Among the most important decisions someone makes in this present life is to make a legal expression of intentions regarding the disposition of their property upon death. The instrument by which this is accomplished is known as a Will, or Last Will and Testament. Without a will the State, not you, decides how your property is disposed of. Your wishes regarding your minor children may never be known. Your ability to make designations of your real and personal property dies when you do. I have met with many people who sincerely believed that their wishes would be followed upon death, even without a will. Sadly, this is not always or even often true. A simple will is inexpensive and takes little time. An attorney knowledgeable in this area can advise you in what is often a simple process.

Many people seek to draft their own wills from the internet. While this may work, someone not knowledgeable in estate matters may unwittingly create untold legal headaches for their heirs and family members by inserting provisions not in accordance with the law or containing ambiguous language. Having to petition a court to interpret a decedent’s intent is not always a pleasant matter, particularly for family members who have just lost a loved one. If you have questions about a will, call me. I do not charge for an initial appointment.

Living Wills & Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare

The advent of modern medicine has created the ability to prolong life, often long after the quality of life has ended. Doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers who are charged with care and treatment of sick or injured persons are required to treat patients to the best of their abilities. A person at the end of life often does not want their life artificially prolonged. A living will, which states your desires when there is no reasonable medical expectation of recovery can give you and your family members peace of mind. Likewise, vesting the power to make such decisions in a third party, such as an adult child, is accomplished by executing a durable power of attorney for healthcare. If you have questions about either of these documents, call me.

Probate

Probate is the process whereby a decedent’s estate is administered under the authority of the Probate Court. If someone dies with a will, they are said to have died “testate” and the court will appoint an executor (executrix if female). If someone dies without a will, they are said to have died “intestate” and the court will appoint an administrator (administratrix if female).

In most cases probate is necessary to vest title to real estate, properly dispose of the claims of creditors, and allocate distribution of estate assets. It need not be expensive or lengthy for the vast majority of estates.

Many people have an undue fear of probating an estate, having heard past stories about litigation and payment of large sums in estate taxes. Estate taxes have been largely eliminated for the vast majority of estates. The Tennessee Inheritance tax does not apply to estates of decedents dying in 2016 or after.

The tax exemption at the Federal level is currently $5,450,000. Consult an attorney experienced in estate probate if you have questions regarding the need to purchase products sold as estate tax avoidance instruments. These are often expensive and unnecessary.