No one can predict the future; however, everyone can work to prepare for it. Life is full of surprises, some of which can be hard to manage without having thought about what you’d do if and when the situation comes up. Estate planning entails setting time aside today to plan for what may come down the road in the future.
At Batson Nolan PLC, our Hopkinsville estate planning lawyers have been providing exceptional estate planning and probate administration services to clients since 1860. Our low-pressure approach enables you to efficiently identify the estate planning instruments that will help you meet your long-term goals. Contact us today.
Who Needs to Consider Estate Planning?
The short answer is that almost every family can benefit from estate planning. While it’s a common misconception that estate planning is only for older adults and wealthy individuals, that isn’t the case. Estate planning allows individuals and families from all walks of life, at every life stage, to plan for the future.
Aside from the traditional estate planning goals of deciding how you want your assets distributed upon your death, there are many other things you can accomplish by meeting with an estate planning lawyer. For example, if you want to protect your hard-earned assets from creditors or you want to name a guardian for your minor children in the event something happens to you, a Hopkinsville estate planning lawyer can help.
What Are the Most Common Estate Planning Instruments?
Everyone’s estate plan should be custom-tailored to their own individual situation. However, in general, there are a few important estate planning instruments that find their way into most estate plans. Regardless of what you anticipate your needs to be, it is important to familiarize yourself with these estate planning basics.
A will is the foundation of the estate plan. In a will, you outline how you want your property to be distributed when you die. When you create a will, you must name an executor—also called a personal representative—to administer your estate. The executor identifies all of your assets, determines their value, pays off any creditors, and then distributes estate assets among your named beneficiaries. You can name any qualified person to serve as an executor or personal representative. However, it is imperative to select someone who has the knowledge and time to fill this important role.
A trust is a relationship made up of three or more parties. A grantor creates the trust for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries and names a trustee to oversee the administration of the trust. There are many types of trusts, ranging from flexible revocable trusts to permanent irrevocable trusts that cannot be modified once created. The benefits of a trust can vary significantly depending on the trust structure. However, some common uses for trusts include:
- Providing for loved ones with special needs without jeopardizing their public-assistance benefits;
- Limiting or controlling a beneficiary’s access to funds;
- Reducing the amount 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.
Of course, these are just a few of the most commonly used types of trusts; there are many others.
Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document that gives another person the authority to make important decisions on your behalf. In general terms, there are two types of powers of attorney: financial and healthcare. Financial powers of attorney allow another person to buy or sell property, open bank accounts, or liquidate retirement accounts, among other things. Healthcare powers of attorney give another person the ability to make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot communicate your wishes with your medical provider. In the estate planning context, most powers of attorney only become effective upon a finding that you are incompetent to make decisions on your own.
An advance directive lets you lay out your desires in terms of receiving life-saving or life-sustaining treatment if you are unable to communicate them to your healthcare providers. Tennessee advance directives have two parts, the second of which is optional. In the first part of an advance directive, you name a healthcare agent who will communicate with healthcare professionals if you are unable to. The second part of an advance directive allows you to provide instructions to your healthcare agent, family members, and doctors before an emergency arises. In Tennessee, advance directives replaced living wills, which largely accomplished the same thing but with less detail. However, if you have a living will, it is still valid, although it is a good idea to update your wishes periodically.
Frequently Asked Questions?
What Is Probate?
Probate is a legal process in which a judge ultimately gives the personal representative of an estate authority to disperse estate assets. However, before reaching that point, the personal representative must account for all estate assets, determine the value of the assets, settle any outstanding debts, and pay federal income taxes. Additionally, if someone contests the will or files a lawsuit against the estate, the personal representative must defend the lawsuit.
When Should You Start Thinking About Estate Planning?
It’s never too soon to start thinking about estate planning. The idea behind estate planning is to put a plan in place that addresses life’s most unexpected events—as well as the inevitable ones. To that point, to derive the most benefit from an estate plan, it is imperative that the plan is in place well before the need for it arises.
Contact Our Hopkinsville Estate Planning Attorneys
If you do not yet have an estate plan or have not updated your plan in years, reach out to the Hopkinsville estate planning lawyers at Batson Nolan PLC. We have more than 160 years of hands-on experience helping clients create effective estate plans that provide peace of mind for years to come. To learn more and to schedule, a free consultation with our probate lawyers contact one of our offices. You can also connect with us through our secure online contact form.
Our legal team handles other types of cases as well, including: