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I recently appeared on WSMV’s Better Nashville to talk about the importance of having certain estate planning documents including a will, power of attorney, and living will.  You can watch the segment below. If you have questions regarding any of these important legal documents, be sure to contact the Nashville wills attorneys at The Higgins Firm. We would be happy to answer any questions that you may have regarding these estate planning documents.

This time of year is a chance for families to enjoy one another’s company and simply be thankful for one another. It is a time for food, fun, family, and maybe even a little football.

Whether you are planning on having a large family gathering or smaller get-together with friends, this is a great opportunity to talk with your loved ones about your potential estate planning. Talk with your loved ones about what would work best for you and your family. A conversation can be a great way to start thinking about your family’s estate planning.

Whether you need a will, a power of attorney, or a living will, a conversation with your loved ones can help you recognize what legal documents may need to help provide for your family in the event that you are no longer able to do so. Following your conversation, you can begin to think about addressing specific cares or concerns that your family may have. You can then take these concerns to your estate planning attorney to begin the process of developing or amending your estate plan.

A Nashville attorney recently admitted to stealing nearly $1.3 million from three of his wards after being appointed conservator by the court to oversee their finances. John E. Clemmons, 66 years old, ended up spending much of that money on several gambling sprees at casinos spread across five different states.

Last Friday, Clemmons appeared in court before Judge Steve Dozier taking a plea deal that resulted in a combined sentence of 18 years on three counts of theft in addition to TennCare fraud and perjury. Clemmons had faced at least a 30 year sentence on the theft charges alone before the plea deal. Clemmons could be eligible for parole after serving approximately six years.

One of Clemmons’ victims had been the now deceased father of a disabled woman. Much of the missing money was to be placed into a special account for her care.  Additionally, Clemmons had already pled guilty to stealing $60,000 from a fourth ward in Rutherford County.

Only old, rich people should worry about estate planning. Estate planning is so simple that you can do it yourself. Estate planning is intimidating. There are a number of misconceptions out there about estate planning. While you may have had these thoughts cross your mind in regard to estate planning, it is important to learn the facts about what estate planning is and why you should not wait.

In its most basic form, estate planning is a set of legal documents that instructs others regarding your care and assets if you are not able to speak for yourself. These legal documents may include a will, a living will, appointment of a health care agent, power of attorney, and others. Each of these documents serves a different purpose but they all direct or empower another person to make decisions on your behalf regarding your assets, your care, or even the care of your minor children. In other words, they say who is in charge and this is what I want to happen. While this process may seem scary, estate planning can be quite empowering.

Many people may hear the phrase “estate plan” and automatically think that this only applies to those with money. However, “estate” is just a legal term for anything that you own. Whether you are single, married, divorced, remarried, have siblings, have kids, or anything else you can still benefit from an estate plan. Developing an estate plan can ensure that you are prepared for anything that may come about.

While many people think estate planning only relates to those who are well established in life, estate planning should begin much sooner than most people realize. Estate planning may conjure up images of wills and 401Ks, but the process should be essential to everyone upon reaching the age of majority, typically 18 years old.

Upon reaching the age of 18, most children in some form or fashion begin to assert their independence from their parents whether it is going to college, moving out of the house, or finding a new job. The law acts similarly because in the eyes of the law 18 year olds are adults no matter if they live at home or if they are away at college. This raises a number of implications because parents of these young adults are no longer entitled to make certain medical or legal decisions that they could have made while the child was a minor. If a college age child loses the ability to make or even communicate decisions, doctors and nurses may refuse to release information to you without the proper legal documents. Upon reaching the age of 18, the law recognizes an individual’s right to privacy and to govern their own lives.

Obviously, it is a scary thought to many parents that they may not be able to help their own child in a time of his or her greatest need. However, there are a number of estate planning documents that can enable a parent to make these decisions for their child. Although most 18 year olds likely do not need a will, all should have an Appointment of Health Care Agent or a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Each of these documents allocates authority to another to make health care decisions in the event that an individual is incapacitated and unable to make decisions. While an Appointment of a Health Care agent appoints another to make decisions in the event of incapacitation, a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care lists the individual’s preference for treatment and appoints another individual to make those decisions accordingly in the event of incapacitation.

As a Tennessee Probate Lawyer I have learned over the years that some simple planning can really save families from a lot of unnecessary stress and costs.  I will admit, having a Last Will and Testament or a Power of Attorney drafted doesn’t sound like a ton of fun but it really is easy and relatively inexpensive.  It is just one of those things that we all tend to put off.  Well don’t!  Get it done and your family will thank you.  Recently, I gave an interview about the importance of some simple estate planning.  You can watch the interview below.


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