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

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

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

What Happens if You Become Incapacitated in Tennessee?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Makes Funeral Decisions if You Die in Tennessee?

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

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

What if there are no next of kin?

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

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

Get the Prenup! Safeguarding Your Future with Prenuptial Agreements

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

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

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

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

1. Financial Security

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

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

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

2. Protecting Family Interests

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

Some thoughts about protecting family interests through a prenuptial agreement:

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

3. Preserving Business Assets

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

Considerations for business owners when it comes to prenuptial agreements:

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

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

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

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

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Becoming the Primary Caregiver for Your Loved One

Becoming the Primary Caregiver for Your Loved One

When the chorus of life changes its tune and the caregiving role falls to your feet, you may be tempted to take a page from a pop anthem and think you can take care of your loved one on your own. 

Before you tell your loved one, “You belong with me,” you need to put your oxygen mask. Long-term care isn’t just about playing hero; it’s about strategic moves, open conversations, and sometimes tough choices to keep the rhythm going strong.

Organization: A Beautiful Arrangement

Without the arrangement, the symphony is just noise. Without organization as a caregiver, you run the risk of much more than musical chaos: you risk harming your loved one. 

Here are some ways to keep the composition arranged perfectly:

  • Make a calendar of appointments, etc. to add a lilt to your daily activities. 
  • Know who else is playing – create a contact list of those instrumental in care. 
  • Keep a list of medications in order to keep the mood right. 
  • Make a list of caregiving tasks and service providers in case you need backup.
  • Consider centralized communications so you don’t have to sing on repeat.

Strumming the Strings of Self-Care

The spotlight’s charm fades when your spirits are lower than the lowest note you can sing. Being the primary caregiver is a test of endurance, a commitment that needs more than just a peppy melody. 

Self-care is the unsung verse in this song, and nothing to scoff at:

  • Regular health check-ups will keep you humming at your best.
  • Little breaks (or respite time) are instrumental in keeping your pace steady.
  • Support groups hit the right chord and provide backup to your solo performance.

Remember, if you’re out of tune, the duet with the person you’re caring for suffers. For a symphony of support for caregivers, a visit to The Administration for Community Living would be helpful.

Chorus of Conversations in the Family Band

The band won’t play together well unless each member knows the score. Discussing care strategies for your loved one can induce discord, but it’s a necessity. Here’s how to keep from going off-key:

  1. Hold a family meeting to riff on everyone’s thoughts and responsibilities.
  2. Encourage open dialogue—you all belong in this family ensemble.
  3. Chart everyone’s care duties to avert a chorus of complaints later.

Is it time to orchestrate a family meeting? These AgeWell resources may help!

The Bridge to Assisted Living

You may be singing a sweet serenade, believing whole-heartedly that home is the only concert hall for your loved one. But sometimes, an encore in another venue—like an assisted living facility—might be the most logical option. 

Here’s what to consider:

  • Assess your loved one’s needs—can you help them meet their everyday needs?
  • What are you willing to give up to become a caregiver? Will you retire or quit?
  • Take time for personal reflection—are you feeling overwhelmed?
  • How will caregiving impact your own savings/retirement plan?
  • Are you married, and is your spouse/family supportive of your choice?
  • Explore alternatives that can offer better care than you might solo.

Another note: are there ways you can still provide care while maintaining your current lifestyle (paid caregivers, nonprofit or faith community volunteers, adult day services, etc.)?

When the melody gets complex, check out our article on the pros and cons of assisted living facilities or ask those you trust about the experiences they’ve had with assisted living facilities.

Finale: Legally Tuning Your Care Strategies

There’s an encore element that demands attention: legal preparedness. 

Having a plan in advance is like sheet music for the future, keeping everyone on the same page. Work with a legal service like Graceful Aging Legal Services, PLLC, that conducts these arrangements with expertise, so you can ensure the final movements of your caregiving symphony are in harmony with smart decisions for your future.

Securing the long-term care and future of a loved one is no solo act. It’s an orchestra of thoughtful planning, tied with legal strings that resonate within the court of life. So, tune your instruments, take a deep breath, and let the music play in confidence knowing you’re not in this alone. Contact us for help when you’re ready!

How to Be Proactive in Your Caregiving Journey

How to Be Proactive in Your Caregiving Journey

Caregiving is an important responsibility. It involves providing essential services to another person (often a senior), helping empower them to live their best life even as they age. 

Understanding the Caregiver Role

Caregivers must understand the tasks and responsibilities they may be taking on, and think carefully about what boundaries they’d like to set in advance. Doing this is a crucial part of performing the job well and ensuring each person receiving care gets the help they need.

Caregiving works best when it’s a community effort. There’s a lot of joy in caregiving (which is something not everyone expects when they go into it). You may think of caregiving as “This is how I’m helping someone else,” but you’re actually helping your future self as well. Caregiving provides an opportunity to think about your goals and be more proactive about aging than you would have been if you weren’t a caregiver. 

It takes a village to be a caregiver – so don’t forget to lean on the support of others during this time. (More about that later!)

Some typical roles of a caregiver include tasks such as:

  • Assisting with activities of daily living
  • Coordinating medical appointments
  • Providing emotional support
  • Managing medications
  • Handling bill payments
  • Meal planning and preparation
  • Resolving insurance benefits issues
  • Providing assistance with technical issues
  • Planning or providing transportation for loved ones

As a caregiver, it’s important to remember that the role can sometimes present physical and emotional challenges. Working to meet this head-on and find solutions is an important part of advocating for the individual you care for and yourself. Don’t forget to laugh where you can – it’s a great way to cope with the emotional and physical strain, build rapport, and enjoy this season!

Planning to Help Them Age in Place

Aging in place refers to the ability of an individual to live in their home and community safely and independently. Caregiving can help facilitate this process, enabling seniors to keep their homes rather than move into an assisted living facility.

(Aging in place isn’t the only option, however; some older individuals prefer to downscale or move into an assisted living facility for more companionship. Make the choice that works best for you and your family.)

Proactive caregiving should always provide a supportive environment for daily living activities. Evaluate the home for potential hazards and make necessary modifications and adaptations.

Some helpful and simple changes that can significantly increase safety include:

  • Everything they need, on one level. Although most people opt for single-story homes, it is possible to have a multi-story home and still embrace this principle. For example, April has everything she needs on the ground floor of her home except her washer and dryer. But she plans to hire someone to do her laundry once she can’t make it up and down the stairs safely!
  • Installing grab bars and ramps. All of us lose our balance sometimes, but as we age, it can become more common. Having something to provide stability within the home is important.
  • Using non-slip flooring and removing throw rugs. What is the point of throw rugs, anyway? Over time, they all curl up and cause a major tripping hazard. 
  • Use cord covers. Unless you want to go entirely off the grid as you age, cords will be a part of your life. They can be a tripping hazard, but cord covers can help!
  • Exploring accessible technology resources. Another aspect of aging can be limited vision and hearing. It can be helpful to find ways around these impairments.
  • Using medication management apps. Reminders are especially important to those who need to take their medicine at the same time daily. 

Building a Support Network

Anyone who has worked in caregiving knows that it is overwhelming. Having a strong support network for both caregivers and the senior individual is of the utmost importance.

Caregivers should seek to involve family and friends in the caregiving journey as much as possible. These people can provide much-needed assistance and emotional support as the situation is navigated. It’s also wise to utilize professional support, such as home healthcare aides or respite care services. Remember, you can’t pour into someone else’s life if you are empty, so respite care can be vital for your well-being!

There are also many community organizations and support groups that connect caregivers with others who understand their experiences.

Remember – a support network doesn’t have to just include those providing care to the person who needs care. A good support network should also provide care to the caregiver. As April says, “Don’t think you need to be a first-line caregiver to be important in the caregiver support system.” 

Self-Care for Caregivers

Taking good care of yourself provides a strong foundation to care for others. Burnout is a common issue for caregivers but must be dealt with for the overall well-being of both the caregiver and the person who is receiving care. 

So how should caregivers manage their mental health and levels of burnout? 

Here are some ideas:

  • Practice mindfulness to stay emotionally healthy
  • Engage in hobbies to keep your creativity alive
  • Move your body and exercise

If you’re still feeling burned out despite your best efforts to manage your stress, it can be a wise idea to seek respite care services. These services can help provide you with a break from your caregiving responsibilities and allow you to rest. You can also consider joining a support group designed especially for caregivers!

But what if you’re a friend or family member of a caregiver and want to know how to support them?

Here are some specific examples you can use:

  • A daily or weekly phone call to check in
  • Giving your friend a break every now and then
  • A monthly hike with a friend (boom – friendship and exercise!)
  • Send a thoughtful card or letter their way to encourage them
  • Bring them homemade meals or gift cards

Communication and Decision-Making

Trust is one of the most essential components of caregiving and aging in place. Good communication helps facilitate this trust, allowing caregivers and those receiving care to speak honestly about future goals and preferences.

Legal preparations, such as establishing power of attorney or creating a living will, can help ensure the senior’s wishes are respected and get all involved parties on the same age about end-of-life planning. Ensure all decision-making processes are clearly outlined to avoid any conflicts or misunderstandings.

Supported decision-making involves everyone – not just the person who is approaching end of life, but those who are involved with their care and part of the overall support system. The most important thing a person of any age can do is to talk to their support system in advance. 

First, talk to your family about your wishes, then write them down. Make sure everyone’s on the same page. If you can only do one of the two things, talk to your family.

Financial Considerations

Having finances in order is also crucial for aging in place. Understanding the insurance options and government assistance programs is important for caretakers to assist seniors with tasks like budgeting and managing support services. Resources that could prove helpful include FiftyForward and TCAD in Tennesee. 

Long-term care insurance, veteran’s benefits, Medicaid, and Medicare are some common options that can help with the financial aspects of caregiving and aging in place. It’s best to seek help from a trusted financial advisor or insurance agent to work through these options and determine the best way to combine them, if possible.

Resources and Recommendations

Consider checking out books from your local library about caregiving or finding helpful websites about caregiving. 

Here are some good places to get started:

You can also ask for recommendations from caregiving friends or family about programs that will support you!

Community programs like meal delivery programs and dial-a-ride services provide social engagement opportunities and promote overall well-being for seniors. Be sure to find out what services are available in your area, as they can be wonderful enrichment opportunities.

Proactive caregiving makes it possible for seniors to successfully age in place. As a proactive caregiver, you should make it a top priority to create a safe and comfortable living environment for the person you’re caring for. 

Understanding your role and what resources are available is critical in ensuring seniors maintain independence and dignity as they age, and having the right support can help you ensure you’re providing the best care possible so both you and the person you’re caring for have a positive quality of life.


At Graceful Aging Legal Services, we aim to help seniors age well. Part of this includes planning for their future and the future of their families. Want to learn more about aging in place? Contact us today, and we’ll help you prepare and organize so that major decisions aren’t looming over your head!

Embracing the Journey: Finding Peace in the Transition of Death

Embracing the Journey: Finding Peace in the Transition of Death

Death is an undeniable aspect of the human experience, yet it remains one of the least discussed subjects in our society. We avoid talking about it, even though we’re surrounded by death all our lives, and it’s the final transition we go through. By avoiding the topic of death, we miss out on opportunities to grow both personally and in our relationships with others. It’s only by confronting it head-on that we can truly find peace in the face of this inevitable transition.

Main Causes of Fear Surrounding This Transition

There are many reasons why thinking of our final transition might be scary, but one of the main causes could be that staying silent about it does us no favors. After all, we “fear the unknown,” and death is one of the greatest unknowns in life. 

Grief may also impact our view of death. However, a big part of the pain of grief – again – is the fact that people don’t talk about it. When a loved one is no longer with you, you should talk about them to the people closest to you. To tiptoe around the elephant in the room is painful for everyone involved. The person you lost was a life – and, in many cases, a major part of your life. You can and should grieve that for as long as it takes. 

It’s also important to prepare your kids for death by being honest about the reality of it. 

If you can, start slow by saying that you’re sad because a pet died – or your friend died. If you’ve experienced a death in your family, letting your child be involved in the memorial can bring a great deal of peace, too. As is true in many other areas of communication, age-appropriate honesty and clarity are good rules of thumb. 

To find peace in the face of death, we need to embrace our mortality and realize that this transition will happen to us one day. Acceptance and surrender are key parts of the process. By acknowledging that death is part of life, we can begin to let go of our fear and resistance. It is through acceptance that we can find meaning and purpose, knowing that our time is limited. 

This allows us to prioritize what truly matters and live life to the fullest. Each moment becomes more precious, and we become more present and engaged.

Part of this is also to “death-proof” your life. Another reason death could scare us is because we don’t want life to end – we have so much left to do! 

But if you live every day as if it’s your last by not putting things off, you will minimize the regrets you have as you face death. This also helps prevent regrets your loved ones could have from strained relationships. Treating every day as if it’s your last – and dealing with your unresolved anger – can be a huge step in the right direction.

Ruminating on death – as strange as it may sound – can also help. Caitlin Doughty of “Ask a Mortician” has an informative YouTube channel dedicated to unpacking death. She talks about historical and cultural traditions surrounding death and more. 

You can plan for the practical aspects of death by asking yourself: 

  • Do I want to be cremated, buried naturally, or embalmed – or something else?
  • What do I want my funeral service(s) to be like?
  • Is there anything I’d like in my casket (if not cremated)?
  • What do I want to happen to my estate?
  • Will I need a will, a trust, or both?
  • What pictures do I want to be shared at my funeral? (Create a shared album!)
  • What songs do I want to be played at my funeral? (Create a playlist!)
  • What do I want to be remembered for?
  • What do I want my obituary to say? (Write it yourself!)

Finding Peace in the Face of Death

Several strategies can help us find peace when confronted with the reality of death. Meditation and mindfulness can be powerful in fostering a sense of calm and acceptance. By focusing on the “now” and accepting our thoughts and emotions without judgment, we can remember the impermanence of life and find peace.

Connecting with nature is another effective way to find solace in the face of death. Time outdoors, surrounded by the beauty and wonder of the natural world, can remind us of the cycles of life and the interconnectedness of all living things. Nature has a way of putting things into perspective.

Spiritual guidance can also provide comfort and support. Whether through religious practices or personal beliefs, spirituality helps us understand and navigate the mysteries of life and death. Connecting with something greater than ourselves can bring a feeling of peace and purpose.

Support Systems

Strong support systems are vital throughout our lives. Family and friends can provide a great deal of emotional support and companionship during difficult times. Sharing our fears, worries, and emotions with loved ones can lighten our burdens and help us feel less alone in our journey. 

Our support systems help us celebrate new life – and they help us cope with life lost. When loved ones have been on the brink of death (or even approaching unknown circumstances in their lives), friends and family show up early in the morning and late at night to support us, share resources, and provide light in an otherwise dark time. 

If you’ve recently lost a loved one and have no idea what to say when they tell you, “Let me know if you need anything” (or if you’re the one asking), we’ve got you! Keep reading to learn how to sign up for our newsletter, where you can get helpful resources like “15 Ways You Can Help a Friend Who is Grieving the Loss of a Loved One”! (Coming soon!)

Therapy and counseling can also help you navigate the complex emotions that crop up when confronting death. A trained professional can provide guidance and help you process your feelings, offering tools and strategies for finding peace and acceptance. (Real talk: when April’s mother-in-law died, her therapist was the first person she called after the funeral home.)

Support groups are another valuable resource. Connecting with those who have experienced similar loss or are facing their mortality can provide a sense of belonging and understanding. Sharing stories can be cathartic and can offer new perspectives about your experience.

Legacy and Leaving an Impact

Thinking about our legacy is another way we can find peace. Documenting our personal stories, whether through writing or other self-expression, can help us reflect on our lives and leave a lasting impact. By sharing our experiences, wisdom, and lessons learned, we can inspire others. If you wonder what you’d be leaving unsaid if you died tomorrow, writing it out and leaving a message for the people you love can put your mind at ease.

Acts of kindness and service are another meaningful way to leave an impact. By choosing acts of love and compassion, we create a ripple effect that goes far beyond our own existence. Small gestures of kindness can bring comfort and joy to others, and they can also bring us a sense of fulfillment and purpose. 

Building relationships is also crucial in finding peace in the face of death. Nurturing connections with loved ones and building meaningful relationships allows us to leave a lasting impact on the lives of others. When we invest in our relationships and foster deep connections, we can find solace in the knowledge that we have made a difference in the lives of those we love.

Maya Angelou once told a beautiful story of her Uncle Willie and the legacy he left. Chances are that her uncle never knew the great impact he left – not only on his niece but on the other people he interacted with. 

Legacy is something that we are always unintentionally building. Build it well!

Finding Peace Through Planning for the Future

Embracing the journey and finding peace in the face of death is a deeply personal and transformative process. Acknowledging the reality of our mortality and embracing death as an integral part of life helps us find solace. Through practices like meditation, connecting with nature, seeking spiritual guidance, and leaning on our support systems, we can navigate the complex journey of confronting death. 

Leaving a positive legacy and cultivating meaningful relationships can bring a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Ultimately, by embracing the journey and confronting death with an open heart and a willingness to explore the unknown, we can find peace, growth, and enlightenment.

Want to learn more? Sign up for the Graceful Aging Legal Services newsletter!

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.