Estate planning is the process of putting plans in place today to ensure that you and your loved ones are prepared for whatever tomorrow brings. Many people mistakenly think that estate planning is only about determining what happens to your assets after you die. However, estate planning encompasses quite a bit more.
The knowledgeable Brentwood estate planning lawyers at Batson Nolan PLC have over a century of experience preparing effective estate plans that can provide you and your family with peace of mind as you deal with the inevitable uncertainties life has in store. Contact our Brentwood estate planning attorneys today.
Who Needs an Estate Plan?
Years ago, most people believed that estate planning was only something that older, wealthy adults needed to worry about. However, society has changed over the last few decades, making estate planning an important part of every life stage. Even those who do not have significant assets may wish to address what will happen to their most valuable sentimental assets. Additionally, addressing what happens with digital assets—such as social media accounts, cryptocurrency, digital photographs, and email accounts—is becoming more important. Estate planning lawyers are also well-versed in asset-protection strategies. These strategies can protect your hard-earned assets in the event of divorce, bankruptcy, or a pending lawsuit.
Estate Planning Tools
Estate planning lawyers have a variety of tools at their disposal to help clients reach their long-term goals. Let’s look at some of the most common estate planning tools.
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament, or a “will,” is a document where you outline how you want the court to distribute your assets upon your death. When you create a will, you must name a personal representative. Another name for a personal representative is an executor. This person oversees the administration of your estate. You can also name a guardian for any minor children in your will.
A trust is an extremely versatile estate planning tool that estate planning lawyers can use to accomplish a wide range of goals. At its most basic, a trust is a legal relationship consisting of at least three parties. The settlor or “grantor” sets up the trust and names a trustee to oversee the trust for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries. Trusts are often used to reduce the amount of assets that must pass through probate, reduce an estate’s tax exposure, and protect assets from creditors.
Trusts come in many types. However, all trusts are either revocable or irrevocable. Revocable trusts offer more flexibility because the grantor can modify or terminate them without the beneficiaries’ consent. However, they also provide fewer benefits. On the other hand, irrevocable trusts cannot be modified or terminated but provide the most effective benefits for estate planning and asset protection purposes.
Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document in which you give another person authorization to make important decisions on your behalf. Tennessee allows residents to create financial powers of attorney and medical powers of attorney. You can also create powers of attorney that only become effective upon a certain event, such as if you suddenly become incapacitated.
An advance directive allows you to clarify your wishes regarding life-saving or life-sustaining treatment in the event you are unable to communicate with your doctors. There are two parts to an advance directive in Tennessee. First, you can name a healthcare agent who will communicate with healthcare professionals if you cannot do so. If this is all you want to do, then you can stop here. However, you can also provide instructions to your healthcare agent, family members, and doctors in an advance directive.
A living will is very similar to an advance directive in that you can outline the type and extent of care you want to receive if you become incapacitated. According to the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, advance directives replaced living wills. Thus, while living wills are still effective, most people who are creating a new estate plan or modifying an existing plan choose to include an advance directive rather than a living will.
These are just a few of the most common estate planning tools. An experienced Brentwood estate planning lawyer can help familiarize you with the tools that will help you reach your goals.
Do You Need a Brentwood Estate Planning Attorney?
Given the boom in online DIY estate planning tools, some families have decided to handle their estate planning on their own. However, this approach is risky. Estate planning involves many different legal documents that all work together to create an effective plan. It is easy to make a mistake without knowing how one instrument affects the other estate planning instruments. For example, you may provide for the distribution of retirement account assets in your will that are not available to disburse because they are not technically considered a part of your estate.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine whether you’ve made a mistake until it’s too late. For example, your family might think you have a valid estate plan in place, only to learn that the documents do not work together to achieve your intended effect. This can lead to arguments among family members and other avoidable problems.
Are You Considering Creating an Estate Plan?
If you do not yet have an estate plan in place, or it’s been years since you last updated your estate plan, reach out to the Brentwood estate planning attorneys at Batson Nolan PLC. We have earned a reputation throughout Tennessee as a leader in the ethical and effective practice of law. Our lawyers patiently sit down with each new client to identify their needs and work with them to develop an estate plan that will provide their family with peace of mind for years to come. To learn more and to schedule a free consultation, contact our experienced attorneys at Batson Nolan PLC through our online contact form.