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Starting the Year By Getting Your Affairs in Order

Starting the Year By Getting Your Affairs in Order

As far as we know, we only live once – and we never know when it’s going to end. It’s important to plan so you can prepare. 

You can start 2024 off strong by getting your affairs in order.

1. Create an Estate Plan

First, decide whether you want a will, a trust, or both. Some people opt for a will and a living trust, but it’s up to you what you choose. If you want an attorney to talk over your options, we’d be happy to do that!

You can also decide whether you want a durable power of attorney for finances (in case you’re not able to make financial decisions). 

2. Plan for Your Healthcare

You can also consider whether you want to create an advance directive for your care. Most advance directives have a living will and durable power of attorney for healthcare.

The living will tells doctors what kind of care you wish to accept or reject when it comes to emergency treatment, and durable power of attorney lists the person you trust for your care should you become unable to communicate. 

3. Organize Your Important Documents

Once you’ve prepared all of your important papers, organize them and put them all in one place.

Here are some examples of papers that you should keep together.

Personal Information

Personal info is needed for identification purposes and is best kept together so your family can be prepared when they need it. 

  • Social security number
  • Date and place of birth
  • Names and addresses of spouse and children
  • Location of important legal certificates (birth/death, marriage/divorce, citizenship, adoption)
  • Employers and dates of employment
  • Education and military records
  • Names and phone numbers of religious contacts
  • Group memberships, awards
  • Names and numbers of close friends, relatives, doctors, lawyers, advisors

Health Information

Emergencies happen – and when you’re not prepared, your family has to scramble to find what your medications are, etc. Keep them all in the same place and be sure that your loved ones know where to look.

  • List of any ongoing conditions and treating doctors’ names
  • Current prescriptions (keep this list up-to-date)
  • Durable power of attorney for healthcare
  • Advance directive 
  • Health insurance info, policy and phone number

Financial Information

Your finances will help family members better understand what financial resources they can draw from to help you with your care, should you need it. 

  • Sources of income/assets
  • Social security benefits information
  • Insurance info (car, home, life, long-term care) with policies and phone numbers
  • Bank and account information
  • Investment income
  • Copy of the most recent income tax return
  • Location of most up-to-date will with original signatures
  • Liabilities, including what’s owned and when payment is due
  • Mortgages/debts, how and when they’re paid
  • Original deed of trust for home
  • Car title and registration
  • Credit and debit card numbers and names
  • Safe deposit box and key number

If you’re looking for a place to keep all of these, let us know. We’re happy to offer LawSafe memberships for a reasonable rate to help keep track of all the not-so-little things that your loved ones may need if there is an emergency or end-of-life event. 

4. Talk with Your Loved Ones

Once you have everything in one place, tell your loved one where to find your information. Be sure to also tell your loved ones about your plans – you don’t want your family to find out after the fact that you’ve selected someone they don’t know as your Personal Representative!

You can also let your doctor know about advance care plans, and, if applicable, give your doctor permission to discuss your care with your family.

5. Review Plans Regularly and Update 

Once you’ve done all the hard work (it takes time getting all that paperwork together), be sure to review your plans annually. If you’ve had a major change happen, you should consider revisiting your plans as well, to make any necessary updates. 

It takes time to get your affairs in order, but it is such a relief to your loved ones when they don’t have to worry about what your wishes are. In fact, this could be your masterpiece! If you’d like to get updates like this one on a regular basis, sign up for our newsletter!

What Happens When You Aren’t Clear About Your Wishes?

What Happens When You Aren’t Clear About Your Wishes?

When you aren’t clear about your wishes, you leave a blank space for your loved ones to try to fill in. This can be incredibly stressful to them – even if you’ve expressed your wishes to them but didn’t write them down – so it’s important to know your wishes ahead of time. Learn what could happen to you if you don’t make your wishes known.

What Happens if You Become Incapacitated in Tennessee?

If you become incapacitated in Tennessee (a temporary coma, for instance,) and have no medical power of attorney set, your loved ones may have to go to court and then a judge will decide who can make medical decisions for you if you’re unable to communicate your wishes.

Trying to determine your wishes after you can no longer express them can be an extremely stressful time for your family, which is why it’s so important to communicate your wishes ahead of time, just in case anything happens to you.

What Happens if You Die without a Will or Trust in Tennessee?

If you die without a will, that is called “intestate.” This means that whatever inheritance you leave behind, including your property, is subject to Tennessee intestate succession laws. Intestate laws typically leave your property to your surviving spouse and/or children, but parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews could become eligible too.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what would happen in Tennessee if you are married or have children:

  • If you have a spouse but no children, the spouse would inherit your entire estate, even if you’re separated
  • If you have a spouse and children, the estate would be divided equally among all parties (except that the spouse can receive no less than 33% of the overall estate).
  • If you only have children, your estate would be split equally among all the children.

Keep in mind that only your biological and adopted children will inherit from you if you do not have a will. If you would like to leave part of your estate to step-children, foster children, godchildren, or other children who are close to your heart, you’ll want to make plans for that in your will or through non-probate beneficiary designations. 

Here’s what would happen if you died unmarried and without children:

  • If you have a parent, the entire estate would go to your parent(s).
  • If you have sibling(s) but no living parents, the estate will be split equally among your siblings. 
  • If you have no parents or siblings, the estate will be split equally among your siblings’ children.
  • If you’ve none of the above, the estate would be split equally among paternal and maternal aunts and uncles. 

You don’t have to die to see how this one might end if you don’t write your decisions out!

Who Makes Funeral Decisions if You Die in Tennessee?

Similar to the above, if no one has been legally designated to make funeral decisions on their loved one’s behalf, it falls to the next-of-kin, which would be the spouse or adult children. Once the family member takes responsibility for making and paying for their loved one’s funeral arrangements, they sign a legal contract that obligates the funeral home to follow instructions from that family member alone. 

Make sure you tell your family what you want so there’s a consensus during a difficult time..

What if there are no next of kin?

If there are no next of kin (as defined above) and no personal representative, any other person willing to assume responsibility and arrange the funeral (including the funeral director) can make funeral decisions, after attesting that a good faith effort has been made. As for your estate, if no family can be found it will ultimately be turned over to unclaimed property.

Don’t leave a blank space for your family members to fill in regarding your end of life wishes. Don’t keep them second-guessing. Instead, leave something that people can read like a magazine to know what you want your life – and death – to be like. 
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Get the Prenup! Safeguarding Your Future with Prenuptial Agreements

Get the Prenup! Safeguarding Your Future with Prenuptial Agreements

Getting married is an exciting time: a celebration of love and commitment, and the beginning of a new chapter together. Along with the joy and happiness, it’s important to consider the practical aspects. 

One is the prenuptial agreement, often referred to as a “prenup.” While prenuptial agreements may not be the most romantic topic to discuss, they can play a vital role in safeguarding your future together and preparing for the difficulties of marriage before you say “I do.”

Do you remember the viral Reddit post of the man who was upset when his partner wanted to share the expenses of having a child? While that couple wasn’t legally married, this is the perfect example of how to negotiate a prenup. An experienced attorney will guide you through lots of questions when discussing your options for a prenup. Think of them as ways to get closer to your future spouse, rather than preparing for a break up. 

Regardless of what personal matters you may want to address within your prenuptial document, here are the primary reasons you should consider getting one. 

1. Financial Security

One benefit of a prenuptial agreement is the financial security it provides. A prenup allows couples to have open, honest conversations about their financial expectations and obligations. 

In outlining each person’s assets, debts, and financial contributions, both parties can feel secure knowing their rights and financial interests are protected. This helps minimize conflicts and misunderstandings during the marriage. Some points to consider about prenuptial agreements include:

  • Protection of pre-marital assets: It can ensure that property or assets acquired by either party before marriage remain in their possession after a divorce.
  • Clarification of financial responsibilities: Clearly stating each party’s financial obligations during the marriage can minimize potential disputes about finances.
  • Division of marital property: A prenup can provide guidelines for the division of marital assets in case of divorce, reducing time spent on legal battles. Consider that you intend to continue making contributions to your 401k after you wed. That account will likely become a marital asset and your spouse will become entitled to part of it, even if they didn’t personally put any money in. However, your intended spouse can waive your rights to the account as part of the discussion and signing of a prenuptial agreement. 

2. Protecting Family Interests

Another benefit of a prenuptial agreement is the ability to protect family members’ interests, particularly children from previous relationships. Addressing the distribution of assets and financial responsibilities in the event of a divorce or death can ensure that children from previous relationships are provided for.

Some thoughts about protecting family interests through a prenuptial agreement:

  • Protection of inheritance rights: This can outline the distribution of assets and inheritance rights so the intended beneficiaries receive their rightful share.
  • Financial protection for minor children: When partners have children from other relationships, a prenup can offer financial security for well-being and education.
  • Stress-free estate planning: Outlining property rights and distribution can simplify the estate planning process and minimize potential family conflicts. If your family or friends have ever started to use the phrase “gold digger” about your new beloved, a prenup is a clear way to make it clear what you want for everyone in your life. 

3. Preserving Business Assets

For business owners, a prenuptial agreement can protect entrepreneurial efforts and keep business operations running smoothly. It can also help shield business assets from division during a divorce.

Considerations for business owners when it comes to prenuptial agreements:

  • Protection of business interests: Establish that the business, including its assets and future growth, is considered separate property.
  • Succession planning: With succession planning, a prenuptial agreement can ensure the smooth transition of the business in case of death or divorce.
  • Financial stability for the business: Outlining the financial responsibilities and obligations of each partner can maintain financial stability and growth.

Prenuptial agreements are not just for the wealthy or those anticipating divorce. They are valuable legal tools for couples looking to protect their individual rights and interests. By addressing important financial and family matters upfront, prenups can build a strong foundation of trust, transparency, and shared goals.

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Talking about prenuptial agreements may feel uncomfortable or unromantic, but they offer benefits for couples preparing to tie the knot. Whether it’s about financial security, protecting family interests, or preserving business assets, a prenup can lay the groundwork for a successful and harmonious marriage. 

If you’re considering a prenuptial agreement, get in touch with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process. At Graceful Aging Legal Services, we understand the significance of protecting your future together. We’re well-versed in  helping couples create prenuptial agreements that meet their unique needs. 

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10 Easy Home Changes for Aging in Place You Can Make Today

10 Easy Home Changes for Aging in Place You Can Make Today

So you’re getting older.

Don’t worry; it happens to all of us – or at least that’s the goal!  But aging doesn’t mean that you have to limit your independence or immediately check into a nursing home. It just means that you need to make a few adjustments to ensure that your home remains comfortable and safe.

Today we will go over ten simple changes that can help you avoid a Steve Urkel move and make your home an age-friendly environment.

Why Aging in Place is Important

Aging in place refers to the ability to live in your own home safely and independently, regardless of your age or ability level. It allows you to maintain your familiar surroundings and go about your everyday routines with just a few helpful changes to your home. Aging in place enables seniors to maintain their autonomy and dignity while also reducing the financial burden associated with moving to assisted living facilities.

Before You Start: Assess Your Accessibility

The first step in creating an age-friendly home should come before you ever need one. Before you need a home that’s accessible to older individuals, identify potential hazards. This includes assessing the layout, identifying tripping hazards, and evaluating essential areas such as the bathroom, kitchen, bedrooms, and living room. 

Your modifications will depend on your individual requirements. Consider your mobility, vision, hearing, and other specific needs. By understanding your needs, you can tailor your modifications to best suit your requirements for a safer living environment.

For example, if you notice you’re having trouble hearing the TV, you should consider investing in a door light. That way, if someone rings the doorbell, you won’t have to rely on hearing alone.

Ten Simple Changes You Can Make

1) Make the Bathroom a No-Slip Zone

The bathroom is a high-risk area for slips and falls. Installing grab bars near the toilet, shower, and bathtub can greatly enhance safety. Additionally, consider adding a shower bench or chair and a handheld showerhead for added convenience.

2) Keep Everything in Your Kitchen Within Reach

In the kitchen, ensure that commonly used items are within easy reach. Consider installing lower countertops and adjustable cabinets. Adding non-slip flooring and bright lighting can also make a significant difference in accessibility. Strong magnetic bars can keep knives in reach (just be sure the magnets are super strong so the knives don’t fall off the wall)!

3) Don’t Fall Out of Bed

In the bedroom, make sure the bed is at an appropriate height for easy entry and exit. Install handrails or use bedside grab bars to assist with mobility, or put a mobility device like a rollator next to your bed to help you get in and out of it. Adequate lighting near the bed and a clear pathway to the bathroom can also make a big difference for nighttime trips.

4) Clear a Walking Space in the Living Room

In the living room, arrange furniture to create clear pathways and remove any clutter that may pose a tripping hazard. Consider using sturdy, comfortable chairs with armrests to assist with standing and sitting. Adequate lighting and easy-to-reach light switches can also guarantee that you see any tripping hazards before they happen.

5) Install Grab Bars and Handrails in High-Traffic Areas

Installing grab bars and handrails throughout the home can greatly improve mobility and stability. Place them in key areas such as staircases, hallways, and entryways. Opt for sturdy, non-slip options that can support your weight.

6) Make Sure the Flooring is Non-Slip

Selecting the right flooring can significantly impact mobility. Non-slip flooring options include vinyl, cork, and rubber. Remove any loose rugs or carpets that may pose a tripping hazard, and ensure flooring transitions are smooth and level. Using cord covers near the wall (out of the walkway) will help prevent tripping over electronic cords.

7) Widen Doorways and Hallways

Widening doorways and hallways can improve accessibility for individuals with mobility aids such as walkers or wheelchairs. You may need to consult a professional contractor to assess the feasibility of making these modifications in your home.

8) Clear Up Your Entrances

Ensure that outdoor pathways and entrances are clear of obstacles. Repair any cracks, potholes, or uneven surfaces that may pose a tripping hazard. Install handrails or ramps as needed to facilitate easy entry and exit. 

Reminder: this is something you should be doing if you have one fall (or even before that). Don’t wait until you’ve had several falls to implement these tips!

9) Light Up the Room

Good outdoor lighting is essential for safety. Install motion-sensor lights near entrances and along pathways to ensure visibility at night. Consider adding solar-powered lights for energy efficiency.

10) Explore Smart Home Support

Smart home technology can greatly enhance accessibility and convenience. Consider installing voice-activated devices, smart thermostats, and automated lighting systems that can be controlled remotely.

Bonus: Medical Alert Systems/Cell Phones

Medical alert systems typically consist of a wearable panic button that can be easily activated in case of emergencies. When the button is pressed, it sends a distress signal to a monitoring center, where trained professionals can assess the situation and dispatch help if needed.

Just by adding a simple necklace or wristband to your daily outfit, you and your loved ones can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing help is just a button press away.

Another option is cell phones. If you have a loved one with mobility issues, a simple daily check-in can add to your peace of mind. (Pro tip: you can totally check-in without “checking in” – it doesn’t have to be super serious. Sending fun GIFs and saying, “I thought you’d like this!” is a great way to ensure someone’s OK without sounding like a worrywart.)

When in Doubt, Ask a Professional

Occupational therapists specialize in assessing individuals’ abilities and recommending appropriate modifications to promote independence. Consulting with an occupational therapist can provide valuable insights and personalized recommendations for what your home needs.

For more extensive modifications, such as widening doorways or installing ramps, we recommend consulting with professional contractors. Contractors who are licensed and experienced in accessible home modifications can provide valuable insight and knowledge about what works.

Financing Home Modifications

Of course, modifying your home isn’t always cheap. Review your insurance coverage to determine if any modifications may be covered, and contact your insurance provider for more information. Some insurance policies may include provisions for home modifications that improve accessibility.

There are also various grants and financial assistance programs available to help individuals fund home modifications. Research local and national resources to find potential sources of financial aid. Non-profit organizations (like Rebuilding Together Nashville) and government agencies may also offer grants or low-interest loans. (Want more info? Check out this link from Rebuilding Together!)

Embrace Aging in Place to Enjoy Your Golden Years

As we age, it is important to adapt our lifestyle to align with the changing needs of our bodies. This doesn’t mean that your lifestyle will become limited – it just means that it might look slightly different. Just think: the only thing that stands between you and successful aging in place is a bit of redecorating.

As you prepare to age in your home, you may also want to make sure you have a plan in place for your estate. Graceful Aging Legal Services is here to help you with estate planning, probate, and conservatorships. We can help you put your paperwork together and figure out what you need to truly embrace your aging in place. Contact us today to see what we can do for you!