April Harris Jackson is an Elder Law attorney based out of Nashville, TN. She is also a Chairperson of the NBA Estate Planning and Probate Committee.
You don’t have to be wealthy to benefit from creating a trust fund! Create a revocable trust with our Nashville attorney as a part of a well-thought-out estate plan. All it takes is proper planning and administration. Come learn the basics with us!
What is a Revocable Living Trust?
A revocable living trust (also known as a living trust or revocable trust) can be a great way to help your loved ones protect their wealth and pass it down to future generations. It does this by creating a legal arrangement in which assets are placed within a “trust” and managed by a trustee(s). In most cases, when you set up a revocable living trust, you are also the trustee.
Why would I want to set up a revocable living trust?
There are many benefits to setting up a revocable trust to pass on your assets. One of the main reasons someone sets up a revocable living trust is because they want 100% control over how and when the assets will be used. This provides protection for your assets and prevents mismanagement. Many people prefer to set up a trust over a will because it provides a private, and hassle-free transition of assets to the family. You can set up a trust to fund many of your family’s future financial needs. For example:
Use a trust to pay for college
Parents often wonder if they should fund their children’s college education through loans, a 529, an IRA, or a trust. There are pros and cons to each option, and it ultimately comes down to what the parents feel is best for their family. A trust can be a little more flexible and offer a way to provide a continuous flow of benefits. This is perfect for a parent that wants peace of mind when it comes to their child’s future.
Provide financial support for a person with a disability
Estate planning for someone with special needs requires a lot of consideration. A trust is a powerful tool that you can use to provide financial support. While Special Needs Trusts are unique and irrevocable, an attorney can create provisions for a revocable trust to become irrevocable after your death. Special Needs Trusts provide stability and predictability in a person’s life, allowing them to maintain financial stability after you are gone. It can also help an individual with special needs remain eligible to receive Medicaid benefits. If you are worried about supporting a person with a disability, reach out to us! Our team is here to help.
Use a trust to donate to a charity
A trust is a great way to simplify the process of donating to a charity. Using a trust to fund a charity is private and much easier to create than a foundation.
Pass down your large assets with a trust
A trust can be a great way to pass down large assets, such as a house, to loved ones without having to go through probate or other legal hassles. This is because a trust agreement creates a legal document that outlines who will own the property and how it will be managed. Certain types of trusts can also protect your assets from being taken away by creditors or the government.
Determining Whether a Trust is Needed
When creating an estate plan, one of the decisions you will have to make is whether a revocable trust is needed. If you want to do something more complicated than an outright transfer of assets at death, a revocable trust is probably right for you.
Advantages of a revocable trust
Here are some of the advantages of a revocable living trust in Nashville, TN
Avoid probate – If you’re like most people, you want to avoid your family being exposed to the lengthy process of probate court. A well-managed trust negates the need for this.
Privacy – Privacy is a cherished commodity and many of us would like to have some degree of privacy when it comes to our finances. A revocable trust can provide a way for people to have privacy while still maintaining control of their assets, even after death.
Provide for future generations- A revocable trust can distribute outright at a certain time or may provide for generations past the creator’s own children. If you have concerns about how your children or their spouses may spend their inheritance, a trust can be a way to make sure that assets are used in a prudent way and preserved for future generations.
Disadvantages of a trust
Hiring an attorney – The upfront fee of hiring an attorney can intimidate people and can be seen as a disadvantage to setting up a trust. However, the cost should not be a determining factor. An estate planning attorney will understand the legal system and its implications on your estate.
Asset accessibility – A family trust may be less accessible to beneficiaries than other types of estate plans.
Difficult to change – It can be more difficult to change or revoke a trust than a will.
Revocable living trust vs a Will – What’s the difference?
The difference between a living trust and a will is mostly timing and control.
A revocable living trust allows you to change the terms or revoke the trust. It “lives” and operates alongside you while you are alive. This is important because it gives you the ability to control your assets and make decisions about how your money is used. You can also change your mind about how your money is used or who gets access to it after you die.
A Will, on the other hand, only goes into effect after you die. It specifies to the probate court how you wish for your assets to be transferred.
A revocable living trust is designed to become irrevocable after a certain event occurs- often the death of the first spouse in a long-term marriage.
Step-By-Step Guide: How to set up a revocable living trust
Step 1: Hire an Estate Planning Attorney near you
Regardless of the size of your estate, you must get counseling from a qualified estate planning attorney in your state. While every law firm is different, most follow a process that is similar to this:
How to hire an estate planning attorney
Reach out to a law firm
At Graceful Legal Services, PLLC, we offer you the chance to see if we are the right fit for each other first. The first step is to schedule your free 15-minute call. During this call, you will discuss your needs and your situation. Our intake coordinator will let you know if we can help you and give you an estimate of the attorney’s fees. If we are a good fit, and you decide to move forward with our services, you will be invited to schedule an hour-long Strategy Session with our attorney.
Do a paid consultation with an attorney
At GALS, we offer an hour-long Strategy Session. At your Strategy Session, you get to discuss your situation with our attorney, ask questions, and share concerns. After our attorney gets all of the details, they will provide a recommendation to fit your needs. They may recommend a specific kind of trust or discourage you from making one altogether. Our firm will also provide a step-by-step plan of action that you can use to achieve your goal. In other words, get a consultation with an estate planning attorney to help you decide what is best for you based on your assets, your family situation, and your goals.
Hire an attorney to carry out your plan
After your consultation, you will know if you need to hire an attorney. Let’s assume that you do at this point. It will be up to the firm to send you their contract for legal representation. We call this a “Representation Agreement”. Once you sign the Representation Agreement and pay the retainer fee, you become a client.
A word of caution:
Please do not set up a revocable trust online or by yourself. While we would love to send people to a less expensive option, the truth is that things get so messed up when you’re dealing with trusts. Our firm has tested many of the will and trust drafting software (curiosity killed the cat, right?) and there’s a lot of room for error. You cannot imagine how messed up a trust like this could be.
The key point is this: If you are going to set up a trust, hire an estate planning attorney to discuss your options. There are rules that need to be followed in order for a trust to operate correctly.
Step 2 – Gather Information Needed to Create a Trust Document
A trust document is an important legal document that sets forth the terms and conditions of your trust. Your estate planning attorney will be responsible for the meat and potatoes of the trust document. However, you will be responsible for knowing who the players will be. You will also be responsible for outlining the assets and property you would like to place within your trust.
At GALS, we use decision-making software that makes everything easier. If you would like to get a glimpse of the software, consider taking our Virtual Estate Plan Challenge. With this 7-email series, you will be guided through thought exercises to prepare you for creating your estate plan. At the end of the challenge, you will be invited to try out the software. It costs nothing and it’s easy!
In order to understand the trust document, you need to be familiar with these legal terms:
Legal Terms in a Trust Document
Grantors are the individuals or entities who transfer assets and property to the revocable trust. A grantor is a person who signs the trust document as the initial settlor.
The person who sets up the trust. Same as the Grantor.
The person or entity who administers the trust. You can have more than one trustee but it’s not common. Sign up to watch this Webinar: It Takes Two, or Does it? if you would like to learn more about having multiple trustees or executors. The trustee you choose must be completely trustworthy. Choose your trustee wisely. If you are unsure about trusting someone you know, hire an attorney or a Trust Company to act as the administrator of the trust.
The trust document lists who will be the successor trustee in the event of incapacitation or death of the first trustee.
A beneficiary in a revocable trust is someone who receives benefits from the trust, such as income or property. The beneficiary can be an individual, business, charitable organization, or any other legal entity. A trust can have one or more beneficiaries. The beneficiaries may receive the trust property either immediately or at some later time. A trustee must distribute the trust’s assets to the beneficiary whenever the trustee determines that the beneficiary is entitled to those benefits. The beneficiary’s name(s) must appear on the trust document.
In addition to naming beneficiaries and how you will fund the trust, you will also need to outline how the trust assets will be managed and distributed. What are your terms? Do you want your children to inherit from the trust at a certain milestone or date? Do you have stipulations you would like followed? Your attorney will make suggestions of what to do.
Step 3 – Sign and notarize the trust agreement
The state of Tennessee requires that the trust agreement must be signed and notarized in person. The process of notarizing your revocable trust provides a layer of security and helps to prevent fraud. It also helps to confirm validity after the grantor dies.
Step 4 – Transfer assets into the trust
Every asset that you want in the trust needs to be transferred. This means that all titles (house, bank accounts, etc). need to be transferred and renamed to that of the trust’s name.
Setting up a family trust in Nashville is a relatively simple process that can provide a great deal of financial security for you and your loved ones. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can rest assured that your assets are well-protected.
If you are considering hiring a lawyer to set up a trust in Tennessee but are unsure if it is the right option for you, don’t hesitate to schedule your initial call with us. We can help you determine if trusts are right for you and if we can help create one that meets your specific needs. Our free 15-minute call can provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision.
Absentee Ballot Information Tennessee Election 2022
We want to remind you that it is time to request your Davidson County Tennessee Election Absentee Ballot for the election on August 4th, 2022. Your Absentee Ballot can be requested now! We recommend that the ballot be sent in the mail no later than July 28th.
The stress of leaving home and becoming an adult can be difficult for anyone. It is especially tough for college students and young adults who have to face the uncertainty of their future. They have to support themselves and are going to gain the power to make decisions on their own, for better or worse. However, there are a few legal documents that they can get to make the transition easier.
What legal documents does every college student need?
Every college student needs powers of attorney for finances, powers of attorney for medical decisions, and an advance directive for healthcare. They should also fill out a FERPA waiver so that a parent or other trusted adult can access their student records (if needed). Not only are these documents practical in getting help with the big stuff, but they are a great lesson in what “adulting” is all about.
What is a “Power of Attorney” or POA?
A power of attorney is a legal document in which the principal (the person granting the power of attorney) grants another person (the agent) the power to act on their behalf. For example, an agent could help the principal make and carry out decisions about the student’s finances, health care, and other important matters.
In most cases, we create two types of powers of attorney- one for financial issues and one for medical issues. It is important to note that the college student needs to be the one who initiates and discusses their powers of attorney with a lawyer. A parent cannot create a power of attorney document for their child.
How to choose the best agent for powers of attorney
For most young adults, the parents are the trusted partners in making important decisions. Therefore choosing a parent as an agent for power of attorney makes sense for a college student. However, it’s important that the individual assigning the powers choose what is best for their situation. Here are some things to consider:
For medical powers of attorney – choose an agent who will be able to carry out the principal’s wishes
A college student should choose an agent who will be able to make medical decisions according to their personal preferences. Who do they want to have to communicate with the hospital in an emergency? Does that person support their values and would they be able to carry them out in the event of a difficult decision?
For example, when I was in my late 20s and in law school I prepared my first advance directive. When I tried to have a conversation with my parents about what I wanted for end-of-life care, it was unfathomable to them that I would want to discuss it. I also knew that based on my wishes, it would be very difficult emotionally, if not impossible, for my parents to honor my choices. For that reason, I selected my brother and best friend as my agents. In short, a college student needs an agent who can carry out their preferences for medical care.
For financial powers of attorney – choose a responsible and trustworthy agent
A financial power of attorney agent should be trustworthy. They need to be someone who is responsible for their own finances and will put the principal’s best interest above their own.
Anyone who chooses an untrustworthy agent would risk losing all of their savings. What’s to stop an agent from draining a bank account and running off to Fiji? While this is an extreme example, and there are legal remedies for someone who abuses their power like that, it is better to not have to deal with that happening.
What is an “Advance Directive” and why does a college student need one?
An advance directive is a written statement by a patient or their legal representative that outlines their wishes for medical treatment in the event of incapacity or death. Every college student should take the time to document their preferences for medical-related decisions.
For example: In a medical emergency does the individual want CPR if their heart stops? Do they want a ventilator if they cannot breathe on their own? What about a feeding tube or life support?
Although nobody wants to think of these scenarios, it is helpful to have these decisions spelled out. It’s stressful for friends and family to make these types of medical decisions.
I want to make it perfectly clear: Having an advance directive is important for everyone to have, no matter their age or health. It is also important to review advance directives through each stage of life. The treatments that we want at age 30 or 40 may not seem like such a great idea as we reach into our 90s or 100s.
What’s the difference between a power of attorney and an advance directive?
It’s easy to see why people confuse a power of attorney with an advance directive. So, what is the difference? A power of attorney grants an agent the ability to act on behalf of a principal, should they become incapacitated. An advance directive for healthcare, on the other hand, specifically addresses what someone wants if they are unable to make decisions for themselves. It is a written record of what to do (and not to do) in an emergency or end-of-life scenario.
When does a power of attorney or advance directive go into effect?
There is a lot of flexibility when it comes to the terms of a financial power of attorney. A limited power of attorney can go into effect when a specific event happens, such as incapacitation. There are also terms that make a power of attorney go into effect immediately. A qualified attorney can create a power of attorney to suit anyone’s situation.
When it comes to medical care, a healthcare provider will always make an attempt to communicate with the patient first. In the case of incapacity or impaired judgment, however, a doctor will communicate with the medical agent or refer to an advance directive instead. For example, let’s say a patient is in a coma or under anesthesia. The doctor will refer to a medical agent or advance directive when making a time-sensitive decision for their care.
*Click here to learn more about when a POA goes into effect.
Powers of attorney and advance directives are useful at any stage of life
Powers of attorney and advance directives are useful, no matter the age or stage of life a person is in. While most older adults have powers of attorney and advance directives in their estate plan, a younger adult could make use of them too! For example, a college student can give powers of attorney to their parents and create an advance directive just in case they need help. These legal documents can help the student navigate the essential functions of “adulting” like managing bills, health and property insurance, leases, and more. Additionally, in the event of a tragedy, a medical power of attorney will allow the parent to make decisions on the child’s behalf. This is why it’s important to have powers of attorney and advance directives in place, no matter the stage in life.
Hire an attorney to draft a power of attorney
Although there are forms online for creating powers of attorney, having a lawyer draft your document will ensure that it complies with all the legal requirements set forth by the state. Online forms can fall short of holding up in court. With an insufficient power of attorney, or a lack of one at all, a family may have to fight for their loved ones’ wishes in court. The process of going to court under these circumstances is painful, expensive, and time-consuming. Most people want to avoid putting this kind of stress on their families.
Anyone can make their own advance directive
While the subject matter is difficult to think about, the process of creating an advance directive is easy. Just download the form online and prepare it at home. There’s no need for an attorney. To make the advance directive legal, sign it in front of a notary or two witnesses. For your convenience, we’ve included a link to the Tennessee Advance Directive for Healthcare form here. As a courtesy to our clients, our firm will include the preparation of advance directives, along with a notary, as a part of the flat-rate estate planning package or the “Adulting Package”.
Powers of attorney, advance directives for healthcare, and a FERPA waiver are documents that every college student should have. They are among the many important decisions a college student will make during their lifetime. It’s never too early to prepare for life’s unknowns.
GALS offers an ”Adulting” gift certificate for college students!
Looking for the perfect graduation gift? A gift certificate to our “Adulting” package is a great way to help prepare a young adult for life’s “what-ifs”. In addition to legal counseling, this package includes powers of attorney for finances, powers of attorney for medical care, a FERPA waiver, and an advance directive with a notary. Click here to buy your gift certificate. All you need is the name and email address of the recipient and we will take care of the rest!
The reason to create a last will and testament is simple: it provides a way to give the people you have left behind instructions for your assets and belongings after you die. However, how you create that will can be a little more complex. While you aren’t technically required to hire a lawyer to draft a will, failing to do so can lead to costly problems for your family and others.
For Example: the Estate of James M. McKinney
To illustrate an example let me share with you a story about the Estate of James M. McKinney (Tennessee Court of Appeals Opinion dated June 9, 2022). In this case, a man created a will online without consulting an attorney. Unfortunately, the gentleman listed only one of his two daughters in the online form. However, the will had language that left his property to “all of his living children”. Because the language was unclear in the online will form, both daughters have found themselves unsure of their inheritance.
While the most recent decision has said that both daughters inherit under the online will, there is no clarity on whether that is what their father actually intended. This serves as an important reason why it’s important to hire an attorney in the first place. Both women have already spent two years of their lives, as well as a lot of energy on this case. The cost of an attorney to guide you in preparing your will and estate planning documents is much less expensive than what your family will spend to challenge an inaccurately drafted will in court. We’re guessing that Mr. McKinney wanted one, or both, of his daughters to inherit money from him, instead of their lawyers. Things would have been easier for his family if he used a lawyer to write a Will for him.
While the legal requirements of a will vary by state, some allow you to make a handwritten will, called a “holographic” will. However, it is more common for people to type their will. A typed will is easier to read and has a cleaner look. One of the drawbacks of a handwritten will is it often requires handwriting verification in court. While a Tennessee will prepared by an attorney can usually be admitted to probate without the need for any witnesses, a holographic will with the same provisions will require two witnesses who can identify the will-maker’s handwriting to come to court. Keeping in mind how much we type and text these days, we expect it will be more and more difficult to find these types of witnesses as time goes on.
Online Will software
Many services have popped up that offer do-it-yourself-will software and other legal documents. These services might work fine if you are a single individual and have little or no property. However, the rest of the population should not use these programs. Now we’re not making this statement because we’re in the will-making business. We want you to know that there are risks involved when attempting to create legal documents on your own, whether it’s a will or a business agreement. With a will, you will not be able to make any corrections if there are mistakes since it is a post-death document. Even Consumer Reports concluded that none of the will-writing products was likely to entirely meet a person’s needs unless those needs are extremely simple. In short, using a professional to write a Will is a better option.
You get what you pay for
If you read the fine print on the DIY will form, you will notice that there is no legal advice. There is no attorney-client relationship! And if you want to talk to an attorney, you are going to pay extra for it. Even if you pay for an attorney from the software company to speak with you, they may not even be licensed in your state! The saying “buy nice or buy twice” comes to mind here. While you think you’re saving on legal fees by using online software, you may have to pay for an attorney to advise you anyways. And what if the document falls short? You’ll have to pay an attorney to either fix it or start over. In other words, if you are going to do it yourself, be prepared to pay someone to fix it.
At Graceful Aging Legal Services, even if your needs are simple, we want to help you find a way to make the process easier for your family. This is what most of our families are really looking for. Our firm can guide you and your family through the process both before and after death.
Getting legal advice from an attorney is so important
Everyone’s situation is unique. If you aren’t well-versed in elder law, why would you chance making a legal document without consulting an attorney? Attorneys are called “counsel” for a reason! It just makes sense to consult an attorney to make sense of your assets in regard to your situation. You’ve worked so hard, why would you take risks with what you’ve built over your lifetime. You need a lawyer to definitively determine whether or not your needs are indeed simple. Here is a sample of the questions to consider:
Do you know if your estate is expected to be taxable under state or federal law?
Do you own significant amounts of tax-deferred retirement plans?
Is there anything about your estate that is unusual, such as having children from a previous marriage or a dependent who lives with a disability?
If you have any questions about your estate plan, you need to see a lawyer!
An attorney makes the process easier
Even if your needs are simple, an estate planning lawyer who practices in probate court could help you find a way to make the process easier on your family. This is what most of our clients and their families are really looking for. A legal form found online or at the office supply store will not be able to guide you through the process like an attorney can.
The best lawyer to hire to help you create a solid estate plan is someone who can help hold your family together during the probate process. That’s what we want, it’s what our clients want. Probate is stressful, but we love helping our estate planning clients ease that stress for their families in advance.
Not hiring a lawyer to write your will can lead to problems that drag your estate out in a lengthy court process, which is expensive and stressful for your family. We want your family to benefit from your estate. Our attorney, April, decided to enter into estate planning practice after the probate of a loved one became contested. You don’t want to put your family through that. You can count on our experiences to guide us in creating a peaceful plan for you and your family.
If you are on the fence about having an attorney draft your Will, consider taking our Virtual Estate Plan Challenge. This 7 email series will walk you through the decisions you need to make regarding your assets and property.
When you think of marriage, you likely think of doves, flowers, white dresses, cake, and eternal love, right? When a lawyer thinks of marriage they think of something a little less romantic: contracts! I know it’s not exciting to think of your upcoming nuptials as a contract, but hey, it is what it is. Why not set aside your weird feelings about it and define the financial terms of the marriage instead. Think of a prenuptial agreement as an extra document in your estate plan.
What is a prenuptial agreement?
A prenuptial agreement (better known as a prenup) is a legal document that couples enter into before getting married. This agreement sets out the terms and conditions of what happens if the couple splits up. It can be something as simple as specifying how property will be divided or who will financially support whom in the event of a break-up.
A will vs a prenup
A will and a prenup are very similar. Both are legal documents that set forth the wishes of an individual regarding their estate. Like a will, a prenup can also address a surviving spouse’s rights upon the death of the other spouse. Spouses may choose to waive their inheritance rights entirely or specify what each spouse should receive upon the death of the other.
Best practices for obtaining a prenuptial agreement
Follow these steps if you want your agreed-upon inheritance rights upheld in court.
Before the Save the Dates
It is best to begin the prenuptial agreement process long before your desired wedding date. Waiting until the week or even the month before your wedding may indicate to a future court that the agreement was signed under duress and should not be enforced.
Both parties must disclose all of their assets and liabilities to each other. You should gather your most recent records for any stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, checking and savings accounts, and even an appraisal for your house and car. Make a list of any student loans, personal loans to family or friends, mortgage debt, and car loans. If you do not disclose all of your assets and liabilities, your prenuptial agreement may be invalidated by the court.
After the Honeymoon
After you have signed your prenuptial agreement and married your spouse, your attorney may advise you to record your prenuptial agreement with the clerk’s office. While this is a great option to ensure you will always have access to a copy of your prenup, it is important to note that if recorded, your prenup will become a public record. A more private alternative would be for each spouse to keep a copy of the agreement in a fire and waterproof lockbox with other important documents.
Create an estate plan after the marriage
Shortly after your marriage, you should create or update each of your estate plans with your marital status. Update the estate plans again if you have children.
In conclusion: A prenuptial agreement is financially smart
Prenups are becoming more popular and are perfect for young couples who are still learning how to navigate being an adult in this world. Overall, a prenuptial agreement is not an indication that your or your spouse believes the marriage will fail; instead, it lays a strong financial foundation for the marriage. Both parties walk away feeling protected and confident that there will be no ambiguity or surprises later in life.
If you are not sure if a prenup is right for your situation, consider reaching out to our office. Our attorney can help you figure out what to do. Book your free 15-minute initial call now!