Articles Tagged with Tennessee Estate planning

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.

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.

More and more of our lives are spent connected to the internet. Whether we are listening to music on iTunes, browsing social media like Facebook, or even paying our bills online, so much of what we do these days is done online.  Files, photos, music, and other things are no longer physically stored in a person’s home. Often these items are stored either on a website or “in the cloud.” We are truly living in a digital world. The repercussions of such can be felt in areas that you would not normally think about.

So exactly what happens when a person with digital assets is incapacitated or passes away? It is not as easy as boxing up and distributing someone’s things. It becomes complicated with online security protocol and trying to determine where certain items may be located. For those very reasons, there are a number of steps that you should take to better manage your digital assets.

Inventory your digital assets– Make a comprehensive list of all of your online accounts that may include your email, financial accounts, social media, online business accounts. Be sure to include your username, password, and any other required answers to security questions. Also, you should include information for your digital devices like a smart phone, tablet, or computer.

An Indiana man chose to withdraw his own life support following a hunting accident that left him paralyzed and unable to breathe on his own. 32 year old Tim Bowers had been out deer hunting when he fell 16 feet from his tree stand crushing his C3, C4, and C5 vertebrae. As a result of the injury, Bowers was paralyzed from the shoulders down and required a ventilator to breathe. Doctors had determined that Bowers would likely not be able to breathe on his own ever again.

While still sedated, the family asked doctors if Bowers could be brought out of sedation to determine what he wanted to do. The family wanted Bowers to make his own decision regarding his life. The doctors complied and brought Bowers out of sedation. The family then explained the prognosis and asked Bowers whether he would want to continue the life support. With the ventilator tube still in place and unable to speak, Bowers shook his head emphatically no. The family then asked Bowers if he would want the tube reinserted if he struggled, and Bowers again shook his head no. Subsequently, the doctors came in and asked the same questions. Bowers gave the same responses. Doctors then removed the ventilator tube.

Bowers was able to spend the last several hours of his life surrounded by friends and family. During that time Bowers never wavered in his decision to die. The family felt comfortable knowing that he had made his own decision rather than attempting to make a decision for him.

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.

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.

We all have heard about the importance of creating an estate plan for the benefit of our loved ones. In creating an estate plan, many people believe that their will is the final say on who gets what accounts after they die. While a will often is the final determination of who receives which assets, simple titling errors can create big headaches for all of those involved. The beneficiaries named on certain assets make the actual determination of where an asset may go even if a will states otherwise.

An estate plan can be frustrated by the way that a person titles individuals as beneficiaries of assets like bank or brokerage accounts. For instance, a mother may wish to have her estate divided equally among her three children upon her passing. However, if the mother names only one child as beneficiary of a savings account, only that child will receive the contents of that account because they were listed as the sole beneficiary. Obviously, that child is free to disperse the contents of the account equally to the other two children. However, the recipient of the asset is not under any legal obligation to do so. This situation can often lead to family problems.

Many people do not understand the implications and importance of titling on their accounts. When reviewing your estate plan, it is important to review who you have listed as a beneficiary on your accounts. Make sure that your wishes are expressed accordingly. In addition, it is also important to update your estate plan following any major life changes. If something has happened to a named beneficiary, be sure to update those accounts so that your wishes are met.

It seems like taxes are everywhere these days. You get taxed for your income, food, or anything else that you buy. You can even get taxed after you die. Most of these taxes are a way of the government to increase its dwindling revenue. However, there has been a push in Tennessee to remove some of these taxes in an attempt to lure new residents and businesses.

You may have heard about a gift tax. A gift tax is a tax excised on any gifts worth above a certain amount of money. Tennessee was one of only two states that still had a gift tax. However, the Tennessee General Assembly repealed the gift tax last year. Before the tax was repealed, any gift in the amount of $13,000 or under was exempted from the tax if the gift was made to a spouse, sibling, child, or other lineal descendent. The amount exempted to all other people was any gift valued at $3,000 or under. The tax rate ranged from 5.5% to 16% for any gift over the exempted amount.

It is important to note that any gift made before January 1, 2012 may still be subject to the Tennessee gift tax. However, any gift made after January 1, 2012 are free of any gift tax. Although Tennessee has repealed its gift tax, there is still a federal tax on any gifts over $14,000 given in a year. When completing your estate plan, you should recognize what taxes are required and what taxes may be avoided. If you have any questions about your estate plan in Tennessee, contact The Higgins Firm. Our Tennessee estate planning attorneys would be happy to answer any questions regarding your estate plan.

Former “Sopranos” star James Gandolfini died suddenly in June of this year shocking many of the actor’s biggest fans. Many people may be equally as surprised to learn that as much as $70 million of Gandolfini’s estate will go to pay taxes that could have easily been avoided. Gandolfini could have avoided the huge tax burden by merely utilizing better estate planning. There are a number of lessons that can be learned from some other famous figures.

Choose appropriate guardians for any minor children

Before dying, Michael Jackson chose his aging mother to act as a guardian for his children. Jackson also chose legendary singer Diana Ross to act as a guardian in case his mother was unable to. Some wonder whether Jackson should have chosen another person to act as a guardian or backup guardian. While there is no doubt that Jackson’s mother loves her grandchildren, questions would arise if she was no longer able to serve as guardian in her aging condition before the children reached the age of majority. If this did occur, it is possible that the children would have to move across the country to where Diana Ross lives. There seems to be too much room for potential error.