Planning for the future can feel overwhelming, even for the most organized and proactive individuals and families. It's not just about protecting your hard-earned assets—it's about ensuring they're passed on in the way you envision. Offering peace of mind to your loved ones is crucial. 

As your neighbors here in Dinwiddie County, we understand how heavy these decisions must feel. When it comes to planning for tomorrow, you don’t want to take any chances. That’s why our legal team offers skilled guidance and compassionate advocacy to help you navigate the intricacies of creating a will, drafting a trust, establishing power of attorney, and more. We’ll make sure your estate plan is tailored to your unique circumstances, and above all, help you move forward with confidence. 

If you live anywhere in Virginia—especially Dinwiddie, Petersburg, Sussex, Prince George, Nottoway, and other surrounding counties—reach out to us at John B. Chappell, Attorney at Law to set up a time to talk

The Importance of Estate Planning 

Estate planning is about more than just legal documents. It's about peace of mind, knowing that your wishes will be respected, and that your loved ones will be taken care of. It's about leaving a legacy that reflects your values and your life's work. Regardless of your age or health, planning for the future of your assets is vital. 



At John B. Chappell, Attorney at Law, we strive to make the estate planning process as straightforward and as effective as possible. We're here to answer your questions, address your concerns, and provide the legal guidance you need. Here are some basic documents that may be included in an estate plan: 


The will is a traditional method of disposing of one’s assets.  A will must be probated and then the estate administered by a designated Executor. In other words, wills must go through the probate process.

The Virginia probate process is fairly simple compared to most states, but there is still considerable recordkeeping and bookkeeping required and accounts to be filed.  When the beneficiaries of the will and the Executors are the same persons, “probate” is quite simple.  If this is the case “avoiding probate” is usually not an issue. 


A trust, in the world of estate planning, is a legal arrangement that allows one party, known as the trustee, to hold assets on behalf of another party or parties, referred to as beneficiaries. The person who creates the trust is often called the settlor or grantor. 

The main concept behind a trust is to provide a way to manage and protect assets. It can serve various purposes, from ensuring that a beneficiary's needs are met to minimizing estate taxes or avoiding probate. Trusts come in multiple types, each designed to address specific needs or goals. For instance, a revocable living trust can be altered during the grantor's lifetime, while an irrevocable trust cannot be changed without the consent of the beneficiaries. 

Some advantages of trusts include their privacy. Trusts are private documents, never recorded in the Clerk’s Office. Wills, on the other hand, are recorded in the Clerk’s Office and are public in that regard. 

Another advantage to drafting a trust is that you can avoid the court-supervised probate process. This is the case because technically speaking, the trustee controls the assets, free of any supervision or control from the Court. 

Keep in mind that trusts come with potential downsides. For instance, they are more expensive to create, with higher upfront costs. Additionally, the Trustee is unsupervised. While the probate process can be cumbersome, the Executor is required to account to the Court during probate. In the administration of trusts, this is not the case. It’s important to work with an estate planning attorney to help you navigate the creation of wills, trusts, and other documents included in your estate plan. 

Power of Attorney & Advance Medical Directives 

Another document to consider is a Power of Attorney (POA) and Advance Medical Directive (AMD).   

A POA is an authorization or grant of authority to someone else (an agent) to conduct certain specific matters for you (Limited POA) or to conduct any and all your business (General POA). POAs are almost always durable (surviving the disability of the maker of the POA). 

A POA is used during a person’s lifetime, and is not effective after the maker’s death. 

When it comes to POAs, keep these concerns in mind:   

  • Is the POA contingent? The POA can be made contingent (to go into effect upon the happening of a specific event such as the disability of the maker) or to go into effect immediately. Each has its pros and cons which need to be discussed with your estate lawyer. 

  • Is one person named to act under the POA, or are multiple people listed with equal authority to act? Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages. 

  • Should your POA grant the agent power to make gifts of your assets? This can be extremely helpful in order to transfer assets or to remove the assets from the person’s name so as to qualify for Medicaid (in terms of nursing homes and other issues). However, authorization to make gifts can certainly be abused. 

Advance Medical Directive (AMD) is similar to POA, although not exactly the same. An AMD is a statement of intention directly concerning medical decisions made on your behalf in the event of incapacity.  This is a very useful document, especially in tandem with a POA. 

Why Do I Need an Estate Attorney? 

The estate planning process can be confusing and complex. With the addition of strong emotions during this time, things can become overwhelming very quickly. It may be tempting to get the process over and done with through a ‘do-it-yourself' will or other fill-in-the-blank form. This is not advisable.  

This situation is fraught with problems, problems that could have been avoided by reaching out to an attorney early in the process. The execution of wills and other documents is not always straightforward, and we prefer to have wills executed at the office where the witnesses and notary are all present together.

Ultimately, whatever approach you choose to take, our goal is to simplify the necessary documents that must be created and the steps that must be carried out so you understand exactly what we're doing and why we're doing it. 


When decisions are being made about what you've worked so hard to build, you deserve to be informed of the rationale behind the choices you're making. We have seen do-it-yourself wills that fail in so many ways. So reach out to our team in Dinwiddie County to set up a consultation regarding wills, trusts, POA, or anything else. We’re here to help you and your family move forward.