Wills, Trusts, & Estate Planning

 

Wills: 

A Last Will & Testament is a legally enforceable document that dictates how you would like to have your property and assets distributed after your death. This is significant, because if you do not have a Will, the State of Tennessee will dictate how your property is distributed, and this may not align with your wishes. In addition to enabling you to determine how your estate will be distributed, a Will allows you to appoint a guardian for your minor children. You can also elect an Executor or Personal Representative who will be in charge of winding up your affairs.

 

Having a Last Will & Testament helps streamline and speed up the process for your family during a very stressful time and serves to ensure that your wishes are being carried out. Contact our estate attorney today for a free consultation to learn more about our reasonable rates for a Last Will & Testament and an Estate Basics Bundle. 


Trusts:

A Trust is a legally binding document wherein one person (the "Trustee") controls certain property that has been placed into the Trust by someone (the "Grantor") for the benefit of another person (the "Beneficiary"). The property in the Trust is technically titled to and owned by the Trust. The Trustee has a fiduciary duty to uphold the terms of the Trust and to distribute the property according to those terms. 

 

There are two types of Trusts: revocable and irrevocable. 

  • A Revocable Living Trust is a document that can be used and modified during a person's lifetime. If used properly, the Living Revocable Trust can properly trasnfer title and ownership of property after your passing without the necessity of probating your estate. It provides a greater degree of privacy and also a more seamless transition after your passing.
  • An Irrevocable Trust is a document where you irrevocably give ownership and control of certain property over to a Trustee for the benefit of a Beneficiary. Much like its title implies, this Trust cannot be changed. It does, however, offer certain benefits including asset protection that may be beneficial for your estate. Perhaps the most common forms of Irrevocable Trust are the Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust, which holds life insurance outside of the estate for tax purposes, and the children's trust uder IRS Code § 2503. 

 

A Trust is a flexible tool that can be modified to your particular needs. Contact our estate attorney today for a free consultation to discuss your circumstances and the various Trust plans available to you. 


Living Wills:

Not to be mistaken with a Last Will & Testament, a Living Will is essentially an advance medical directive that dictates your desires regarding certain medical treatment in the event that you are unable to express your informed consent. Doctors and hospitals will often inquire if patients have a Living Will because this document deals specifically with end-of-life medical care. As with Powers of Attorney, this document has no legal power after your death.  


Powers of Attorney:

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives another person the authority to act as you and on your behalf for specific matters. There are several types of powers of attorney: general, limited, durable, and healthcare. Perhaps the most common and the most important for your estate planning needs are the General Durable Power of Attorney, also known as a Financial Power of Attorney, and a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney. 

 

  • The Financial Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an "attorney-in-fact" or "agent" to take care of your financial and personal affairs on your behalf should you be unable to do so.
  • Similarly, a Healthcare Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you cannot.

 

These documents are increasingly important given that you are more likely to suffer from an incapacity tomorrow than you are to have died. Having these documents in place will ensure that your loved ones can step in to take care of you and your affairs if necessary without the expense and emotions of going to Court for a Conservatorship. 


Conservatorship

In the event that an adult is unable to handle his or her personal affairs and there are no durable powers of attorney in effect, a Conservatorship may be necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of that individual. A Conservator is a legally appointed guardian who is charged by the Court with the management of the financial affairs, living arrangements, and/or healthcare decisions of an incapacitated adult. 

 

This can become necessary for older adults suffering from physical or mental limitations, but it can also be necessary for any individual suffering from some incapacity that makes them unable to care for themselves. 

 

This process can take quite some time and requires that the Court declare the individual "disabled" and in need of a Conservatorship. A Guardian Ad Litem will be appointed to investage the facts of the case and make a report to the Court. If the Court determines that a Conservatorship is needed, a Conservator would be appointed and would be charged with making a detailed inventory of the estate and submit a "property management plan." Further the Conservator must make yearly accounts to the Court. 

 

Acquiring a Conservatorship can be an emotional and complex process. Contact our estate attorney today for a free consultation to discuss your particular circumstances and your best course of legal action.

 


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