Wills, Trusts, and Estates

Wills, Trusts, and Estates

J. William Gray, Jr.*
Katherine E. Ramsey**

Although meeting in short session, the 2013 Virginia General Assembly produced an unusually large number of new laws affecting wills, trusts, and estates. Among the nine legislative enactments were those that (1) enabled a real property owner to designate in a revocable deed those who will take the property upon the owner’s death, (2) authorized members of a Virginia limited liability company to permit the transfer of both their economic interests and their management interests in the company when assigning membership, (3) imposed possible criminal penalties on anyone who financially exploits a mentally incapacitated person, (4) confirmed and clarified the effect of Virginia’s statutory exception to the Rule Against Perpetuities for personal property, (5) expanded the category of trustees whose discretionary distribution powers are limited to an ascertainable standard by default, (6) permitted the personal representative of a deceased minor child to access the child’s online accounts, and (7) required anyone seeking court permission to exhume a dead body in order to establish inheritance rights to first cite sufficient facts to establish a reasonable possibility that the claimed biological relationship exists. In addition, June 1, 2013 marked the end of a twelve-month period during which the Supreme Court of Virginia issued five noteworthy opinions. The Supreme Court of the United States rounded out a busy year in the field with an opinion on June 3, 2013.

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* Partner, Hunton & Williams LLP, Richmond, Virginia. J.D., 1977, University of Virginia; B.S.I.E., B.A., 1973, Rutgers University.
** Partner, Hunton & Williams LLP, Richmond, Virginia. J.D., 1998, University of Virginia; M.S., 1988, Boston University; B.A., 1986, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Nonsuit in Virginia Civil Trials

Nonsuit in Virginia Civil Trials

Richard G. Moore *

The voluntary nonsuit is a potent weapon in the arsenal of a Virginia litigant, primarily the plaintiff, and it has been recognized by common law and statute for hundreds of years. Nevertheless, the Virginia nonsuit statute has long been controversial and the subject of sharp debate. While it has been modified through the imposition of several conditions to give some degree of balance to the exercise of an otherwise unfettered right to non-suit, it is still in need of revamping. This article discusses the reasons why nonsuit, in its present form, despite prior statutory amendments, has become an insupportable anachronism and unduly burdensome to both defendants and the judicial system. I hope that this article will stimulate discussion, and provide an impetus for the Virginia General Assembly to correct the inefficiencies and inequities plaguing the current nonsuit procedures.

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Terminating Parental Rights Through a Backdoor in the Virginia Code: Adoptions Under Section 63.2-1202(H)

Dale Margolin Cecka*


Under private adoption law in Virginia, a parent can lose her parental rights in one court hearing based on a single petition, without any proof of parental unfitness offered, and without the opportunity to object to the adoption of her child. Virginia Code section 63.2-1202(H), pertaining to adoptions where the petitioner is a private party and the consent of the parent is not required, is so streamlined that it can violate the constitutional rights of both biological parents and their children. In 2012, the Virginia General Assembly added more specific language to the statute, but on its face, it is still inadequate to protect the rights of a parent and the best interests of the child.

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*Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Jeanette Lipman Family Law Clinic, University of Richmond School of Law. J.D., 2004, Columbia Law School; B.A., 1999, Stanford University.