Estate Planning

Believe it or not, you have an estate. In fact, nearly everyone does. Your estate is comprised of everything you own— your car, home, other real estate, checking and savings accounts, investments, life insurance, furniture, personal possessions. No matter how large or how modest, everyone has an estate and something in common—you can’t take it with you when you die!

When that happens—and it is a “when” and not an “if”—you probably want to control how those things are given to the people or organizations you care most about. To ensure your wishes are carried out, you need to provide instructions stating whom you want to receive something of yours, what you want them to receive, and when they are to receive it.

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Estate Planning

This is estate planning—making a plan in advance and naming whom you want to receive the things you own after you die. However, good estate planning is much more than that. It should also include the following:

  • Instructions for passing your values (religion, education, hard work, etc.) in addition to your valuables.
  • Instructions for your care if you become disabled before you die.
  • Name a guardian and an inheritance manager for minor children.
  • Provide for family members with special needs without disrupting government benefits.
  • Provide for loved ones who might be irresponsible with money or who may need future protection from creditors or divorce.
  • Include life insurance to provide for your family at your death, disability income insurance to replace your income if you cannot work due to illness or injury, and long-term care insurance to help pay for your care in case of an extended illness or injury.
  • Provide for the transfer of your business at your retirement, disability, or death.
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Estate Planning

This can also be an ongoing process and not a one-time event. Your plan should be reviewed and updated as your family and financial situations (and laws) change over your lifetime.

Estate planning is for everyone!

It is not just for “retired” people, although people do tend to think about it more as they get older. Unfortunately, we can’t successfully predict how long we will live, and illness and accidents happen to people of all ages.

Estate planning is not just for “the wealthy,” although people who have built some wealth do often think more about how to preserve it. Good estate planning often means more to families with modest assets and our attorneys at MJC would be happy to help.

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COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS

Individuals put off estate planning because they think they don’t own enough, they’re not old enough, they’re busy, think they have plenty of time, they’re confused and don’t know who can help them, or they just don’t want to think about it. Unfortunately, when something happens, their families have to pick up the pieces.

If you don’t have a plan, Tennessee law has one for you, but you probably won’t like it.

At disability: If your name is on the title of your assets and you can’t conduct business due to mental or physical incapacity, only a court appointee can sign for you. The court, not your family, will control how your assets are used to care for you through a conservatorship or guardianship. It can become expensive and time consuming, it is open to the public, and it can be difficult to end even if you recover.

At your death: If you die without an intentional estate plan, your assets will be distributed according to the probate laws in Tennessee. In many states, if you are married and have children, your spouse and children will each receive a share. That means your spouse could receive only a fraction of your estate, which may not be enough to live on. If you have minor children, the court will control their inheritance. If both parents die (i.e., in a car accident), the court will appoint a guardian without knowing whom you would have chosen.

Given the choice—and you do have the choice—wouldn’t you prefer these matters be handled privately by your family, not by the courts? Wouldn’t you prefer to keep control of who receives what and when? And, if you have young children, wouldn’t you prefer to have a say in who will raise them if you can’t?

Would your family know where to find your financial records, titles, and insurance policies if something happened to you? Planning your estate now will help you organize your records, locate titles and beneficiary designations, and find and correct errors.

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Estate Planning

WHERE TO BEGIN? Simple it begins with knowledge! An estate plan can begin with any of the following:

ADVANCED HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVES

Advanced health care directives are written instructions that tell others how you want your health care managed when you are not able to do so yourself.

Advanced health care directives generally include:

Appointment of Health Care Representative - You appoint someone to make health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so yourself
Living Will - You state how you want your end of life medical care handled
Anatomical Donations - You give instruction should you decide to donate any of your body parts upon your death

POWER OF ATTORNEY

A durable power of attorney allows you to appoint someone to manage your assets if you become incapacitated. The person you appoint can have broad powers to act but should at a minimum have the following powers:

Manage and transfer your assets
Create or amend trusts on your behalf
Pay taxes and deal with the IRS
Make gifts

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Estate Planning

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT

A last will is a written document that states who you wish to be the guardians for your minor children and how you would like your assets distributed at your death. The last will names an executor to facilitate the management of your will during the probate process.

TRUSTS

Trusts are a legal contract that allows you to create a separate legal entity to hold your assets. A trustee is named who manages the assets for the benefit of you and your beneficiaries. Revocable living trusts are created and funded during your lifetime and you often name yourself as trustee to maintain control of the assets until your death or incapacity. A testamentary trust is created after your death by a provision in your will. Trusts are very flexible and there are many different types. The type of trust used is dependent on your specific goals and circumstances.

ESTATE PLANNING DOES NOT HAVE TO BE EXPENSIVE.

If you don’t think you can afford a complex estate plan now, start with what you can afford. For a young family or single adult, that may mean a will, term life insurance, and powers of attorney for your assets and health care decisions. Then, let your planning develop and expand as your needs change and your financial situation improves. Don’t try to do this yourself to save money. Our experienced attorneys at Manson Johnson Conner will be able to provide critical guidance and peace of mind that your documents are prepared properly.

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Estate Planning

THE BEST TIME PLAN YOUR ESTATE IS NOW!

None of us really likes to think about our own mortality or the possibility of being unable to make decisions for ourselves. This is exactly why so many families are caught off-guard and unprepared when incapacity or death does strike. Don’t wait. You can put something in place now and change it later…which is exactly the way estate planning should be done.

THE BEST BENEFIT IS PEACE OF MIND.

Knowing you have a properly prepared plan in place - one that contains your instructions and will protect your family - will give you and your family peace of mind. This is one of the most thoughtful and considerate things you can do for yourself and for those you love.

Let the attorneys at Manson Johnson Conner alleviate those estate planning woes!

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