Working with a will lawyer in Nashville can bring up some uncomfortable feelings. Those of us in this area of law are very aware of the fact that many people avoid important planning for this very reason. After all, there aren’t a whole lot of people who want to contemplate their own demise, let alone the feelings of those left behind.
Writing Your Obituary Can be a Positive Experience
Writing your own obituary can actually be kind of a cathartic experience that helps with the estate planning process. It gives you an opportunity to reflect on your own life, as well as to help shape how you will be remembered. It also takes some of the burden off of those who are left behind that might not be up to writing such an intense piece in the middle of grieving. You can write your obituary and have your will lawyer in Nashville keep it in your file so that it is ready to go when it is needed.
What to Includein Your Obituary
You don’t necessarily have to write a full obituary, but it’s a good idea to at least make a list of some key points to make it easier on the person who does the actual writing later. The guidelines for obituaries vary depending on where they will be published. Many funeral homes will place them on their web sites free of charge, but newspapers will charge to publish them. A will lawyer in Nashville will be able to tell you what local outlets expect when it comes to length and cost.
Some of the things that you may want to include are:
Date and place of birth
Education and employment background
Achievements and awards
Family information regarding children, grandchildren, spouses, and parents
Hobbies and interests
A photo you would like used
Include Notes About Your Memorial Serice
In addition, you may want to include your wishes regarding memorials. If you’d like flowers sent to the church or funeral home, for instance, you can include that. It’s also common for people to request that donations be made to a favorite charity “in lieu of flowers.”
Have Others Proof-Read Your Obituary – Make Sure to Update it!
Again, you may prefer not to write the entire obituary yourself, rather you may choose to just include this information in your documents so that your family and friends have it to refer to when they create the obituary after your death. If you do choose to write your own, you may want to review it with your loved ones every once in a while to ensure that it is kept up to date and reflects any recent changes.
Further Estate Planning Exercises
If you’re new to the concept of Estate Planning and would like more information about the process, consider giving us a call. We offer a free 15-minute call that goes over the process. We’re here to answer your questions! While the call does not go over any legal advice, it does allow us to see if we are the right fit for each other.
Liked this exercise? Consider giving our Virtual Estate Plan Challenge a try! With this seven-email series, we go over the decisions you will need to make before having your will created with an Attorney.
Dying without a will is unfortunately very common. If you die without a will, your property will likely go through a court process called probate and will ultimately be distributed according to Tennessee’s intestacy law. Here are some common events that may happen if you die intestate:
Your immediate next of kin, whoever they are, will likely inherit your property first. If you die intestate, everything goes to your next of kin. Your next of kin are the people who have the closest relation to you. Your children are first in line, along with your spouse if you are married at the time of your death. Otherwise, it’s your closest relatives. For example, say you die intestate without a spouse, children, or parents. Your next of kin could be your much younger half-sister or a cousin you’ve never met. Whoever fits the “closest living relative(s)” criteria will inherit everything after the estate pays your debts and taxes.
That son- or daughter-in-law you don’t like will get your property before that niece or nephew you do like. Marital property owned by your children is governed by the laws of the states they live in, not you. If they live in a communal property state, they’re sharing the inheritance, 50/50. While the laws are different in every state, property acquired during marriage by either spouse may be marital property, especially if it was used for the benefit of both spouses.
A little bit of money up for grabs can have a cooling effect on interfamilial relationships. In a perfect world, family members would all get along, never be jealous, and always do right by each other. This isn’t a perfect world. Intestacy law doesn’t take into account the relationships the deceased had with anyone or what the deceased orally promised to someone. Even if widowed Uncle Bob told you he wanted you to have his ’65 Thunderbird, without a will, the car is going to his son…who doesn’t even have a driver’s license. When families start fighting over estates, lawyers get a lot of money and the family gets a lot of heartaches, so it’s best to put your wishes in writing so everyone knows what is expected in advance and the Court has authority to enforce your wishes.
If you’ve recently lost a loved one who did not have a will and have questions about their estate’s administration, you should speak to a probate attorney for guidance. If you need assistance, we invite you to contact us to schedule a consultation.
Every family is different and has different needs. The family unit can be as simple as a married couple or as complex as a blended family with committed partners. Regardless of who makes up your family, you need to ensure that you have adequate legal protection for your partner and any children. This week we will discuss why legal documents like wills, trusts, and powers of attorney are appropriate for unmarried couples and why these documents are important to make sure your family comes first.
*One caveat before we discuss what you can do, let me say what you cannot do. You cannot disinherit your spouse. So if you are in a new relationship but still legally married to someone else, your options will be limited. To read more about this topic, click here.
Tennessee does not recognize common law marriage
Many people believe that even without a marriage certificate, couples who live together for a certain number of years and hold themselves out as spouses to the community become “common law married.” Only about ten U.S. states allow common law marriage, and if you meet the requirements for common law marriage in one of those states before moving to Tennessee then you may qualify to inherit from your partner as a spouse, but it would be an uphill battle if anyone challenged your right to inherit as a spouse. The better (and less expensive) option is to create an estate plan.
Make it as official as you can
While there are some rights and privileges that you cannot achieve without the formality of marriage, we can re-create many spousal rights through an estate plan. An estate plan requires evaluating your family situation, your assets, and your wishes to develop legally binding documents that will meet your goals for decision-making during your lifetime and asset transfer upon death.
Most people don’t like to think about their own death or their partner’s, but this is essential to having a solid plan in place. Estate planning is a big part of my Nashville law practice, and here is what I recommend for families choosing to forgo the traditional contract of marriage:
Create appropriate Powers of Attorney in Tennessee
If you are in a committed relationship and trust your partner to make decisions for you, you should both create the appropriate powers of attorney. A Power of Attorney will allow your partner to have decision-making authority in an emergency situation if you are unable to do so. This can include medical and financial powers of attorney. Depending on your personal comfort level, your partner may also be authorized to act on your behalf and at your direction even if there is not an emergency, for example, if you were out of town for something that had to be done in person like a real estate closing.
Create a Will
When you die, your family of origin may feel entitled to an inheritance in favor of your life partner. Without a Will, Tennessee law is on their side. In order to protect the family you have created with your partner, you will need a properly executed Will. A Trust may also be appropriate depending on your situation.
Consider what will be important to your family of origin when you are gone. Will they be upset if you pass family heirlooms to your partner or children who are not legally related to them by blood? Are there significant assets that they expect will “stay in the family?” If so, and assuming it is safe to do so, I encourage you to discuss your wishes with your family of origin and see what provisions can be made for them. It is often easier for your loved ones to accept your wishes if they heard them directly from you, rather than reading them on paper when you are gone.
In order to make sure that your companion receives any inheritance that you would like them to have, you will need to have a Will and make them a beneficiary of whatever share you would like them to receive. I encourage you to speak to your loved one about your resources and how they would be passed in three scenarios- (1) if you die first, (2) if they die first, (3) if you die together in a common accident. Particularly if you have kept your finances separate, think about how you would gain access to each other’s accounts, how long it would take, and how the family would support itself in the meantime.
Add Beneficiary Designations to your accounts
Many types of accounts allow you to add beneficiary designations to them. The most familiar type is life insurance, but there are many others. If you have retirement accounts like IRAs and/or 401k accounts, look at adding your partner as the beneficiary to those funds when you pass. The same can be done with brokerage accounts and bank deposit accounts.
Rather than going through your “estate” as laid out in a Will, the financial institutions holding money for you will essentially cut a check to your beneficiary when they learn that you have died.
Think about who depends on you?
You need to consider what might happen to your partner when you pass away. Similarly, how would you care for the family if they were to die or become disabled? How can you ensure that any serious long-term disruption to your family life is a bump in the road (at least financially speaking) and not a train going off the rails?
Whether you make significant earnings at your career or you make valuable contributions within the home or both, your family would be lost without you. That’s why it’s important to have a plan in place. If you are a Tennessee resident committed to helping your family, whether married or not, schedule a call with us to talk about how you can protect your family when they need it the most.
Many of our Nashville elder law clients wish to remain in their own homes for as long as possible. With the advances in medications, treatments, and home healthcare options, more people are able to stay in their own homes. Whether you are looking for a home healthcare provider in Middle Tennessee for yourself or a loved one, here are some great guidelines to follow:
1. Determine what level of care is needed.
The level of care that you need is the most important determination when you want to hire a home healthcare provider. This factor will affect many other decisions. For example, are you or your loved one dealing with a specific ailment? If so, it may be preferable to choose a provider or agency with experience in that field. Additionally, do you need round-the-clock care, someone to come a few hours a day, or something else entirely? There are adult day programs that can provide an outlet for social activities and certain therapies. Adult day programs can be used on their own or in conjunction with a home healthcare provider. You may wish to ask your elder lawyer for a list of possible facilities in the greater Nashville area or you can access statewide resources on the Tennessee Department of Human Services website.
2. Understand the difference between Home Healthcare and In-Home Care.
Home healthcare is provided to those recovering from surgery or hospitalization, or those needing continuous medical care. These services include skilled nursing care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and administration of medication. In-home care on the other hand provides ongoing non-medical assistance following illness or surgery or for chronic disease or disability.
3. Decide if you want to hire someone on your own or if you want to go through an agency.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. If you choose to do it on your own, you will likely have more say in who will be providing the direct care, as well as what services he or she will provide, but you will be responsible for handling payroll and taxes. On the other hand, an agency will be able to screen applicants thoroughly and can handle payroll and other paperwork for you.
4. Ascertain how you will pay for the home healthcare services.
An experienced elder attorney can point you toward various resources, depending on your needs. You or your loved one may have long-term care insurance set up for just this situation, or you may be looking to Medicare, Veterans Administration, and/or TennCare/Medicaid to assist with the costs. Medicare will only pay for home healthcare, but not in-home care.
One step at a time
Deciding to hire a home healthcare provider in Middle Tennessee is a big job. Break things down into manageable objectives and avoid becoming overwhelmed. At any point in the process, an experienced estate planning and elder law attorney in the Nashville area will be able to offer practical advice and suggestions. If you are unsure about what to do consider scheduling an hour-long Strategy Session and get legal advice from our attorney. We also have a planning tool called the “Care and Savings Assessment”. We use this tool to help our clients qualify for TennCare.
This week we are going to talk about why you need a medical power of attorney, even if your spouse is available to make decisions for you.
In a medical emergency, there is an assumption that your spouse would be the health care agent, make health care decisions, and deal with the hospital and doctors on your behalf. However, what happens when a spouse is separated, no longer wants to be in contact, or doesn’t agree with your health care values?
If this happened to you, would you still want them to make decisions for you? Do you want your adult children to make medical decisions for you? What if your spouse and children disagree on what type of treatment(s) you should receive? When faced with an emergency, please consider having your medical Power of Attorney already in place.
What happens if you don’t have a Medical Power of Attorney?
There are many situations that can arise when you become incapacitated or have a healthcare emergency. Even if it seems unlikely that your spouse would be disinterested in your health, it’s important to remember that your spouse may have trouble thinking clearly in an emergency or may also be seeking medical care. A medical Power of Attorney with an agent that is capable of making medical decisions, even in an emergency, can lower the risk and confusion regarding your medical decisions.
What is a Medical Power of Attorney and why you need one.
A medical Power of Attorney, also known as a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, is a document that allows you to appoint someone as an “agent” to make decisions about your health care. This agent will make decisions on your behalf if you become too ill or incapacitated. A medical Power of Attorney ensures that your wishes will be followed. We have an experienced estate planning and probate attorney here in Nashville who can help you customize these decisions and record how choices will be made.
How to choose the best Agent for your situation
When you are choosing your medical agent for your Medical Power of Attorney, it is important that you choose someone you can trust to adhere to your preferences regarding your medical care. Discuss your wishes with your agent before they need to make any care decisions. Make sure that you have confidence that your Agent will make the right decisions about things you two have not discussed.
Conclusion: Why everyone needs a Medical Power of Attorney
It is important to think about what you would want in a medical emergency. Do you want your spouse to always make decisions for you?
Designate ONE person authorized to make decisions for you if you are unable to make or communicate your wishes. Even if you want your spouse to make those decisions, it’s always a good idea to have a “backup” person. This backup person can help out with decision-making in case your spouse is unavailable when someone needs to step in.
Whatever you decide, you should have a Medical Power of Attorney. Write your power of attorney in conjunction with your advanced directive (also known as a living will). All of these documents are an important part of a well-thought-out estate plan.
Do you have a plan for emergencies? Do you want help putting your values on paper? Take our Virtual Estate Planning Challenge! This 7-part Challenge helps you brainstorm the important stuff before creating your estate plan. We had a ton of fun making it and think you’ll really benefit from it too.