Few things are as important as planning for the financial future of your family. While it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of life, it is crucial to set aside time to address the estate planning process. And the sooner you make time for this very important task, the better you’ll protect your family.
Through the use of wills and trusts, you can create an estate plan that will provide your family with peace of mind—both today and well into the future. The Hopkinsville wills & trusts lawyers at Batson Nolan PLC have unrivaled experience and knowledge in all areas of estate planning.
For more than 160 years, the Hopkinsville wills & trusts attorneys at Batson Nolan PLC have been helping individuals and families create effective estate plans designed to provide them with peace of mind for decades to come. We take an individualized approach to every client, listening intently to their every need before we thoughtfully put together our recommendations. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer.
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What Is a Will?
A will is a legal document where you detail how you want your property distributed when you die. In a will, you can name a personal representative, also known as an executor, who oversees the administration of your estate. You can also name a guardian for any minor children in your will.
Requirements of a Tennessee Will
Because wills are formal legal documents, there are strict procedures you must follow when creating a will. For example, a court will only validate a will if each of the following applies:
- The creator is at least 18 years old;
- The creator is of sound mind;
- The will is printed (electronic wills are not valid in Tennessee);
- The creator signed the will in front of two witnesses, neither of which are beneficiaries or heirs; and
- Each witness signs the will in the presence of the creator and the other witness.
If a will does not comport with these requirements, the court will disregard the entire will. Thus, it is essential to work with an experienced attorney who understands Tennessee will requirements when preparing your will.
What Is a Trust?
Trusts are versatile estate planning tools that serve many purposes. In general, trust creates a three-way relationship: The grantor creates the trust and names a trustee and beneficiaries. The trustee oversees the administration of the trust for the benefit of the named beneficiaries. A few of the things you can accomplish through a trust include:
- Converting income into non-countable income for Medicaid qualification purposes;
- Limiting a beneficiary’s access to funds;
- Protecting assets from creditors;
- Providing for a loved one with special needs without jeopardizing their government benefits;
- Reducing the assets subject to the probate process; and
- Reducing estate-tax exposure.
Most trusts are either revocable or irrevocable. A revocable trust offers more flexibility but fewer benefits than an irrevocable trust. For example, through a revocable living trust, you can eliminate the need for trust assets to go through probate. However, trust assets in a revocable living will are not beyond the reach of creditors and are counted when applying for Medicaid benefits.
On the other hand, irrevocable trusts are far less flexible. They cannot be modified or terminated once created, but they provide excellent asset-protection benefits by removing trust assets from your estate. If these assets are no longer technically part of your estate, they aren’t counted when calculating estate tax or applying for Medicaid.
Common Types of Trusts
Trusts are one of the most versatile estate planning tools available because they allow families to accomplish a wide range of goals. Not surprisingly, there are a variety of different types of trusts. Some of the most commonly used trusts include the following.
A living trust is a type of revocable trust that enables you to reduce the number of probate assets in your estate. While assets in a living trust count are still part of your estate and count for the purposes of estate tax and Medicaid eligibility—they are not subject to probate. Living trusts are also very flexible and can be modified if your situation changes. This makes living trusts a great probate avoidance strategy.
Special Needs Trusts
You can use a special needs trust to preserve an individual’s eligibility for government benefits while providing them with assets that can increase their overall quality of life. Special needs trusts are a solution to the problems that arise when leaving a large inheritance to a disabled loved one who receives Social Security or Medicaid benefits.
A charitable trust is a specific type of trust that allows you to leave money to a charitable organization while getting significant income and estate tax benefits. When you create a charitable trust, assets you place into the trust are no longer considered a part of your estate. This reduces the taxable value of your estate. Additionally, if you transfer money into a charitable trust, you can claim an income tax deduction for the charitable contribution.
Given the wide range of trusts and the many goals they can help you accomplish, it is important to discuss your situation with a lawyer for trusts. These professionals can help you determine which type of trust best suits your specific needs.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What Is a Special Needs Trust?
A special needs trust is a type of trust that allows families to set aside assets for the benefit of a loved one with special needs. The main benefit of a special needs trust is that assets contained in the trust do not count towards determining benefit eligibility for Social Security or Medicaid benefits. In this way, a special needs trust is an incredibly useful estate planning tool as it allows you to provide for a family member’s special needs without risking their eligibility for government benefits.
How Do You Contest a Will?
Contesting a will involves challenging the validity of a will in one or more ways. Often, will contests are based on problems with the creation of the will. For example, if the testator did not sign the will, someone might contest its validity.
The other way to contest a will is to challenge the testator’s testamentary capacity. To create a valid will, the testator must understand what assets they own and that they are creating a will for the purposes of distributing their assets after their death. You can also contest a will if you believe that someone exercised undue influence over the testator.
How Long Do You Have to Contest a Will?
In Kentucky, you have just two years from the date a will is presented to the probate court to contest the will.
Does Creating a Will Avoid the Need for Probate?
No, any of the assets addressed in your will are generally required to go through probate before being disbursed to your heirs. If you have non-probate assets, such as joint bank accounts, retirement accounts, or jointly-owned real estate, you should not include them in your will. This is because non-probate property automatically transfers to the co-owner or beneficiary upon your death, meaning there is no need for probate. On the other hand, personal property, real estate held only in your name, and cash in a bank account with only you as a signer are probate assets that should be included in your will. Determining which property to include in your will can be challenging. An experienced Hopkinsville wills & trusts attorney at Batson Nolan PLC can help.
What Happens if Someone Dies Without a Will in Tennessee?
If someone dies without a valid will, the court will distribute the deceased’s property according to the Tennessee intestacy laws. The intestacy laws act as a backup plan for those who died without a will to prevent their assets from ending up with the state. Thus, the intestate laws provide a framework for determining which family members will inherit estate assets. While intestacy laws work well as a backup plan, they fail to take your individual preferences into account. For instance, suppose you have no spouse and only one son who you are estranged from and haven’t spoken to in the past 20 years. Further, suppose that he is the last person you would want to leave your estate to. If you die without a valid will that states this clear desire, the chances are pretty good that your estranged son will end up with a significant portion of your estate because intestacy rules favor close relatives. Thus, it is always better to have a current, valid will on file that outlines your intentions.
Reach Out to a Hopkinsville Wills and Trust Attorney at Batson Nolan PLC for Immediate Assistance
If you have questions about how to best incorporate a will or trust into your estate plan, contact a lawyer for wills and trusts at Batson Nolan PLC. Our attorneys have more than 160 years of experience creating comprehensive estate planning documents on behalf of our clients. Our dedicated team of wills & trust lawyers can help your family address all your estate planning needs, such as creating powers of attorney or a living will. Call us to learn more and schedule a free consultation with the Batson Nolan experienced legal team. 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: