An estate planning case handled by an attorney in Hopkinsville.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 attorneys 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 a Hopkinsville 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 attorney 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.

Wills

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.

Trusts

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.

Advance Directives

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.

How to Get Started with Your Estate Plan

If you’re ready to initiate the estate planning process, there are a few steps you can take today. 

Determine Your Goals, Responsibilities, and Wishes 

The first step in estate planning is thinking of the big picture. Consider questions like what sort of legacy do you want to leave? What support does your family need when you are no longer alive? Do you want to contribute to any charities? Who would you appoint to handle your estate? How do you want to be cared for if you become physically or mentally incapacitated? Making these decisions can be challenging, but they are a necessary part of developing an estate plan that meets your goals and needs. 

Itemize Your Assets

It’s important to the structure of your estate plan to know what your assets are and their value. Start by making a list of the assets you own, including anything from personal possessions to real estate to bank accounts. People commonly forget to include their digital assets in this list. So think about online accounts, blogs, pictures, videos, and anything else you store digitally. 

But keep in mind that, as the value of your estate increases, it can trigger higher tax obligations. If you get into the higher tax brackets, you’ll need more sophisticated estate planning. 

Discuss Your Plan 

It’s important to discuss some of your decisions with your family before creating a will, trust, or any other estate planning tool. For example, you want to be sure that the person you name as your estate executor or healthcare agent is willing to take on that responsibility. 

Speak with a Hopkinsville Estate Planning Attorney

Once you’ve done your preliminary work, contact an experienced estate planning lawyer to help put your plan together. At Batson Nolan PLC, our Hopkinsville estate planning lawyers can create an estate plan that protects your assets, your family, and your legacy. 

Common Estate Planning Mistakes to Avoid

Estate planning must be done thoroughly and thoughtfully. Here are some mistakes people commonly make that you should avoid. 

Not Communicating with Family 

You want to discuss your plan (or at least portions of it) with those who are affected by it in any way. It may be uncomfortable to talk about certain decisions now, but you don’t want to have any surprises when the time comes for your family to implement your estate plan. You also want to be sure that those who you appoint to certain roles (e.g., executor, guardian, agent, etc.) are willing to serve. 

Not Designating a Backup

When it comes to beneficiaries, trustees, agents, executors, and guardians, it is always best to have a backup. There are many reasons why the person you choose might not be able to fulfill that role, such as death, inability, or unwillingness. If you do not designate a secondary person, a court will intervene and do that for you—and a judge might pick someone you would have strongly objected to. 

Not Considering Incapacity

An estate plan should encompass more than just the transfer of assets once you die. If you get injured in an accident that leaves you incapacitated, what would happen to your finances and your family? Estate planning is about life and death. 

Frequently Asked Questions?

When Should I Consider 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.  

There’s not a certain age or milestone you need to hit before creating your estate plan. If you have assets, then now is the time to act. Estate planning is just as important for a retired millionaire grandfather as it is for a single thirty-year-old who just started their dream job.

What to Include in an Estate Plan

All estate plans are different, but here are the fundamental documents that you’ll want to include:

  • Last will and testament—this document provides instructions on how to handle your affairs after your death;
  • Power of attorney—if you become incapacitated, this document authorizes another person to make financial decisions for you; and
  • Advance directives—you can choose who will make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated, and you can also detail any life-sustaining treatment you wish(or do not wish) to receive.

Trusts are another common estate planning tool, but they are not a necessity for everyone. A trust can offer tax advantages and protect assets from creditors, as well as help your family avoid probate. 

What Happens If I Don’t Have an Estate Plan?

Essentially, you relinquish all control if you die without an estate plan. In Tennessee, when a person passes away without a will, their assets are distributed based on the state’s default rules under our intestate succession law. A probate judge looks at the statute, identifies your surviving family members, and transfers your assets in a hierarchical order. No consideration is given to loved ones who might need the assets more than others, and no consideration is given to “what you would have wanted.” The default rules are a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach that can have dire consequences for your family’s future. 

Contact Our Hopkinsville Estate Planning Attorney

An estate planning case handled by a lawyer in Hopkinsville.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 experienced legal team handles a variety of other cases as well, including: