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At the Higgins Firm, our team of probate attorneys is asked a number of questions every day from potential clients. And like many lawyers, the response that we usually give to so many of those questions is, “It depends.” One of those many questions that we often hear is, “Is it true that the state of Tennessee can end up recovering from someone’s estate?” Again, we have to respond with, “It depends.”

There is only a limited set of circumstances in which the state can recover from a decedent’s estate. Under Tennessee law, the property of a person who dies is paid to the state only when there are no other living beneficiaries under a will or there are no other living relatives if someone dies without a will. Essentially, if you do not have a will and you do not have any close relatives, then the state will end up recovering from your estate. Tennessee state law does not have any intestate (dying without a will) provisions for those who are not related. Obviously, there are not many people who would ever voluntarily choose to leave their estate to the state’s treasury.

However, there is an obvious and easy way to prevent this possibility from ever happening, drafting a will. By drafting a will you are able to avoid the worst case scenario where the state would recover from your estate. In drafting a will, you are able to determine specifically who you want to recover your assets after you have passed. You are able to leave your assets to close friends or even a charity.

Recently attorney Jim Higgins stopped by WSMV’s Better Nashville to discuss essential documents that every family should resolve to have this year. Those essential documents include a last will and testament, a power of attorney, and a living will. There are any number of reasons why you may put off these drafting legal documents. However, these legal documents are not expensive, and they provide your family the protection that they deserve. You can watch the interview with attorney Jim Higgins below. If you have any questions about a will, power of attorney, or living will for your family, be sure to contact The Higgins Firm today. One of our estate lawyers would be happy to provide you with any answers.


Now that we have entered 2014, you may or may not still be keeping your New Year’s resolutions. Hopefully, your resolutions are going strong and you have developed great habits throughout your life. However, if you have already slipped back into the habit of eating a little more junk food than you planned on doing, that does not mean that you should give up on all of your plans for this year. Similarly, you should resolve to review your estate planning documents. There are a number of reasons why you should periodically review your estate planning documents. Doing so can make sure that you are set for 2014 and beyond.

Reviewing Your Will Following Major Life Changes

It is always important to review your will following any of your major life changes. Whether you recently had a child, got married, or lost a loved one, each of these major life events can impact your will. As a result, you should review your will for any potential updates that need to be made.  If you’ve recently had or adopted a child, you should update your will. Similarly, if you have gotten married, you will want to add your spouse to your will.

One of the most forgotten aspects of estate planning is communication. It is crucial that you should communicate to your family and loved ones when developing your estate plan. However, you may be wondering, “What exactly am I supposed to tell someone about my estate plan?” The following provides a few things that you should communicate to those you have included in your estate plan. If you have any estate planning questions, be sure to contact the Tennessee estate planning attorneys at The Higgins Firm.

Inform the Designated Executor

One of the most basic pieces of any estate plan is a last will and testament, otherwise known as a will. And within almost any will, an executor will be designated to handle the affairs of your estate upon your passing. This designation is never made very lightly. Being appointed executor comes with a great deal of responsibility. An executor handles much of the financial affairs of a person’s estate. The executor pays off any debts of the estate and then distributes any of the remaining assets to any beneficiaries. Because of the responsibilities that come along with being an executor, it is very important that you should let the designated executor know that you have nominated that person to serve in such a role. Doing so gives the person a heads up about the potential of serving as an executor.

As 2013 comes to a close, many people will be looking beyond into 2014 for a fresh start. Many of those may be looking to accomplish bigger and better things. As a result many people will look to set New Year’s resolutions or goals to accomplish during 2014. So many resolutions require a large amount of planning and effort.  Some popular New Year’s resolutions typically include getting into shape, eating better, or being more frugal.  However, one of the more important resolutions that you can make is developing your estate plan. The good news is that developing an estate plan does not require a great deal of time or expense. Creating your estate plan can end up being one of your easier resolutions while also being one of the more important decisions that you can make.

You may be wondering what exactly is involved in developing an estate plan. An estate plane can involve a number of different aspects to make sure that your wishes are carried out if you were ever unable to make those decisions. One of the most important pieces of an estate plan is a last will and testament. A will in its most basic form designates where you want your assets to go upon your death. However, a will can include much more than the distribution of your assets. A will can allow you to specify a guardian for any minor children, set forth specific gifts to certain individuals, or even designate your wishes regarding your remains.

Another important piece of estate planning is a health care directive. A health care directive is a legal document that sets forth your wishes for your care in the event that you are unable to make a decision for yourself. There are number of different documents that can be considered a health care directive including a living will, a power of attorney, or an appointment of a health care agent. While each of these documents serves a different purpose, they each allocate the decision making authority regarding your health care treatment to another person if you are incapacitated.

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.

You have probably heard about the importance of having an estate plan set up for you and your family. An estate plan consists of a number of legal documents to ensure that your affairs and assets are handled if you are ever unable to do so. One of the most important documents of an estate plan is a will.  In its most basic form, a will instructs the probate court how to distribute your assets or possessions that have not already been predetermined by an ownership designation or beneficiary.

It is important to understand that there are a couple of limitations that a will may have in attempting to distribute assets according to your wishes. Both beneficiary designations and joint ownership of assets will supersede any instructions left in a will. These designations can affect where certain assets go upon a person’s passing.

When a beneficiary is listed on an account, whether that may be life insurance proceeds, annuities, retirement plans, etc., those specific assets in the account will be distributed to the named beneficiary of the account rather than anyone listed in the will. For example, if you have listed your daughter as the beneficiary of your life insurance proceeds and listed your spouse as the sole beneficiary of your will, any life insurance proceeds would be distributed to your daughter because she was listed as the beneficiary.  You should understand that although you may have listed someone as a beneficiary of your will, that individual may not recover everything if there are designated beneficiaries on accounts.

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.

The sons of a late North Carolina real estate developer are suing their father’s company in an attempt to recover nearly $200 million in assets that he was trying to redirect shortly before his death. Henry Faison had tried updating his will to leave a large portion of his estate to a charitable trust that was named after his dog as opposed to his real estate firm. However, Faison was unable to officially sign the legal document before suddenly passing away. Subsequently, evidence in the form of emails and memos has surfaced showing his intention to leave this large portion to a charitable trust rather than the company.

The main issue is obviously that the will was not signed by Faison or witnessed by two witnesses, two requirements to make a valid will. Due to the unusual nature of the case, the suit is largely in uncharted legal waters. There are not any cases that have handled this type of issue or had this type of magnitude.

The lawsuit alleges that both Faison and company officials had agreed to the change of his estate plan prior to his sudden death because the company would be receiving life insurance and a number of other benefits under such agreement. The sons are asserting that the court should make the company uphold its end of the deal.

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.

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