Articles Posted in Wills

Recent reports indicate that musical mega-star Prince may have passed away without a will or other estate planning in place. If that is true – a very big IF – his inaction will likely cost his estate millions of dollars in federal and state tax bills. In addition, contentious lawsuits seem certain to erupt over who are his rightful heirs, how to value his estate, and how to distribute and manage his complex assets.

Prince fought mightily to retain control over publishing rights and sound recordings. But now, if he is indeed without a will, he will have no say over how those interests will be preserved. The laws of the state of Minnesota will make those decisions for him.

Prince also closely guarded his privacy during his life. But now, assuming he did not protect his assets through effective estate planning, the nature and extent of his assets and their distribution among his heirs will play out very much in public.

Do you store pictures online? Have a Facebook account? Keep documents in the Cloud? Or use online accounts to maintain certain aspects of your life? If so, you should be aware that earlier this month Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed into law a bill that could impact what happens to those digital assets after your death.

The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA) is designed to make sure you control what happens to your digital property after you pass away. The law addresses concerns that online accounts containing assets of personal significance or even monetary value may be simply deleted upon a person’s death, or that loved ones will be refused access to digital property.

Oregon’s Karen Williams faced this dilemma while grieving the loss of her 22-year-old son, Loren in 2007. She revisted memories of his life by accessing his Facebook account, where he kept pictures and stories. When Facebook learned of his death, however, the company changed the password, denying her access, and sparking a lawsuit over control of his property. Ultimately, she won a court order, but as Associated Press reported, “she never received the full access she sought.” The account was subsequently deleted.

What if your spouse has passed away and you were left out of their Last Will and Testament?

Maybe the Will was prepared before you were married, or before you even met. Maybe they intentionally attempted to disinherit you. Do you have any options as a surviving spouse? In Tennessee, the answer is yes. Tennessee law protects the surviving spouse from being left out in the cold.

But it is important to secure those rights according to the timelines and procedures laid out in the law.

This is a common question from estate planning clients. Once a year, you should make a point of thinking through your family and life circumstances with an eye toward your estate planning goals and priorities. Major life changes involving you or your family often create the need to revisit your Will and other estate planning documents to make sure they effectively reflect your current intentions.

Here is a list of common life events that often indicate it is time to update your Will:

  • Your marital status changes –if you were single when you prepared your Will and then subsequently got married, you should update it to adequately provide for your spouse after your death. If you and your new spouse both brought children to the marriage, special attention is required to address how your plan can best provide for your blended family. A divorce also likely means your Will no longer reflects your goals and should be updated.

No one wants to think about leaving their loved ones behind when they pass away. However, making sure that you have a will that details all your wishes about how you want things handled after you are gone will help you make sure that your loved one are cared for even when you cannot be there. It will help protect the things and people you care about and help them to have the future that you want for them. Here are some important factors to consider when it comes to the writing of your will. If you have questions or concerns about your will and need help having one drafted, then you should speak to one of our estate planning lawyers with the Higgins Firm. We will help answer any questions you may have and help you create a plan that is right for you.

  • Having a will does not mean all your assets are covered:   Any assets where a beneficiary is designated such as IRA 401k plans and life insurance will go directly to the beneficiaries. Also, any assets that you have in joint tenancy with survivorship will go directly to the people who have the survivorship rights after you die. Any accounts that are pay on death or transfer to death will also go to any beneficiaries when you die. If you have a trust with any assets these will be handled without probate. It is important to review your beneficiaries when you make any changes to your will so that you make sure your assets are divided exactly how you want them to be.
  • It is important to make sure the executor of your will is someone you trust:  The executor should be someone you trust because they will be responsible for handling everything after you die as well as making sure the wishes in your will are honored in the way that you want them to be. They will be responsible for paying bills and taxes that deal with your estate. They also have to appear at legal proceedings and maintain any property until the estate is settled. It is best to appoint someone whom you not only trust but who also has business knowledge.

No one wants to think about leaving their loved ones behind when they pass away. However, making sure that you have a will that details all your wishes about how you want things handled after you are gone will help you make sure that your loved one are cared for even when you cannot be there. It will help protect the things and people you care about and help them to have the future that you want for them. Here are some important factors to consider when it comes to the writing of your will. If you have questions or concerns about your will and need help having one drafted, then you should speak to one of our estate planning lawyers with the Higgins Firm. We will help answer any questions you may have and help you create a plan that is right for you.

• Having a will does not mean all your assets are covered

Any assets where a beneficiary is designated such as IRA 401k plans and life insurance will go directly to the beneficiaries. Also, any assets that you have in joint tenancy with survivorship will go directly to the people who have the survivorship rights after you die. Any accounts that are pay on death or transfer to death will also go to any beneficiaries when you die. If you have a trust with any assets these will be handled without probate. It is important to review your beneficiaries when you make any changes to your will so that you make sure your assets are divided exactly how you want them to be.

We all may not know how important estate planning really is, but many may be confused by the process, think it costs too much or just think we do not have to worry about it yet. Here are some tips so you can choose the best plan for whatever stage of life you are in. Once you understand what needs you may have, you should contact one of our experienced estate planning and probate lawyers with the Higgins Firm.

  • If you are younger than thirty

At this stage in life, you probably haven’t given much thought to estate planning. If you do not have many assets, you may be able to get away with not having a will yet, but if you are already making a substantial amount of money or have several assets, then you should think about having a will drafted. Accidents can still happen and this way you make sure that your family is taken care of and your property gets divided according to your wishes.

Having entered the New Year you may have created a list of resolutions that you hope to accomplish sometime during 2015. Some may be looking to exercise more, eat healthier, or even save some more money. Although it may not be one of the first things that you think of in setting your resolutions, estate planning is a goal that can be easily accomplished without spending too much money or time. If you have questions about your estate plan, contact the Nashville estate planning attorneys at The Higgins Firm.

So you may be wondering what exactly an estate plan is. In its most basic form, an estate plan is a set of legal documents that explicitly set forth your decision on a number of issues. One of the fundamental estate planning documents is a last will and testament. Most people think of a last will and testament, more commonly known as a will, as designating where you want your assets to go upon your death. However, a will can also do so much more. A will can also nominate someone to handle the administrative affairs of an individual after he or she has died. This individual is known as the executor of the estate. A will can similarly nominate someone to serve as the guardian of any minor children in the event of a death. Courts often look to a will to determine if the deceased parent had a preference for choosing a guardian.

Another important estate planning document is a power of attorney. This document allocates authority to another individual to act on your behalf. You as the grantor of the power are able to specify in what circumstances the agent is able to act on your behalf. Some may choose to grant a wide range of powers to the agent while others may choose to grant only very specific powers to their agent. Similarly, some may choose to have the document only become effective upon the incapacity of the grantor while other choose to have the document and its powers become effective upon the signing of the document. There are two different types of power of attorney documents. One is a power of attorney for finances which can include the ability to conduct business, write checks, contract, etc. The other is a power of attorney for health care which enables the agent to make health care decisions for a person who may not be able to make decisions regarding his or her own health. A power of attorney can be a useful tool in the event that you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself.

The landscape of the American population is ever changing. In 1970, approximately one-third of Americans age 15 and older were single. In 2013, that number had risen to nearly one-half. With a growing population of single individuals, it is important to recognize the implications on estate planning. While much of the attention on estate planning may focus on those who are married and have families of their own, the reality is that estate planning can be even more important for those who are single. Those included within the singles population may include divorced individuals, those who have never married, and widowed individuals. If you have questions about how estate planning may affect you, contact the Nashville estate planning lawyers at The Higgins Firm.

Each state has enacted laws that determine where a person’s assets should pass without a will or trust in place. These laws, known as the laws of intestacy, are the default rules for asset transfer following a death. Under the laws of intestacy, assets end up passing to the closest relatives in equal shares without exception. Depending on your particular situation, this transfer may not be what you would desire. For example the laws of intestacy in Tennessee do not provide for the transfer of assets to close friends, more distant relatives, domestic partners, or charitable organization no matter how close you may have actually been to the person or organization. For this very reason, it is important to set forth your specific wishes in an estate planning document like a will.

In addition, it is equally as important for single people to explicitly appoint someone to handle financial and medical affairs in the event that he or she was unable to make decisions for him or herself. Often a power of attorney for finances or health care can be utilized to allocate decision making authority to another individual. With married people, that responsibility will naturally lie with the spouse. However, with a single person, that decision may lie potentially with a relative who may not know your desires or even a stranger appointed by the state. Without having a spouse or child to rely upon, choosing the right person to serve in that role can be crucial to ensuring that your needs are met for your finances and health care.

Life is full of change. Many of those life changes can reach much farther than people realize. While a large portion of the population has been affected by a divorce, often those individuals do not understand the impact that it may have on their estate planning documents. Exactly what happens to a last will and testament or power of attorney after there has been a divorce? It is important to understand what can happen if your documents are not updated. If you have questions how a major life change may affect your estate plan, contact the Nashville estate planning lawyers at The Higgins Firm.

One of the most basic estate planning documents is the last will and testament. What impact does a divorce have on a will in Tennessee? If a will is executed by an individual who later becomes divorced, Tennessee law eliminates the ability of the former spouse to recover under the will. Similarly, the divorce also revokes any power of appointment or nomination of the former spouse as executor, conservator, or guardian within the will. Should the individual desire to keep the former spouse as a beneficiary of the will or have the former spouse appointed, the will would expressly need to provide that the specific Tennessee statute does not apply. Only a divorce or annulment will result in the automatic revocation. A divorce will have the same effect preventing a former spouse from recovering from an individual who died intestate, or without a will. A formal separation of the spouses will not revoke the ability to recover under the will or under the laws of intestacy. If you have gone through a divorce or separation, it is important to update your will shortly thereafter to ensure that your assets pass to the individuals that you so desire.

However, a divorce will not automatically revoke a former spouse from recovering as a designated beneficiary. A beneficiary designation on any life insurance policy or other death benefits is considered to be a contract between the participant and the company or organization issuing the policy. Because these beneficiary designations are considered to be contractual, the designation can only be changed by complying with the terms of the contract, generally a written beneficiary designation form. In other words, a divorce or drafting a new will cannot automatically revoke a former spouse’s beneficiary designation. It is very important to change these designations shortly following a divorce.