may disinherit even their minor children (for whose well-being and very existence they bear responsibility), married couples may not disinherit each other. I find this quite ironic, given the 50% divorce rate. And it is my conviction that

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