Wills and trusts are both foundational estate planning tools. As a result, wills & trusts attorneys use these instruments in most estate plans. However, before you can decide how to incorporate these documents into your estate plan, it is important to learn a little bit about each. The discussion below is intended to familiarize you with these tools so when you meet with a lawyer, you know what to expect.
If you are looking for a lawyer for wills and trusts, consider calling Batson Nolan PLC. Our attorneys are known across the state for their diligence and commitment to our clients. We can help identify your needs and effectively prepare an estate plan to accomplish your goals. Contact us today.
What Is a Will?
A will is a legal document that accomplishes several important things. First, when you create a will, you must outline how you want your property distributed upon your death. To effectuate your desires, you name a person to oversee the administration of your estate. These individuals go by various names, but they are most commonly referred to as executors or personal representatives.
What Else Can You Accomplish with a Will?
Aside from setting out a framework for where your assets go when you die, you can also accomplish other things in a will. For example, you can put in language that creates a trust upon your death, and you can name a guardian to care for any minor children.
What Are the Requirements to Create a Will in Tennessee?
To create a valid will in Tennessee, you must meet certain criteria. If a judge determines your will is invalid, they essentially declare it to be null and void and go forward as if you had never made a will. The requirements for a Tennessee will include:
- You must be at least 18 years of age;
- You must be of sound mind;
- Your will must be printed, meaning it cannot be electronic;
- Your will must be signed in front of two uninterested witnesses (i.e., witnesses who do not stand to benefit from your will); and
- Each witness must sign in the presence of you and the other witness.
In certain situations, Tennessee permits handwritten and oral wills; however, these are generally not a good idea and should be reserved for emergency situations. The Brentwood wills & trusts attorneys at Batson Nolan PLC have over a century of experience meeting our clients’ various estate planning needs.
What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Tennessee?
If you die without a will in Tennessee, the court will not know how you wanted to pass on your belongings. Thus, the court will rely on a set of default rules called intestacy laws. In Tennessee, the rules of intestate succession look at the familial relationship of surviving loved ones—and that is the only factor that they consider in determining who gets what. For example, if you die without a will and leave behind only a single child, all your assets pass to your child. This remains the case even if you haven’t spoken to your child in 20 years and intended for them to inherit nothing. For this reason, intestacy laws are a good backup plan, but that’s about it. They prevent your assets from escheating to the state but do not take into account your personal desires.
What Is a Trust?
A trust is a legal relationship made up of at least three parties: the grantor, the trustee, and the beneficiary. The grantor creates the trust, naming a trustee to oversee the administration of the trust for the ultimate benefit of one or more beneficiaries. In some cases, the grantor can name themselves as the trustee, but not always. It depends on the type of trust.
Trusts have many potential uses, including:
- Providing for loved ones with special needs without jeopardizing their public-assistance benefits;
- Limiting or controlling a beneficiary’s access to funds;
- Reducing the number of estate assets that are subject to probate;
- Protecting assets from creditors in the event of a lawsuit, bankruptcy, or divorce;
- Reducing the tax exposure of an estate; and
- Converting countable income into non-countable income for Medicaid qualification purposes.
There are many other reasons to create a trust, but these are some of the most common.
Types of Trusts
There are different types of trusts. But as a general rule, you must choose between creating a revocable or irrevocable trust. Revocable trusts offer tremendous flexibility, so if you want to change beneficiaries or the terms of the trust, that’s an option. Revocable trusts, like irrevocable trusts, also remove all trust assets from the probate requirements. Thus, a revocable living trust is commonly used by those who want to maintain control and avoid probate but are not concerned about estate taxes.
On the other hand, irrevocable trusts are much less flexible. Once you create an irrevocable trust, you cannot modify or terminate the trust. However, assets transferred to an irrevocable trust officially belong to the trust. Thus, irrevocable trusts are a popular choice for those seeking asset protection or a reduction in estate tax exposure. When properly structured and timed, an irrevocable trust can also allow you to qualify for Medicaid benefits while protecting your home and other important assets.
Contact the Brentwood Wills & Trusts Attorneys at Batson Nolan PLC Today
If you have recently learned of your need for these estate planning documents and don’t know where to start, you can reach out to a lawyer for wills and trusts at Batson Nolan PLC. At Batson Nolan, we have been helping clients across Tennessee with their estate planning needs for more than 160 years. We also have a team of estate planning lawyers to help your family address your other estate planning needs, such as creating powers of attorney or a living will. To learn more and schedule a free consultation with the Brentwood wills & trusts lawyers at Batson Nolan PLC call one of our offices. You can also connect with us through our secure online contact form.