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April Harris Jackson

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Preserving Your Legacy: Exploring the Transfer of Estate Assets

Preserving Your Legacy: Exploring the Transfer of Estate Assets

Everyone’s heard about it: a celebrity dies and their relatives come out of the woodwork, insisting that they deserve some piece of the estate. Even though most of us aren’t celebrities, it happens in otherwise happy families too, so let’s talk about what you can do to prevent it. 

In fact, it happened in April’s family and led her to work with clients to prevent this exact scenario. By planning ahead for the transfer of your estate assets, you can ensure that your loved ones needs are met and that your hard-earned assets are protected for those you intend to get them!

This blog post will help you keep the peace, even after you’re gone.

Identifying Assets

Identifying and understanding how your assets pass after your death is one of the most important aspects of estate planning. This includes a review of any real estate that you own so that you can transfer it to your heirs

Other assets to consider when making an estate plan include bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies.  Assigning beneficiaries for these types of accounts helps transfer assets quickly and smoothly but needs to be done in the context of your plan as a whole. 

It’s also important to think about succession plans for any businesses where you have a role as an owner or investor. Valuable belongings, like jewelry, artwork, and sentimental items should be properly allocated in your will, trust, or even before you die as part of your estate plan. By identifying these assets you can create a well-rounded estate plan that safeguards your legacy, alleviates burdens for your loved ones, and ensures the effective execution of your intentions.

Choosing Beneficiaries

Our firm is probably a little different than most when it comes to naming beneficiaries. Most people will leave everything to a spouse and children, which is good because you can’t disinherit your spouse or minor children in the State of Tennessee. 

However, outside of that, you’ll hear April tell everyone “No one is entitled to an inheritance.” (Yes, she tried to talk her own parents out of the typical distribution plan.)  If you are part of a historically marginalized community, it may be important to you to pass on generational wealth, and that’s a great plan!  

But there’s also nothing wrong with bypassing your immediate family in favor of a charitable organization that works towards a mission that you feel strongly about. Since Eliza Hamilton married one orphan and adopted another (in addition to founding the first private orphanage in New York City), it would have made sense for her to donate some of her fortune (were any of it left) to the orphanage upon her passing. 

While pets can’t inherit outright in Tennessee, don’t forget that you can set up a pet trust to care for them when you’re gone or leave money to someone as your furry friend’s “caretaker.”  You may also have close friends or more remote family members that you want to leave gifts to. 

Remember, there are no “wrong” beneficiaries, except maybe Warren Buffett. The Oracle of Omaha has enough already- and he’s leaving it to charity! 

Getting legal documentation in order will help prevent misunderstandings and disputes about your assets. Regularly reviewing and updating your choices guarantees your intentions align with evolving circumstances. For example, if your favorite nephew developed a severe gambling addiction, you may not want to allocate as much of your estate to him. When choosing beneficiaries, you want to reflect your values and leave a lasting positive impact on your loved ones and the causes you support.

Considering Taxes

Tax responsibilities are an inevitable part of life, and they can occur in death too. 

Understanding estate taxation and knowing tax thresholds can help you determine the taxes your estate may be subject to. A firm grasp of tax thresholds can help you create a plan that helps you maximize the distributions to your beneficiaries, rather than the government. 

For most Tennesseans, taxes will need to be paid on your income from the final year of your life, and withdrawals from any retirement accounts that were tax-deferred, like 401ks and traditional IRAs. However, since 2016, Tennessee does not have an estate tax and the federal estate tax only applies to estates that have multiple millions of dollars. The federal estate tax limit changes sometimes, so you’ll want to consult with an attorney about your tax exposure – and maybe follow our newsletter for updates.  *wink* 

Some strategies can help you reduce your tax liability, helping your beneficiaries in the long run. For example, making gifts or transferring assets during your lifetime can reduce the value of your taxable estate, but should be discussed with an attorney first. 

By aligning your estate planning with tax thresholds, you can ensure your loved ones receive the maximum inheritance possible while preserving and passing on your wealth and intentions to future generations.

Updating and Reviewing Your Estate Plan

Regularly keeping your estate plan up to date is crucial to ensure your goals are met. It’s important to review it every few years so that you can make necessary adjustments based on changes in your life. 

Life events like marriages, births, divorces, or financial changes may require updates to beneficiary designations or how your assets are allocated. If Junior’s wife divorced him for his best friend, you’re probably not going to want to give her part of your estate. 

If you move, make investments, or start a business venture, it’s also an idea to reassess your plan. You’ll want to have a clear plan in place if you die while owning a business – without a succession plan in place, you have no control over what happens to your business after you die.

A flexible estate plan takes into account evolving family dynamics, financial situations, and personal goals so that your intentions are consistently honored. 

Seeking Professional Assistance

Wading through estate planning with no experience is extremely overwhelming. A lot of care is required, in addition to an in-depth knowledge of the laws and your rights. An experienced estate planning attorney brings legal expertise to the table, aiding in the creation and validation of documents like wills and trusts. 

Working with a Tennessee estate planning attorney ensures your estate is customized according to your desires and adheres to relevant laws. You’ll be better equipped to organize your assets, plan investments, and ensure a smooth transition for your family. Together you can navigate complexities and come up with an estate plan that honors your legacy.

Preserve Your Legacy with Graceful Aging Legal Services

At Graceful Aging Legal Services, we have caring and knowledgeable estate planners who can help you direct your assets to the people and causes that are most important in your life. For more information about estate planning and how it can help you preserve your legacy, contact us. We’re dedicated to providing you with the guidance and support you need to navigate the complexities of estate planning.

Navigating the Complexities of Conservatorship: A Comprehensive Guide

Navigating the Complexities of Conservatorship: A Comprehensive Guide

Conservatorship is a legal status granted by a court to a person to manage financial and/or personal affairs for another person. Conservatorships are typically used to give a family member or close friend the legal authority to make legal decisions on behalf of someone with a disability. This may include a special needs adult child, a person living with dementia, or other medical conditions that impact day-to-day life., etc. The person granted the conservatorship is known as the conservator, and the person whose affairs are managed is called the conservatee. (You may also see them referred to as the “ward” or “respondent” in a legal context.) 

Conservators are appointed for many reasons, including a variety of medical conditions, inability to recognize fraud, or if a power of attorney document is invalidated or abused. With great ability comes great accountability, so it’s important that conservators carefully adhere to their legal obligations. Conservatorship is overseen by the courts, so transparency and accountability are vital. A conservator can hold extensive legal power concerning the conservatee’s financial and personal life. 

Types of Conservatorship

There are multiple options for establishing a conservatorship, and each one impacts what that conservator or conservatee is responsible for and capable of doing after a conservatorship is granted. The semi-recent dispute between Britney Spears and her father brought to light everything that can go wrong in a conservatorship. If you wondered about what type of legal proceeding Britney was involved in, below is a list of different types of conservatorship. At one point or another, Britney was involved in each of them under the California case. 

Here’s what the equivalent cases look like in Tennessee: 

  • Conservatorship over the Person: In a conservatorship over the person, the conservator has complete control over the conservatee’s health and physical life, including healthcare and living arrangements. This includes deciding what treatments the conservatee undergoes, whether they’re placed in a care community, etc.
  • Conservatorship over the Property: In a conservatorship over the property, the conservator has complete control of the conservatee’s financials, including bill payment, day-to-day cash flow, and management of all financial accounts. When this type of conservatorship is granted, the conservatee only has access to their financial accounts with authorization from the court.
  • General Conservatorship: A general conservatorship is comprehensive, giving the conservator complete control of the conservatee’s person, property,  and all other significant life decisions. This is the type of conservatorship that is appropriate for most families. 
  • Traditional Conservatorship: Traditional  conservatorships are expected to last for the lifetime of the conservatee. Terminating a traditional conservatorship can occur if a conservatee can legally prove they no longer need assistance. In fact, the conservator has a duty to notify the Court if assistance is no longer needed under the requirement that a conservatorship should be the “least restrictive alternative” able to protect and provide for the conservatee. 
  • Emergency Conservatorship: An emergency  conservatorship is limited to a time period of 60 days for the purpose of addressing urgent or specific needs of the conservatee during a short period, for example if someone had immediate injuries from an accident but was expected to recover. It is not unusual for these types of conservatorships to be used while the urgent matter is resolved and then converted into a traditional conservatorship. 

Establishing a Conservatorship

The first step involves discussing your situation with an attorney who practices probate law in your area. Based on your understanding of your loved one’s condition, the attorney will be able to discuss your options. If they recommend that a conservatorship is appropriate, they will then walk you through which type of conservatorship would be best and next steps. 

 Once you hire an attorney, the next steps usually involve obtaining medical proof of the need for a conservatorship, known in Tennessee as a “Report of Physician.” The more medical and financial information you can provide about the intended conservatee, the easier this will make your case (and less expensive!). 

The process for petitioning the court for conservatorship can vary depending on the state. An experienced attorney will help you navigate through the complexities of this procedure, providing insight and clarity about legal proceedings.

The Role of the Conservator

Being a conservator requires responsibilities for the well-being of the person under conservatorship. Because most conservators manage both the person and property of the conservatee, this means handling bill payments, making investment decisions, applying for eligible benefits, making healthcare choices, and ensuring their welfare. The conservator’s duty is to act in the best interest of the individual under their care by considering the conservatee’s needs and as well as their preferences when making decisions.

Conservators are expected to adhere to specific guidelines and regulations set by local laws and courts. In Tennessee, conservators are required to file regular updates on the financial and medical status of the conservatee.  They also must seek court approval for certain matters, like selling valuables or making big ticket purchases (usually over $500.00).  It is essential to maintain records of all transactions concerning the assets and finances of the person under conservatorship.

These duties add a layer of transparency, protection, and accountability, and alert the court to set a conservatorship for review hearing when there are concerns or significant changes to the situation.

To effectively provide support and assistance, conservators must have an understanding of the physical well-being of the individual under conservatorship. Professional evaluations will be helpful in identifying any healthcare needs. When making decisions on behalf of the conservatee, conservators should consider the stated values, preferences, and wishes of the conservatee, but may ultimately have to make a decision that the conservatee is unhappy with. 

Understanding the Conservatee

A thorough understanding of the conservatee’s mental and physical health is vital to help determine the level of support and assistance needed. Maintaining an open line of communication with medical providers will help identify specific healthcare needs. If a conservatee has existing healthcare providers, such as a primary care physician, the conservator should begin working with those providers so long as they can work together in the best interest of the conservatee. 

Whenever possible, involving the conservatee in decision-making throughout the process can help ensure their dignity and autonomy are respected. In the same way that a ghostwriter is expected to write as the client wishes, a conservator is expected to make decisions that align most with what the conservatee wants and needs. It’s not about the conservator, after all – it’s about ensuring that the conservatee is well cared for. 

The Conservatorship Process

To become a conservator in Tennessee, you must first file a petition with the court that handles probate matters in the county where the proposed conservatee lives. This is done through the court clerk. In most Tennessee counties, conservatorships are heard in Chancery Court, although they may also be heard in Circuit Court or General Sessions Court. 

Most local rules will require you to work with an attorney to file a conservatorship.  Choose an attorney who has experience handling conservatorship matters, who understands your goals, and who is a good personality fit for you. Once the conservatorship is set up, you will continue working with your attorney until the conservatorship is terminated, so it’s good to find someone who you can work with for the long term. Your attorney will collect information about you, your family, and the proposed conservatee in order to prepare the petition. If you have knowledge about the conservatee’s medical and financial situation, you will want to provide that information to your attorney as soon as possible. The court reviews the petition and appoints a Guardian ad litem (or “guardian for the case”)  to investigate the facts laid out in the petition. At this point, they will usually set the hearing on the petition for about 45-60 days after the petition is filed. 

The Guardian ad litem acts as the “eyes and ears of the Court.” They will interview you, speak with the proposed conservatee, review medical and financial records, and talk to other people who may have information about the situation, such as relatives or neighbors.  Their job is to answer two questions. One, does the proposed conservatee need a conservatorship?  Two, if a conservatorship is needed, who should serve as the conservator?  The Guardian ad litem will make a written report to the Court on these two questions and may also make other recommendations, such as how much an insurance bond should be set for, whether property should be sold, or other matters relating to the appointment of a conservator. 

During court hearings, the judge considers all relevant evidence. Judges are only allowed to consider evidence that is considered “admissible,” so your attorney may ask you to help gather certain records depending on what challenges they expect.  Remember that the proposed conservatee has certain rights under due process, and may have an attorney appointed for them to challenge the conservatorship if they do not think it is needed.  Other family members may also get involved. This is why it is so important to work with your attorney to anticipate and prepare for the hearing. 

If the court determines a conservatorship is in the conservatee’s best interest, the judge will enter an Order appointing a conservator. At that point, the conservator assumes the responsibilities and duties outlined by the court and carries them out. Again, they do this keeping in mind the best interest and preferences of the conservatee – even if this means going against what they would personally choose to do in a similar situation. 

Managing Finances and Assets

Conservators are responsible for managing the conservatee’s finances and assets. Financial management includes:

  • Creating a budget that aligns with the conservatee’s needs and resources.
  • Ensuring all necessary expenses are covered.
  • Making financial decisions to preserve and grow the conservatee’s assets, including investment decisions.

Ensuring the Well-being of the Conservatee

Conservators play a role in ensuring that the conservatee has access to healthcare and they are empowered to make important medical decisions on behalf of the conservatee. They are responsible for selecting doctors, scheduling appointments, consulting with healthcare providers, advocating for the conservatee’s healthcare needs, and utilizing health insurance and other benefits appropriately. 

It is important for conservators to be familiar with the services and resources available to conservatees in their community. These resources may include government assistance programs, support groups, counseling services, and educational materials. By connecting the conservatee with these resources, conservators can promote their well-being. This ultimately improves their quality of life.

Termination of Conservatorship

There are situations in which a conservatorship can come to an end. For instance, if the person under conservatorship shows improvement in their condition and regains their ability to make decisions. The more common reason to terminate a conservatorship is when the conservatee dies

Terminating a conservatorship is a process that usually involves filing a motion  with the court and presenting evidence and documents to support the request. It typically requires a hearing. 

If the conservatee is asking for the conservatorship to be lifted because their situation has improved, the court will assess whether there is sufficient evidence for termination, considering what is in the best  interest and well-being of the person under conservatorship. Often times if a person is no longer in need of a conservatorship, their conservator will work with them and the court to terminate the conservator and allow them to sign a Power of Attorney instead. 

Graceful Aging Legal Services

Do you need help navigating the complexities of conservatorship? Graceful Aging Legal Services offers comprehensive legal assistance for adults. Contact us today if you need help with estate planning, wills, trusts, or understanding conservatorship. Our experienced team is ready to help your family.

Smart Money Practices for the Newly Married

Smart Money Practices for the Newly Married

Newly Married

Have you said ‘I do’ recently and are beginning the exciting journey of wedded bliss? Understandably, as a newly consolidated duo, estate planning techniques might not top your list. But did you know the importance financial management and estate planning holds in safeguarding your shared future? Let us guide you to financial serenity and legal obligation smoothening activities.

We understand that marriage is a joyous milestone, and with it comes the excitement of starting a new life together. However, it also brings a range of financial and legal responsibilities that may require careful consideration. As two lives intertwine, so do their finances and assets. Proper financial and estate planning not only allows newlyweds to manage their money effectively but also ensures the protection and distribution of their assets should the unexpected occur. By taking proactive steps now, couples can safeguard their financial interests and pave the way for a prosperous journey together.

Key Financial Factors

Combining finances can foster transparency, build trust, and simplify money management. However, it’s essential to address individual financial habits, expectations, and goals to create a seamless financial partnership. While you may not choose to place all your money into joint accounts, creating a joint account for shared expenses might be a good place to start. Work with your partner to craft a budget that aligns with both of your priorities and allows you to save for future goals. Don’t forget to set aside funds for personal interests, too. 

With marriage also comes the need to reassess insurance coverage. Do your existing policies provide adequate protection for both of you and any dependents? Regardless of outside employment, be sure to take into account the work each spouse does around the home and what it might cost to replace that in the event of an accident or incapacity. Take this time to also review beneficiary designations on these accounts to help safeguard each other’s financial well-being and ensure your policies are set up how you would like them to be. 

Many of us carry debt, and when we get married, it comes too! Addressing existing debts requires planning and coordination. Which debts will be shared and which will be tackled individually? We recognize that managing joint debts can be a delicate task, but it’s an important topic to create a plan for as soon as you can. 

Action Items:

  • Discuss how you want to manage your finances- joint, separate, or a combo?
  • Evaluate and consolidate insurance policies- life, health, home, auto, etc.
  • Review and update beneficiary designations on insurance and retirement accounts
  • Discuss plan to address debts brought into the marriage and how you plan to handle debt during your marriage

Key Legal Considerations

Though it might not feel urgent, now is a great time to create or update your estate plan! Creation of a Last Will & Testament ensures that each spouse’s wishes regarding asset distribution are carried out after their passing. One common misconception is that your assets automatically pass to your spouse after your death; this is not always the case, but a will can help ensure that your wishes are followed. 

Another crucial part of your estate plan are the Power of Attorney documents. Used in the event you are unable to make financial or healthcare decisions for yourself, these documents allow a trusted individual to act on your behalf. While you are not required to name your spouse as your Power of Attorney, it is an easy way to empower them to act in the event of an unexpected emergency. These documents can be written in a way that clearly defines a Power of Attorney’s role and abilities, and they should be reviewed regularly. 

Action Items:

  • Create or update your will or trust to address your new marital status
  • Create or update your powers of attorney

Key Tax Considerations

The last major consideration after getting married is in regards to tax planning. There are a variety of tax filing statuses available for married couples, and if you are married as of December 31, the law says you were married for the whole year for tax purposes. If you are planning to change your name after marriage, be sure to report it to the Social Security Administration as soon as possible. Your name on your tax return must match what is on file at the SSA; if it doesn’t, it could delay your refund! 

Another thing to review are your withholding amounts. Newly married couples must give their employers a new Form W-4 within 10 days of their marriage. If both spouses work, you may move into a higher tax bracket. The Tax Withholding Estimator on the IRS website is a great tool to use as you complete your new W-4. Proper tax planning can lead to substantial savings! 

Action Items:

  • Change your name on all relevant government documents if you plan to
  • Consider whether taxes will be filed jointly or separately
  • Update your tax documents with your employer

Proper financial and estate planning is an essential step for newlyweds to set the stage for a secure and prosperous future together. By understanding and addressing the financial changes that come with marriage, establishing a comprehensive estate plan, and optimizing their tax situation, couples can embark on their journey hand-in-hand, prepared for whatever life may bring. Being proactive today brings peace of mind for tomorrow! 

If you’re ready to take the next step as a couple, click here to schedule an initial call with our office. We’d love to work with you as you create your estate plan and set goals for your life together!

Proactive Steps to Provide a Secure Future for Your Special Needs Child

Secure Future for Your Special Needs Child

Being a parent to a special needs child is a journey filled with unique joys, challenges, and responsibilities. As you navigate the intricacies of caring for your child’s specific needs, it’s crucial to plan ahead to ensure their well-being and quality of life in the years to come. By taking proactive steps and establishing a comprehensive plan, you can provide a secure future and peace of mind for both you and your special needs child.

We will explore essential considerations and practical strategies to help you plan ahead for your special needs child. From financial planning to legal arrangements and support networks, we want to guide you through the process of creating a holistic plan that addresses your child’s specific needs.

  1. Understand Your Child’s Needs: Start by gaining a thorough understanding of your child’s unique challenges and abilities. Consult with healthcare professionals, therapists, and educators who can provide valuable insights and assessments about how your child’s medical condition is likely to affect their development. It’s important to understand your child’s medical condition as it currently is, as well as how it will progress over the coming years. This knowledge will form the foundation of your planning process, helping you identify the areas where your child requires additional support and assistance.
  2. Create a Financial Plan: Financial planning is crucial when it comes to securing your child’s future. Explore resources such as government assistance programs, insurance options, and special needs trusts. Consider working with a financial advisor experienced in special needs planning to develop a comprehensive financial strategy that accounts for long-term care, education, therapy, and other necessary expenses. One great option in Tennessee is an ABLE account – this savings/investment account is exclusively for disabled individuals and does not count against benefits that may have financial restrictions. 
  3. Establish a Legal Framework: Ensure you have the appropriate legal arrangements in place to protect your child’s interests. This includes creating a special needs trust, designating a guardian or caregiver, and documenting wishes for medical decisions. Consult with an attorney experienced in special needs law to ensure your legal documents align with your child’s specific requirements and comply with local regulations. 
  4. Build a Support Network: Seek out support networks and connect with other parents and families who have special needs children. They can provide valuable guidance, emotional support, and share resources and insights. Additionally, explore local organizations, advocacy groups, and community services that cater to the needs of special needs individuals. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that you are taking care of yourself! Organizations like Tennessee Respite Coalition can work with you to create a plan to rest and recharge, which all parents need but becomes more important for you to be fully present when you are with your child. Building a strong support network will not only benefit your child but also provide you with a sense of community.
  5. Plan for Transitioning into Adulthood: As your special needs child approaches adulthood, it is important to plan for their transition into independent living or alternative arrangements. Explore vocational training, employment opportunities, and housing options that are tailored to their needs. Investigate government programs that offer support and services for adults with special needs, ensuring a smooth transition into adulthood. When your child turns eighteen, you will want to discuss with your attorney whether a conservatorship is needed in order for you to continue having legal decision-making authority or if your child can engage in supported decision-making to ensure that you can continue to help them as your family continues to navigate benefits and resources that are available to them. 
  6. Regularly Review and Update Your Plan: As your family gets older each year, you will need to anticipate the financial, emotional, and social needs of your special needs child, yourself, and anyone else that you care for.  Your child may have siblings who should begin to be included in a care plan as they become adults. Many adult siblings or other family members provide care and guidance when a special needs child loses their parents. Your child’s needs, circumstances, and available resources will change over time. Therefore, it’s essential to review and update your plan periodically. Stay informed about new laws and regulations that may impact your child’s benefits or financial planning. Regularly reassess your financial situation, adjust your goals, and ensure that your plan remains relevant and effective.

Planning ahead for your special needs child requires careful consideration and proactive action. By understanding your child’s needs, creating a comprehensive financial plan, establishing legal arrangements, building a support network, and planning for their transition into adulthood, you can ensure a secure and fulfilling future for your child.

If you are ready to learn more about your legal options and requirements when it comes to caring for your special needs child, especially as they reach adulthood, click here to schedule an initial call with our office. Speaking with an experienced attorney can help provide peace of mind as you continue caring for your child and planning for their future. 

Remember, you are not alone on this journey. Reach out to professionals, support groups, and organizations specializing in special needs care. Their expertise, guidance, and shared experiences can provide invaluable support as you navigate the path of planning for your special needs child’s future. Embrace the opportunities to advocate for your child, empower yourself with knowledge, and take the necessary steps to create a solid plan that supports their unique needs. By planning ahead, you can provide a stable and loving environment where your special needs child can thrive and reach their full potential.

A Parent’s Guide to Guardianship throughout All Stages of Life

A Parent's Guide to Guardianship throughout All Stages of Life

Becoming a parent is a journey filled with immeasurable love and joy, but it also comes with the responsibility of safeguarding your child’s well-being. While we strive to protect our children from harm, life can be unpredictable, and it is essential to plan for their future. One aspect that often requires thoughtful consideration is guardianship – the legal and practical arrangements for your child’s care in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

Guardianship is a topic that can be challenging to approach, as it forces us to confront difficult scenarios. However, by proactively thinking about guardianship at different stages of your child’s life, you can ensure their continued safety, care, and stability should anything happen to you or the other parent.

For example, let’s say a woman named Lorelai has a daughter named Rory. Rory’s dad, Christopher, is very irresponsible and is in and out of Rory’s life. 

When Rory is 5, Lorelai is in a horrible accident.  Fortunately, she has lots of life insurance to care for Rory in just this scenario.  Unfortunately, Tennessee law makes Christopher Rory’s guardian and Lorelai did not have any documents providing for who should handle Rory’s money until she becomes an adult. Rory now goes to live with Rory and Christopher’s new girlfriend, Sherry, who promptly enrolls her in boarding school in Switzerland. The Court also  rules that Christopher, as Rory’s dad, gets control of the money that Lorelai left for her. 

 

Christopher means well, but he uses Rory’s money to pay for things that Lorelai wouldn’t approve of, such as a pony, a sidecar for his motorcycle, boarding school and other things that are fun.  As a result, when Rory graduates high school, there is no money left for her trip to Fez or college tuition.

Lorelai’s parents, Emily and Richard, end up having to pay for Rory’s expenses out of their own pocket, which they are happy to do, but wish that Rory’s funds had been left in the care of someone more responsible, like Lorelai’s best friend, Suki.

In this blog post, we will explore the importance of contemplating guardianship throughout your child’s journey, from infancy to adulthood. We will discuss the key considerations at each stage and offer guidance on making informed decisions that align with your child’s best interests.

  1. Infancy. In the early years of your child’s life, guardianship primarily revolves around immediate care and meeting their basic needs. It is essential to consider individuals who can provide a loving and nurturing environment similar to what you provide. Factors such as stability, proximity, and compatibility should be taken into account when selecting potential guardians.
  2. Childhood: As your child grows, guardianship encompasses more than just physical care. It involves guiding their education, moral development, and emotional well-being. Consider individuals who share your values and can provide a supportive and enriching environment. Open communication and discussions with potential guardians are crucial to ensure they understand your expectations and are willing to take on the responsibility.
  3. Adolescence: Teenage years bring unique challenges, and guardianship takes on a different dimension. It is vital to involve your child in discussions about guardianship, taking their preferences into account. Encourage open conversations about their wishes and desires, and help them understand the importance of having a trusted guardian to turn to during this transformative stage.
  4. Adulthood: As your child transitions into adulthood, guardianship may evolve into a more consultative role. However, it is still important to establish legal arrangements and document your wishes regarding financial matters, medical decisions, and overall support. While your child may have more autonomy, having a designated person to offer guidance and assistance can be invaluable.

Throughout all stages, it is crucial to review and update your guardianship arrangements regularly. Life circumstances change, and the individuals you initially chose as guardians may no longer be the best fit. Stay in touch with potential guardians, keep them informed of any changes, and ensure they are still willing and able to assume the responsibility.

In conclusion, thinking about guardianship at different stages of your child’s life is an essential aspect of responsible parenting. By considering the unique needs and requirements of each stage, you can make informed decisions that prioritize your child’s well-being. Discussing guardianship openly, involving your child when appropriate, and establishing legal arrangements will provide peace of mind, knowing that your child will be cared for by trusted individuals should the need arise.

If you are interested in learning more about how to protect your minor children in the event of your death or incapacity, we’ve designed a program just for you!  Our Proactive Parents Group will walk you through considerations and provide you with customized documents for your family. Through four interactive workshops with a licensed Tennessee attorney, you’ll walk away with confidence knowing your family is protected. Be proactive today – click here to learn more and to sign up!

Probate in Tennessee: Factors that Can Delay the Process and Strategies for Minimizing Delays

Probate process in tennessee

Probate is the name for the legal process of distributing assets after someone passes away. These assets can include bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, retirement accounts, life insurance, and financial investments. Before the assets can be distributed, however, they must first be gathered and used to pay creditors. 

After that, the heirs can finally receive their distribution of the estate. However, even then, there are several factors that can still delay the distribution process. In our practice, it is common for probate to last about nine months. In more complex cases, probate can easily last several more months or even years. These delays ultimately mean less money and more headache for the surviving family. 

Let’s go through the factors that cause delays in probate, and discuss what steps can be taken to minimize the delay.  

1. Passing away without an Estate Plan

If you pass away without an estate plan, your loved ones will have to go to probate court. The court will appoint someone among them to be the “Personal Representative.” The Personal Representative will be responsible for contacting all of the financial institutions about your death. They will also be responsible for using your funds to pay creditors and ultimately make distributions to your heirs. 

When there is no estate plan, the process for appointing a Personal Representative can be seriously delayed. The family will have to come to a consensus on who the Personal Representative will be before they present their choice to the court. Moreover, whoever is selected as Personal Representative is often not prepared for the role, as they had not been told to expect it. The process of going through all of your finances and contacting all of your financial institutions might be overwhelming for them, especially if they did not know your finances very well. Moreover, they will be responsible for mediating tension between the family, which is made even more difficult if members of the family do not think you explicitly wanted them to serve as Personal Representative.

Having an estate plan would minimize all of these consequences and delays. By having an estate plan, your family will already know who you want to represent your estate, which will make the process for appointing a representative much smoother. The person you select to represent your estate will also be better prepared for the role, as they are aware that they will one day need to fulfill the role. 

The best way to minimize delays in probate is thus to have a clear estate plan in place, and to let your family and loved ones know about your intentions. 

2. Family Tension

Even with an estate plan, family dynamics can still play a major role in probate. For example, if the only major asset that you have at the time of your death is your house, and one of your heirs would like to live in it while the other heirs would rather sell it and keep the sale value, tension will ensue and attorneys may need to get involved. All of this will ultimately lead to a delay of the probate process, and may ultimately divide the family in an irreparable way. 

Feuds such as the one described happen even in the most loving of families. To avoid these feuds, it is important to not only have an estate plan, but to have one drafted by an experienced estate planning attorney. An experienced estate planning attorney will be familiar with cases such as the one described and will be able to help you think through exactly what you would want to happen if these cases occur. Your estate plan will thus be better able to help your family navigate your precise wishes for your assets, ultimately easing tension and expediting the probate process. 

Hiring an estate planning attorney to draft your estate plan is one of the most important steps you can take to minimize probate delays. 

3. Financial Complications

If you keep your finances private, it will be difficult for your intended heirs to know what to expect after you pass away. They may not even know where you bank and what financial investments you have. The more difficult it is for them to know your finances, the more difficult it will be for them to notify your financial institutions of your death and gather accounts. 

Furthermore, if you are in debt or are not paying your taxes, your Personal Representative will be responsible for using your assets to pay your creditors and the IRS. This can cause serious delays to the probate process, especially if the Personal Representative was unaware. Creditors will ensure they receive their payments by filing claims against the estate through probate court. These claims ultimately slow down the probate process as each claim requires a hearing before a judge. 

To save your family time, headache, and grief after your death, it is important that you keep your finances in order. Pay off debt when you can, and keep a clear record of it. File your yearly taxes appropriately. Let your loved ones (especially your Personal Representative) know of your finances and how to contact each financial institution in case something happens. 

Even in the best of cases, probate takes a while. To minimize delays, we recommend having an experienced estate planning attorney draft your estate plan, clearly telling your loved ones of your intentions, and keeping your finances in order as much as possible. Your loved ones will already be filled with grief after your death. The best gift you can give them is preparation. 

Here at Graceful Aging Legal Services, we offer software that can help our clients keep their estate in order. Contact us at 615-846-6201 or hello@galsnashville.com if interested.

How to Talk to Loved Ones about Estate Planning

Talking about Estate Planning with Loved Ones

Talking to your parents about aging, illness, and death is hard. It’s one of the hardest conversations you can have–but it’s also one of the most important. The feelings that might come up during the conversation, if uncomfortable, are better than the feelings that would otherwise come up when an emergency happens and there is no plan in place for taking care of them (or even a consensus among relatives on how to move forward). As we always say in our office: “it is better to have a plan and not need it than to need it and not have it.” 

With that said, directly asking a loved one “hey, what would happen if you died today?” might not be the best way to start the conversation. So let’s consider some better alternatives to open the conversation about estate planning. 

1. Tell your loved one what you’re doing for your own estate planning

    Telling your loved one about your own estate plan, or your wishes to create your own estate plan, might make them consider making one themselves. Tell them what is in your Last Will and Testament, whether you have a Trust, and who you have chosen to act as your Power of Attorney. Hearing about your concerns for your own aging and death, and hearing how you’ve decided to navigate the future, will give them an idea of where to start, which is often the hardest part. Many people also struggle to decide on an estate planning attorney. It is important that the Nashville attorney they hire aligns with their needs. Hearing about your own process of hiring an attorney, and how you determined which one would be the right fit for you, can help them navigate the difficult world of hiring a Tennessee Wills and Estate Planning lawyer. 

    2. Talk about other situations that have happened that worried you or made you curious

      Many of us know at least one person who has suffered the loss of a loved one and then had to endure the resulting feud among the family. These feuds happen so frequently that a significant number of fictional stories are based on them. Unfortunately, plenty of them could have been avoided if a clear plan had been put in place. And these feuds rarely start right after the death—many of them start much earlier, when the loved one’s health began to decline and someone had to step up to take care of them. Estate planning does not just mean deciding what happens after you die; it also means deciding what happens if your health begins to decline. If there is no plan in place for declining health, it will be up to the family to decide what happens. Even the closest of siblings can begin to resent one another if they feel that their parents’ care is not being handled properly. 

      Although it is fictional, the feud in This is Us between the siblings regarding their mother’s care is an accurate portrayal of what can happen in these situations. The siblings argued on what kind of medical treatment their mother should receive, and again on where she should live and who should look after her. Although all of the siblings had the best of intentions and loved each other and their mother, the feud nonetheless happened. The mother sensed the feud would escalate once her diagnosis advanced, and so she decided to name her daughter (her most level-headed child) as her healthcare power of attorney. Although the siblings still butted heads with one another, the daughter was able to carry out her mother’s wishes. 

      There are plenty of other examples in books and TV of families feuding over a loved one’s care or death. Talking about these hypothetical situations might make it easier to begin the conversation about aging and death. 

      3. Ask what would happen to their children, pets, and home if they were in a medical emergency 

        While discussions about aging and death might be intimidating, discussions about medical emergencies might be easier to handle. Medical emergencies can happen to anyone at any time. Our office even recommends that eighteen year olds get power of attorney documents in place, as it is important for them to have someone able to speak to medical professionals on their behalf in the event of an emergency. Since medical emergencies can happen to anyone, loved ones who do not like having their age pointed out might be more receptive to the conversation. If you know your loved one is anxious about having a stroke or falling down stairs, and tends to avoid or shut down conversation about either of those scenarios, it might be a good idea to use another medical emergency in your conversation (like a car accident, for example). While it is important for your loved one to confront their anxieties, it is not always our place to force them into a confrontation. Using a more neutral example (like the car accident) instead of one they constantly worry about might be a good way to ease them into the conversation. 

        4. Ask if they can show you where their estate planning documents are 

          After signing estate planning documents with our clients, we tell them to please let their family know their wishes and how to find the original documents. After all, the estate planning documents are only as good as the family’s ability to find them. In the event of a medical emergency or death, the signer of the documents will not be able to locate them. If no one else knows where they are or how to find them, the documents become effectively useless. It is therefore of the utmost importance that loved ones know where to locate the original documents. If you know or suspect that your loved one already has a plan in place, ask them where the documents are and how they plan to transfer the documents into the right hands in the event of an emergency or death. 

          For more information on how to talk to your loved ones about aging, illness, and death, we encourage you to check out The Conversation Project.

          Can I create my will myself?

          Tennessee law permits you to write your own will. Some people choose to handwrite theirs. Online services are another popular way to create a Will and other important documents inexpensively. As long as the Will meets the legal requirements, it is  likely to be admitted to probate court in Tennessee. 

          However, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Believe me, I love a bargain too- it can be really tempting to find a low cost option for something that is expensive and, well, a little scary.  Most people have never met with an attorney before and the idea is intimidating. It’s understandable. 

          However, a fellow probate attorney once said “online services are a probate lawyer’s best friend.” This is the prevailing thought among probate attorneys, because we see so many Wills that were not prepared by attorneys, and ultimately end up costing the family more in court costs than it would have cost to meet with an attorney and prepare the Will and other important documents. 

          I like to compare it to pest control. You know that if termites invade your house, it will end up costing tens of thousands of dollars to repair the structural damage they can cause. Would you prefer to pay $150 per year up front to prevent an infestation, or let them do the damage and then pay to fix it? 

          So let’s look at some of the issues that cause self-created Wills to have problems when we go to court. Here are some of the main pitfalls that we see with DIY wills: 

          1. Improperly Executed

          Unless you have legal training specific to estate law, you may not be familiar with the exact requirements of the type of document you are trying to create. Tennessee law provides for several types of Wills, and each of them have different requirements for signing. Some of them will require witnesses to come to court, which you may want to avoid. Fun fact: No Tennessee law requires a Will to be notarized. Guessing you didn’t know that! 

          2. Improper use or misunderstanding of terms

          A Will uses a lot of terms that we don’t use in everyday life. These words are used to communicate information to the Judge when the Will is probated. However, if you are writing your own Will or using a form, you may not know the effect that these words have in practice.  While our attorneys try to use more commonplace language when writing Wills, we need to be able to get your point across.  Words like “fiduciary,” “per stirpes,” “per capita,” “ademption,” and “executrix” are not terms we use, but as experienced estate planning and probate attorneys, we know how to use them correctly to carry out the plan you have in mind. In DIY documents, you may ignore terms that you don’t understand that seem to be boilerplate, or may not fully understand the effect that they will have when your plan is carried out. 

          3. Missing essential elements

          I’ll never forget the day that I had to tell someone that they were unable to help their parent because the Power of Attorney that had been created online did not give them authority to do what needed to be done. I wanted to help, but my hands were tied. In another situation, someone hand wrote their Will but left out an essential part.  Because we didn’t have any specific instructions from the Will, we had to go to Court multiple times for Court approval to do things that we were pretty sure they wanted. Those court hearings cost the estate more money than it would have to have an attorney help with the original Will. 

          4. No contingency plan

          One of my least favorite things to do is talk to parents about contingency plans. Usually this means asking who would inherit from you if your children died before you did. No one wants to even think about that. But for estate planning purposes, it’s very important to always have a back up plan. We hope for the best and plan for the worst. And that means discussing uncomfortable things. 

          5. Plans that are not logistically sound

          In a social setting one time, someone mentioned to me that they had created their Will online. They were open to sharing about the experience and mentioned that they had named their parents as their beneficiaries in their Will.  There’s nothing wrong with this, but it requires some additional thinking through things.  Parents are older than their children, and in most situations the children will outlive the parents.  At Graceful Aging Legal Services, PLLC, we want to help you create a plan that needs to be reviewed but hopefully requires few revisions except at big transitions in your life. If you pass away without making changes, we want your planning to go the extra mile for you.  Let’s say that you name your parents as beneficiaries of your Will, but no back up beneficiaries. You figure you can update it later- but never get around to it. Eventually you pass with no named beneficiaries, which defeats the purpose of making a Will.  An experienced estate planning attorney can help you avoid situations like this and worse. 

          6. No probate-avoidance planning

          Another thing people are confused about is thinking that a Will helps avoid probate. It doesn’t. The purpose of a Will is for a probate court to know what you want when you die so they can carry out your wishes. In a meeting with a good estate planning attorney, you will talk about your goals for your assets when you die and create a plan. Oftentimes we are able to guide clients how to avoid probate.  One of my favorite things is when someone comes to us for probate and we are able to tell them that good planning means that they don’t need to go to court. 

          7. Validate of the Will is easier to challenge

          Although having options to create a Will yourself may be beneficial to some, it also creates opportunity for bad actors- or the perception that people are acting with impure motives. Imagine a scenario where your neighbor asks you to draft a will off the internet for them to sign. You may be called into Court to testify about how the Will was created, your neighbors medical condition at the time the Will was created, to what extent you helped, and if you inherited anything you’ll be looked at with additional scrutiny.  Having a lawyer involved not only protects the Will and the Will-maker, but also the family and friends involved. We know how to prevent claims of undue influence and ensure the Will document is valid. 

          When you write your own Will, you don’t know what mistakes you might make.  Unfortunately, by the time the Will is submitted to probate, you won’t be around to make clarifications. The Court will have to go by what is written in the Will. Your family will be stuck with what you wrote, or risk the Court finding that your Will is invalid and throwing out all of the work you did to create it in the first place. If your family thinks that you didn’t mean what you wrote, they will have to pay additional costs to help the Court figure out what you meant.  When that happens,  lawyers get more of your money and your family gets less. 

          We prefer to work with families who get along, and are on the same page when it comes to their loved one’s estate. It makes the probate process (if there is one), easier both emotionally and financially.  We don’t like to make money correcting mistakes or with families who have been left in a difficult position. If you find yourself in this situation, we’re happy to help but we’d much prefer that you not be there in the first place.

          If you have an online will or were thinking about it, sign up here for our virtual estate planning challenge to think through all of the things you need before you even meet with an attorney. 

          Finding the right doctor for you and your needs

          Right doctors for your primary care needs

          So you’ve been to your primary care provider and they’ve told you it’s time to see a specialist. Or maybe they’re changing practices or retiring! Or maybe you’re looking at our list of recommended doctors appointments and realizing you need to make some new appointments as you get older. Whatever the case, now you’re tasked with finding a new doctor – and it might feel daunting.  We’ve got some tried and true recommendations to make this task just a little easier for you. 

          Don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation!  

          Start with the doctor you trust – who do they recommend you visit? Maybe that’s a specialist within a greater healthcare system (Vanderbilt, St. Thomas, etc.) or maybe it’s someone who has expertise in your specific diagnosis. But don’t stop there! Next, if you’re comfortable, reach out to your family and friends to see if they have a provider whom they really like. Why do they like their doctor? If you trust their opinions, this might be a good resource for you. 

          If you’re able, consider the possibility of driving to get a good doctor. Sure, they’re on the other side of town, but if they come highly recommended and you’re only going 1-2 times a year, it might be worth the traffic! 

          Lastly, be sure to consider any deal breakers. This looks different for everyone, but it could include transportation factors, a specific focus in their practice, or you’re looking for a doctor of a specific gender (like a female OB/GYN). Take my example – my husband and I are child-free, so I was very pleased to find a gynecologist who doesn’t also help with childbirth. It means she is able to focus on what matters to me and isn’t away delivering a baby when my appointment time comes around. 

          Check out their internet presence. 

          Most offices these days have a website, listing their hours, providers, and even patient ratings of the physicians.  Do you like what you read there? Or is there something that makes you think twice? If there are comments, take the time to read those, as they may give you a deeper understanding of the provider’s demeanor and care (rather than just a 5 star rating). 

          Additionally, use this website to confirm the doctor’s licensure. You can also view any disciplinary matters on your particular doctor in their Practitioner Profile on this website. 

          Contact the provider’s office.

          The last thing you want is to show up and find they only accept a certain type of insurance coverage! Call the office and ask if they take your insurance; you can find your information on your insurance card. Keep in mind that the staff may need to look up the information, but “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer here. If the person who answers isn’t sure, ask to speak to someone in the billing department to verify your coverage. 

          Don’t forget to also ask if you will need a referral to their office from your primary care provider. Some specialists will accept self-referrals, but your insurance company might think otherwise! 

          What about a copay? 

          Oftentimes, your insurance card will list a copay amount for various types of providers. If not, be sure to log in to your insurance company’s website and verify the copay, or call the number on your card to speak with a representative. Specialist visits typically have a higher copay amount than a regular PCP appointment; you will want to be prepared. 

          Remember: just because you see a doctor once doesn’t mean you have to continue seeing them.  Just like any professional, you should find someone that you are comfortable with – which isn’t a reflection on the doctor or their skills, sometimes it’s something that you just have a gut feeling about and want to find a better fit.  Feel free to tell the doctor this. If you can articulate what you want, tell them and ask if they have a recommendation. They probably know other doctors in their area! 

          You and your provider are a team, and by working together, you should be able to ensure you are taken care of for years to come! You have the ability to direct your healthcare and make decisions for your future; hooray for being proactive!

          Make these preventative healthcare appointments this month for an easier 2023

          Make these preventative healthcare appointments this month for an easier 2023

          As a child, our parents are responsible for making sure we get our regular check ups and vaccinations, but as an adult- throw in figuring out health insurance- things get so much more complicated! 

          Scheduling doctor appointments is a necessary task that can come with a lot of headache and uncertainty. How often should we go? Where do you find a primary care physician???? 

          Just like you get your car a check up before you go on a long trip, it’s important to regularly check in with appropriate medical professionals in order to prevent a bigger health crisis down the road. Which screenings do we need throughout our life and at what intervals? Let us help you relieve some of that stress by following these scheduling and screening tips! 

          Read on for a list of appointments you should make this year, and remember to ask if your insurance is in-network when you schedule! We’ve got a handy tool at the end of this article to help you keep track of your appointments. 

          Appointments for All Adults 18+

          Primary care physician (PCP)

          When: Annually 

          Who: Everyone. Seeing a PCP on a regular basis is the best way to monitor your wellness. Your PCP will be able to help you make an informed decision on what appointments you should add to your annual list.

          Dentist

          When: Every 6 months

          Who: Everyone

          Gynecologist 

          When: Annually or if pregnant/trying to conceive

          Who: People with female reproductive systems. It is recommended that you begin annual gynecologist visits as a teenager or after you become sexually active. Regardless of sexual activity, it is recommended that your first visit be by age 21 at the latest. If you have a new sexual partner, an STI test is recommended. If you regularly have more than one sexual partner, it might be wise to have a STI and Pap test every 6 months.  

          Eye doctor

          When: If you have healthy vision, schedule a visit once in your 20s, twice in your 30s, and once at age 40. Those with existing vision needs should follow their eye doctor’s recommendations on frequency of visits. If you develop any vision difficulty or eye problems, a check up is recommended.

          Who: Everyone

          Dermatologist

          When: Annually

          Who: Everyone, especially if you spend a lot of time in the sun, are fair-skinned, or have family history of skin cancer.  

          Vaccinations

          When: As recommended. Your PCP should be able to help you decide when to get vaccinations or boosters. Vaccine recommendations frequently include: 

          • Annual flu vaccine comes out around September
          • HPV vaccine and meningitis for young adults 
          • Shingles
          • Covid 19 vaccine and appropriate boosters

          Who: Everyone

          It’s important to get regular appointments with your doctors so they will have a baseline for your health conditions in case things change.

          Appointments for Adults ages 40 +

          Gynecologist – Mammogram

          When: Annually 

          Who: People with breasts

          PCP – Rectal Exam/PSA blood test

          When: Annually

          Who: People with prostates 

          Gastroenterologist – Colonoscopy

          When: Regular screenings are recommended for those between the ages of 45 and 75. If your colonoscopy shows no signs of cancer, you can typically wait 10 years before scheduling another one. 

          Who: Everyone

          If you’re 50+, add this l screening to your list:

          Lung Screening

          When: Annually

          Who: Adults who have smoked 1 pack of cigarettes per day for 20 years or 2 packs per day for 10 years and currently smoke, or adults who have quit smoking within the last 15 years.

          If you’re 60+, add this screening to your list:

          Osteoporosis Screening

          When: Age 65 and up

          Who: Cisgender women and People assigned female at birth

          If you have a family history or risk factors of any particular diseases, talk with your PCP to decide if you need earlier, more regular, or other specific screenings. Remember, prevention is better (and cheaper) than the cure!   

          Extra tips:

          • Need a New Year’s Resolution? Schedule all of your doctor appointments before the end of January so that you can cross that task off your to-do list and feel good about prioritizing your wellness
          • The ACA covers 100% of preventative health care. Visit Healthcare.gov for more information.
          • Add travel time to your appointments in your calendar
          • Remember to wear short sleeves to doctors appointments so they can easily take your blood pressure

          We know keeping up with all of these appointments and screenings can be overwhelming. If you’re a visual organizer like us, please use our fillable guide to make sure all of your appointments are scheduled. Hang the guide on your fridge or in your office so that you’ll never miss an appointment! 

          Cheers to taking care of ourselves and advocating for our health in 2023!  

          How Do We Use Voice-Activated Assistants As We Get Older?

          How Do We Use Voice-Activated Assistants As We Get Older?

          Assistants are nothing new. Siri, the first voice-activated assistant of its kind, was introduced in 2011. Can you believe it was that long ago? We can’t!

          But even before that, there were other tools, including dictation, readers, and audio books. As time has progressed, they’ve gotten more advanced, becoming even more helpful than before. 

          Here’s why you should consider using voice-activated assistants.

          1. We’re Not Getting Any Younger

          Baby boomers are moving into their 70s, 80s, and 90s. Even Gen Xers – once considered the younger generation to avoid at all costs – are now approaching their 50s and 60s. In fact, between 2015-2050, the older population is supposed to double, reaching 2.1 billion.

          Baby boomers and Gen Xers are facing challenges that can be handled using devices that weren’t available to them (or, at the very least, weren’t in widespread use) when they were younger. Fun fact: April, a young Gen Xer/elder millennial, didn’t get her first cell phone until she went off to college at 18 years old!

          2. You Want to Stay in Your Home

          You’re already living successfully in your own home. You have independence. And Alexa (or Siri, or the bot of your choosing) can help it stay that way. 

          If you’re concerned that your kids will want to put you in an assisted living facility, a great way to keep the ball in your court is to invest in smart devices. Why? Because you can say, “If I need anything, I can ask Alexa.”

          With the help of a smart device (or multiple smart devices), you can age gracefully in your own home without ever truly being “alone.” 

          3. Help with Your Daily Tasks 

          Your day-to-day routine can even be improved with the help of AI. There’s a huge cognitive burden on adults – no matter their age – that can be lifted by using these tools to help remember things.

          You can:

          • Set reminders for medication
          • Get reminders for doctor’s appointments
          • Enjoy weather and news updates
          • Let Siri provide activity suggestions

          4. Safety for Those with Mobility Issues

          Younger people with mobility issues, vision challenges, etc. can be helped by voice-activated devices as well. Since all you need is your voice and a minimal investment on the device itself, you can easily access the help you need, whether it’s to call a family member when you fall down or simply want an audible answer to a question so you don’t have to squint to read the answer!

          5. It Can Help You Feel Less Alone

          Need someone to talk to? Alexa’s got jokes. (April says they’re terrible, but if you love to hear corny jokes, it might be right up your alley.)

          A feature that April does love is that her Echo Show enables her to send pictures of her dogs to her parents. It cycles through the most recently liked photos and sends them along to her family!

          6. It’s Fun and Convenient to Use

          Are you tired of looking for your remote? Then use Alexa! Want to listen to your favorite obscure musician from the 1920’s? Your grandkids may roll their eyes, but Alexa will be happy to put those tunes on repeat for you. Though you’ll probably start out with a voice-activated assistant for safety reasons, you’ll probably begin using it for fun after a while!

          7. Protect Your Home Even if You’re Not In It

          Last month, we enjoyed the time of the year when we celebrate a spunky towheaded kid who single-handedly protects his home after being left behind while his family went on Christmas vacation. 

          The whole disaster could have been avoided if we had voice-activated assistants in the 90s. Even if his parents didn’t use Alexa to communicate with their son, the kid would have had a much easier time tricking the would-be robbers, using Alexa to turn on the lights, turn on the music, and more from the safety of a neighbor’s house.

          (Though a movie about that probably would have been less fun to watch.)

          8. Worried About Privacy? Consider This

          Privacy concerns are one of the top reasons people don’t implement helpful devices like Google Assistant, Cortana, or Siri. But did you know that there are some workarounds that can help with this concern?

          You can also set Alexa to delete data after 10 days, or mute the device while you’re not using it. 

          Follow Our Newsletter for More Helpful Tools!

          AI assistants like Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and Google are simply tools in our toolbox. Want to hear more about the tools we use in our lives as we get older? Sign up for our newsletter for more!

          Will TennCare Choices pay for my Mother’s nursing home?

          Last week we defined TennCare and how it applies to our clients. This week I want to go more in-depth with how TennCare serves Tennesseans with long-term care. 

          Many people believe that Medicare benefits will cover nursing home care once an individual is 65 or older, but this simply isn’t true. While Medicare covers the first 100 days, it doesn’t cover long-term assisted living. Read more about Medicare here

          TennCare Choices logo for Tennessee Medicaid Long-Term Services and Support
          Choices” is Tennessee’s Medicaid program for long-term care services and support

          Back to TennCare/Medicaid…

          My Mom doesn’t have long-term healthcare insurance. What are my options? 

          1. Payout of pocket until you run out of cash – This is an unrealistic option for most families. Nursing home care is expensive. Not a lot of people have an extra $7,000-$11,000 a month in their bank accounts.  
          2. Do a reverse mortgage on her home. 
          3. Qualify for the TennCare / Medicaid program called “CHOICES”

          As you can see, options 1 and 2 are very unpleasant and leave nothing left for a loved one’s legacy. However, option 3, CHOICES, is definitely something worth looking into.

          What is CHOICES?

          CHOICES is the category of TennCare that provides Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) such as nursing home care.

          What is the process for getting qualified for CHOICES?

          In order to be eligible to receive benefits from TennCare/Medicaid your loved one must first qualify within these three categories:  

          1. Medical eligibility 
          2. Income threshold
          3. Asset threshold
          Wheelchair bound woman looking up at a nurse in white while at a nursing home for long-term care
          Being medically and financially eligible is necessary for TennCare approval

          How does someone become medically eligible for TennCare CHOICES?

          The state of Tennessee will determine who is medically eligible to receive TennCare Long-Term Services and Support (LTSS) by using a pre-admission evaluation (PAE). This PAE is used to determine if the applicant can do basic life skills on their own without help. The PAE will also determine if the applicant is safe in their current environment. 

          The PAE is a strict evaluation and it is performed on a case-by-case basis. An applicant must receive a score of 9 or higher on a 26 point scale in order to be considered medically eligible for TennCare Long-Term Support Services. 

          For example, a caregiver or healthcare provider may be asked about a patient’s level of ability to do things and how much assistance is needed. 

          The following Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are covered in the PAE evaluation: 

          • Transfering
          • Mobility
          • Communication
          • Medication
          • Orientation
          • Eating
          • Behavior

          If you or your loved one is unlikely to get to a nine or higher on the PAE, it is always appropriate to ask for a “safety determination” evaluation as an alternative route of becoming medically eligible for Choices. 

          How can someone become financially eligible to receive CHOICES

          You must be able to prove that the applicant has a low income and little assets. As of January 2022, an individual applying for TennCare CHOICES cannot have an income exceeding $2,523.00 per month. Additionally, the applicant cannot have more than $2,000 in assets. This includes any money in the bank and investment accounts but also requires consideration of retirement accounts, life insurance policies, real estate, artwork, jewelry, and any other valuables. When we talk about the assets for a couple of things get a little more complex. The most important thing is that both the applicant and their family are taken care of, both medically and financially. 

          Graceful Aging Legal Services, PLLC Logo for the Care and Savings Assessment - It is a graph with lines slowly going down.

          My Mom is over the limits for income and assets? What do we do? 

          If the applicant is in excess of the amounts we can plan for that! We have a tool to help people who have excess income and assets yet need to qualify for TennCare/Medicaid called the “Care and Savings Assessment”. With this Care and Savings Assessment, we work to determine the best way to structure you or your loved one’s finances, either now or in the future. We plan so that our clients have the peace of mind knowing they can qualify for TennCare if and when they need it! 

          In conclusion 

          It is often helpful to have an attorney assess your financial situation and offer recommendations on how those finances may be restructured to qualify for TennCare Long-Term Services and Support (LTSS). As an experienced TennCare planning attorney, I can help you evaluate your risk and create a plan that takes care of everyone in the family.

          Are you ready for help with TennCare planning? Contact us and we can discuss your plan. Next week we will go over some examples of how we restructure an individual’s finances to meet their needs for long-term care. 

          My spouse and I are separated. How do I disinherit my spouse?

          My spouse and I are separated. How do I disinherit my spouse?

          When one spouse wants to disinherit the other, but they are still married, it can be a complicated process. In most cases, disinheriting a spouse is only possible if you have a valid prenuptial agreement or if you are divorced. 

          Let’s illustrate this with an example: 

          Jack and Jill have been married for five years, and have one child together. Their house was purchased by Jill before they were married, and Jack’s name was never added to the deed. 

          Jill recently discovered that Jack is cheating on her with the Instacart shopper. She and Jack are now separated and have started the divorce process, but she wants to make sure that if she dies before the divorce is final that Jack won’t get anything from her. 

          What can Jill do? 

          Jill can disinherit her spouse after the divorce

          Unfortunately, Jill cannot disinherit Jack until she files for divorce. Tennessee law does not allow you to disinherit your spouse- even if you write a will that says that! My advice is to get divorced as quickly as possible. Unless divorced, Jack is entitled to his share. 

          The good news is that once divorce papers have been filed, there will be an automatic injunction that specifies that the pair no longer have spousal rights on the property through marriage. This is primarily to protect things like bank accounts, real estate, relationships with the children, and health insurance coverage. However, all that does is prevent money from being spent by either spouse outside of regular expenses. Jill won’t be able to do anything, like estate planning, until after the divorce has been settled or through special permission from a judge. 

          In the meantime, there are still a few steps Jill can take:

          Utilize her prenuptial agreement

          Jack and Jill signed a prenuptial agreement prior to their marriage. In it, they waived the right to inherit from each other. All Jill needs to do now is to rewrite her will to specifically omit Jack.

          Divide assets into separate trusts

          Jill can establish a trust under her name and place the house in it. Since Jack’s name isn’t on the deed or on the trust, he has no right to the house if Jill were to pass before the divorce is finalized. 

          Rewrite her will

          Jill can rewrite her will so that Jack only gets what he is entitled to by law, called his elective share. In Tennessee, spouses are entitled to a homestead allowance, a year of support, and elective share. The elective share amount depends on how long you are married. 

          Hire a family law attorney

           The divorce will go much quicker with the help of a family law attorney. 

          Jill can get a jump start on planning her estate.

          Finally, if Jill is preparing for a divorce, she can take advantage of all the legal documents at her fingertips and get a head start on creating the estate plan she desires. Once her divorce decree is finalized, she can meet with her lawyer and sign the document to make it valid. 

          Are you getting a divorce and want to start over with your own will and estate plan in Tennessee? Are you looking for a referral to a family law attorney? Let us know! We are happy to help you make plans for your new life. Not sure where to start? Give us a call. We offer a complimentary 15-minute call to see if we are the right fit for you and your situation. You can schedule your call by clicking here

          How to Include Your Service Providers In Your Estate Plan

          How to Include Your Service Providers In Your Estate Plan

          A  Davidson County will and trust lawyer’s job is to make sure that you have all of your ducks in a row so that if you become incapacitated or die, your loved ones will know how to manage your estate and follow your wishes.  Laws in Tennessee vary from those found around the country, which is why you want to work with an attorney who is skilled in understanding your specific needs.  One area that should be considered is your service providers. 

          Make a list of your service providers and put it in your estate plan

          “Service providers” covers a wide range of individuals involved in your life.  Should you be unable to communicate with them, you want to ensure that your trustee, executor, conservator, or other responsible person is able to communicate with them on your behalf.  Having them all listed in one place will make this job much more manageable. 

          Household Providers 

          This list should include all of the people or companies that you deal with when it comes to the maintenance of your home.  In some cases, your home will need to continue to function in your absence, and your representative will need to be able to contact these people to make sure things keep running smoothly.  In other cases, whether you are deceased or incapacitated, there are certain services that you may no longer need, and the person in charge needs to be able to contact the service providers and cancel with them. 

          Some examples of household providers that you will want to list might include: 

          • Computer support 
          • Food or water delivery 
          • Gardening 
          • Pet care
          • Housekeepers 
          • Heating/Cooling system maintenance 
          • Heating oil delivery 
          • House sitters 
          • Pest control 
          • Pool or spa maintenance 
          • Utilities 
          • Vehicle maintenance 

          Basically, anything that you have performed on a regular basis should be noted, along with contact and payment information. 

          Medical Service Providers 

          You should also provide your representative with contacts for your medical service providers.  This information could be very valuable should you need medical attention but be unable to reach out to these providers on your own.  Additionally, if you have standing appointments with these providers, it will be helpful to have them canceled so you don’t accrue charges for services you’re not using. 

          Some of the medical service providers you may want to include on your list are: 

          • Chiropractor 
          • Counselor 
          • Dentist 
          • Massage therapist 
          • Ophthalmologist 
          • Physical therapist 
          • Primary care physician 
          • Psychiatrist 
          • Specialists 

          Personal Service Providers

          There are other types of regular services that you may use, and you’ll want to include these as well for the same reasons already mentioned.  Some personal service providers to keep in mind for inclusion: 

          • Childcare provider 
          • Hairdresser 
          • Home care provider 
          • Meal preparation 
          • Transportation 
          • Tutors 

          Additional Information 

          Along with the contact information for these service providers, it’s a good idea to make notes about when they are expected, and you may even want to include service agreements and contracts.  For example, if you have a standing arrangement to have your sprinkler system blown out each fall, make a note of that. 

          Your estate planning attorney may not include all of this information directly in your estate plan, but they will want to be able to assist your family with where it can be located when the need arises. 

          If you are seeking estate planning services, please book a call with our office here .

          Who should I name as my financial power of attorney?

          Who should I name as my financial power of attorney?

          This month we will discuss the subject of powers of attorney. In week one, we will discuss how to name a financial power of attorney. This is also known as a durable power of attorney.

          There are many things to consider when appointing a financial power of attorney (aka an attorney-in-fact). This is an important position. Whoever you appoint would have the ability to make decisions regarding how you manage your finances. While it may seem obvious, it’s important to focus on choosing someone who is organized, trustworthy, and financially responsible.

          What powers does an agent have when they have a financial power of attorney?

          As stated earlier, the agent with a financial power of attorney can handle your finances just as you can. An agent will have the ability to go to your bank and handle banking transactions. They can contact your investment account broker and manage those funds. They can handle your insurance and sell your house. Of course, you want your agent to only make financial transactions in your best interest while you are incapacitated.

          Can things go horribly wrong? Yes! Your agent has the power to clean out all of your bank accounts and sell your home. Heck, if they wanted to, they could take your assets, move to Fiji, and set up a little beach bar! I want to reiterate: It’s important that you choose someone who would never even think of doing something like that. You need to choose someone who will only have your best interest at heart.

          Who should be your financial power of attorney?

          When considering who should serve as a financial power of attorney, a lot of people are compelled to choose someone close to them. A lot of times this will be a relative, such as your children or possibly a sibling, but it doesn’t have to be. The agent could also be a close friend or even a professional if that is who fits that role in your life. In our practice, we like to make sure that our client acknowledges this very important point: the person you name as your agent in a financial power of attorney will have the ability to handle your finances pretty much the same as you will.

          Choose an agent who can communicate effectively

          Not only do you need to trust your agent, but we also recommend that you find someone that other people trust! While this element is not completely necessary, it may be important to you that your agent be relied upon to communicate important information effectively with the people in your life.

          For example, if one of your relatives says to your agent: “Hey, my Aunty saved a lot of money and invested it well, how much does she have now and what has the spent money been used for?”. Ideally, you would have an agent that relatives intuitively trust to spend your funds in your interest. However, it would be really awesome if your agent took the time out of their day to respond thoroughly to your relative’s questions.

          woman wearing a bright yellow sweater holding a smart phone and looking down. The caption says "3 ways online banking simplifies transactions" 1. allow direct debit from accounts 2. set up automatic payments 3. the ability to use instant transfer methods
          Choose an agent that is comfortable with online banking

          Your agent should be good at bookkeeping

          In a perfect world, your agent with financial powers of attorney would be held accountable for the transactions coming out of your assets. A good agent can effectively answer questions about spending and back it up with good bookkeeping!

          An agent with power of attorney does not have to live in your state

          As we mentioned before, the era of digital banking is here and it allows us the option to choose from a larger pool of agents, regardless of their location. Now, many people think that their agent under a power of attorney cannot be someone who lives out of state. And that is simply not true. Sometimes it helps to have somebody who lives in the state, but that is not a requirement in Tennessee. We do so many things by email and telephone, texting, and online business transactions that your financial power of attorney person, your agent, will likely be handling any business transactions online. 

          Choose an agent who will outlive you

          While this is not a requirement, it is a good idea to think about someone who will outlive you. Generally, when you are using your power of attorney, it’s when you’re incapacitated. While there are times when a durable power of attorney is used on a temporary basis, such as during a medical event, it is more likely going to be during a period when we are at the end of our lives and are experiencing some type of ongoing health condition that is not likely to improve. We recommend that you look for an agent who can help on a continuing basis. A well-suited agent allows everyone to relax and enjoy the time you have left on this earth.

          Who should NOT be your durable power of attorney

          Again, while it may seem obvious, it is important to reiterate that anyone who is untrustworthy, unlikeable, terrible with money, incapable of balancing a checkbook, or unable to effectively use online banking might not be the best choice for becoming an agent of financial power of attorney. The goal is to find someone who can keep good accounting records and knows exactly where your money went, down to every last penny! A good agent is someone who is willing to communicate with everyone without hesitation. The main point is that no one in your circle should be concerned that your agent is taking advantage of you if you are incapacitated.

          Now, if you are not incapacitated, your agent should only be acting if you are telling them to do so. Even if you have your power of attorney take effect immediately, your agent can and should only act under your direction. If you find that the agent acts otherwise, there are legal actions you can take against them in court. 

          In conclusion

          A power of attorney is a useful tool for organizing the “adulting” part of your life, especially in incapacitation. A financial power of attorney should be someone that you absolutely trust; someone who will not give pause to others in your life. Someone who is financially responsible and organized, and someone who is familiar with handling online transactions. It does not matter if your agent lives in your state. In short, find an agent you believe will always have your best interest at heart.

          There are many types of powers of attorney. Many powers of attorney are used when creating a well-thought-out estate plan. Do you think you could use a durable power of attorney in Nashville? Schedule an initial call to see if we can help you with your situation.

          Will the Government Take Your Assets if You Do Not Have a Will in Place?

          Will the Government Take Your Assets if You Do Not Have a Will in Place?

          One concern I frequently hear is a worry that the government will take assets from a loved one or take assets from an estate instead of family members inheriting it. These are valid concerns because there are specific instances where this can happen, but as a general rule, the government DOES NOT take assets unless they have a legal reason for doing so.

          The State of Tennessee will not take your assets

          There are a few instances where the government will take your assets if you die without a will. For example, if someone received Medicaid (TennCare) to pay for long-term care, if they owed back taxes, or if no family members can be located. But, as a general rule, the State of Tennessee is not going to take your assets.

          Tennessee will find your closest heirs

          The State of Tennessee has a statute that lays out how your assets will pass if you die without a will. Your assets will pass to what we call your heirs at law. Those are really the people that you probably think of as your closest relatives: your spouse, your children, your grandchildren, your parents, your siblings, your nieces and nephews, your cousins, and farther out. But it’s the close relatives that the state will seek out.

          Generally, the government is going to look for anyone related to you before they get any money. I hope that sharing this information with you has given you a sense of relief if you were told inaccurate information elsewhere.

          If you have other questions about your estate or that of a loved one, click here to schedule a call with us.

          How to Avoid Disputes During Estate Planning

          How to Avoid Disputes During Estate Planning

          In some families, every gathering is another opportunity for disputes, whether you’re meeting up after a death in the family or a holiday. Maybe you just have a uncle who thinks he’s entitled to everything after your mom passes.

          No matter what the issue is, let’s see if we can keep the peace among family (and non-family) during the estate planning process! Put the boxing gloves down and keep reading.

          Begin with the End in Mind

          Start with the goal of clear skies and peaceful resolutions. Visualizing a successful meeting where everyone leaves with a handshake can set a positive tone. 

          Remember, it’s not just about dividing assets; it’s about honoring relationships and the legacy of the will maker.

          Timing is Everything

          Just like planting your tomatoes after the last frost, timing in estate discussions is key. 

          Choose a moment when stress levels are lower, perhaps after a family dinner. (Maybe skip the moonshine to keep heads clear – but good luck keeping the uncle away from it!) 

          By allowing everyone to digest both the meal and the information, you’ll be setting the stage for a fruitful conversation.

          Bring in a Neutral Party

          Sometimes, it helps to have someone who isn’t Uncle Bob facilitating the discussion. An attorney experienced with family dynamics can guide the conversation without the risk of playing favorites.

          Listen Like You Mean It

          Active listening is like making biscuits from scratch — it takes patience and practice. Nodding along and providing a safe space for each family member to share their thoughts allows for open communication and reduces misunderstandings.

          (This doesn’t mean not to speak up – just follow the golden rule and listen before you state your feelings on the matter.)

          Embrace the Emotional

          Acknowledge that emotions will be as present as fireflies on a humid Tennessee night. It’s natural for folks to feel a whirlwind of sentiments when it comes to inheritance. The key is to address these feelings with empathy and respect. “No apologies” is not a great way to live your life!

          Document, Document, Document

          Such important conversations deserve more than a handshake and a “y’all remember this now.” 

          Having the decisions made in these talks put down on paper by an attorney ensures that everyone’s memory stays as sharp as the details in a log cabin quilt.

          Education is Your Best Friend

          Familiarize yourself with estate planning essentials by visiting reputable sources like this one on estate planning. Understanding the basics can help you steer the conversation and clarify common misconceptions.

          Keep It Light

          While discussing the future can be as daunting as facing a bluff on the Cumberland Plateau, a touch of humor can ease the tension. 

          After all, we’re aiming for a family gathering, not a courtroom battle.

          Remember, estate discussions don’t have to be as much fun as a thunderstorm at a picnic. With these strategies, you can transform family estate planning into a process as peaceful as a Tennessee sunrise. 

          Consider us as your companions on this journey, offering a range of services to ensure that your family discussions avoid trouble as much as possible. 

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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. 

          Sign up for our newsletter for more tips on how to plan for your life together!

          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!