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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 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 usual reasons is 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.

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 those close relatives.

Generally, the government is going to look for anyone related to you before the government gets 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.

Do you have an Advance Directive?

Do you have an Advance Directive?

What is an Advance Directive?

Do you remember the story of Terri Schiavo? While her situation was unfortunate, it sparked a conversation among families around the country. What would you want in a medical emergency? And who do you want to make decisions for you?

An Advanced Directive allows you to make medical decisions in advance of an emergency and name an agent to carry them out. It is also called a Living Will. An Advance Directive lets you tell your family and medical providers what is important for your quality of life. It’s important to let your loved ones know if you would want to continue medical treatments or not in the event that your quality of life decreases significantly. Your doctors will ask about your Advance Directive if you are unable to make decisions or communicate for yourself.

If you have to go to the hospital for any reason you have probably been asked if you have an Advance Directive or Living Will. While it’s important to have your wishes in writing, it’s even more important to to educate and prepare your loved ones in case they ever need to make difficult decisions about your care.  Talking about your wishes with your family can assure them that they are doing the right thing by you in difficult times.

How to have this conversation with loved ones

Here is a resource that I really like from The Conversation Project. 

While it can be difficult to have this conversation, it is incredibly important that your family knows how you would want to be treated in an emergency situation. So please check out The Conversation Project and reach out to your loved ones to begin this conversation. 

I hope you’re staying healthy and if you have any questions regarding this topic please schedule a complimentary call with us here!

How to Disinherit Someone in a Will

How to Disinherit Someone in a Will

Is there someone you have considered leaving out of your Will? There are plenty of reasons for wanting to exclude someone, a group of people, or everyone you know from inheriting from you. Maybe you’ve had a falling out, maybe they haven’t kept in touch like you hoped, or maybe you just like animals better.

Personally, my dog is probably getting everything before I die. Look at this cute face

People who know me are probably tired of hearing me say it, but I believe that no one is entitled to an inheritance. Whatever you want to do with your earthly possessions is entirely up to you. There’s no wrong decision- whether you want to leave everything to your children, your church, or your dog. It’s just a personal decision, like your hairstyle (although a bit more permanent decision).

If you don’t have a Will, the law in Tennessee leaves your estate to your closest relatives. By making a Will, you can leave your assets to anyone you like. The only exception to this is that you cannot disinherit your spouse or minor children.

If you don’t want your spouse or kids to inherit because you don’t like them, I hope you will consider counseling. However, that’s another personal decision. So is divorce, which is the only way to remove your spouse’s rights to inherit from you. If you don’t like your kids, you have to wait until they turn eighteen to disinherit them.

If you want to disinherit someone, I encourage you to make it clear in your Will. If your Will goes through the probate process, the Court will look at what your intentions were. Leaving a nominal sum like $10 give rights means that the person is not truly disinherited- they inherited $10. We like to acknowledge that the person has been disinherited and, depending on the situation, a brief statement about why. We are kind but firm to reduce any confusion or potential for a contest in the future.

And remember, relationships change and so do Wills.

If you would like help creating your estate plan, click here to schedule a call with us.

Will this common “solution” cause you problems?

Will this common “solution” cause you problems?

By adding someone else to your bank account, you are giving them an ownership interest in whatever deposits you make into the account. What I often see is that the parent is the only one making deposits, but the child is handling transactions, usually to the parent’s benefit but sometimes in a way might later be called into question. 

In the process of counseling clients, I often learn that an adult child has been added to a parent’s bank account as joint owner.  If this is something that you have been considering, please think again.  While it can be fine under some circumstances, it can also cause problems down the road. 

One danger to this is that if the adult child’s has an ownership interest in the account, and the child has unpaid debts, a creditor might try to collect the money owed to them out of the joint account, even though all the money belongs to Mom or Dad!  

Another sticky point of adding a child to a bank account is if you have more than one child. Often parents want their children to inherit equally and make arrangements for that through their wills or beneficiary designations.  However, most joint bank accounts include a right of survivorship on the account paperwork so that if one account owner dies, the
other account owner can continue using the account and gets to keep any money in the account. If you intend for your children to inherit equally, but only one of them gets the money in your bank account, that might cause some resentments and even lawsuits. 

So what should you do instead?  In most cases, I recommend designating someone you trust with your money to act as your attorney-in-fact for financial matters. By signing a Power of Attorney, this person will have the ability to manage your banking transactions, but will not
have an ownership interest in your accounts that could cause the problems described above.  

If you’re interested in obtaining a Power of Attorney or other estate planning documents, schedule a call with us to see how we can help.