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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. 
Want more tips like this one? Sign up for our newsletter!

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!

Different Types of In-Home Care Services

Different Types of In-Home Care Services

For the month of November, we want to focus on caregivers. While family caregiving can be rewarding, it also takes a toll.  Most family caregivers hope to add a professional service to their loved one’s support system, but figuring out how to do that is just one more thing to add to your already-full plate.  

What types of care are there? Who provides these services? How much do they cost? What limits are there?  How do I pick the right service for my family? 

You’ve got the right questions, and Google is overwhelming. So we called in an expert.  Our friend Perry Brown, President of our local Right at Home care team, was kind enough to provide us information about the types of care options available and the most common questions you may have.  If you’d like to know more about Right at Home, we encourage you to check out their website here and sign up for their newsletter.  If you are ready to talk to someone about in-home care, Perry and his team would be happy to help. You can reach them by phone at (615) 360-0006 or by email at info@rahnashville.net

Let’s Look at Types of Care You May Want to Consider

When an older loved one or adult with a disability needs caring support at home, it can feel daunting to know which professional care services are best. Who can help with bathing and meals? Is a registered nurse needed for wound care? Can hospice care happen at home?

The Global Coalition on Aging and the Home Care Association of America state that almost 70% of Americans who turn age 65 will need assistance at some point to care for themselves. These senior care industry leaders also report that “already 40% of adults aged 65+ need assistance with daily living activities.” The fast-growing care needs of the country’s increasingly older population can leave care recipients and their families confused over in-home care options. The complexity of nonmedical and medical services available also may jeopardize a loved one from getting the timely and attentive care they need.

To help simplify the professional in-home care choices, Lorraine Grote Johnson, Director of Care Quality at Right at Home, a leading in-home care agency, notes that it is important to understand the differences between home care and home healthcare. Grote Johnson, a registered nurse for more than 35 years in both hospital and home settings, gives the following overview of common care services available in the home.

Home Care

In-home caregivers are the extra hand to provide personalized support to a loved one in their own familiar home surroundings. Home care can be part time, full time or live-in assistance ranging from light housekeeping and meal preparation to personal grooming and toileting. At-home caregivers can provide care services such as being a companion who helps write the grandchildren to driving the care client to medical appointments and to complete errands. Home care allows a loved one to stay safe and independent at home as long as possible. Grote Johnson points out that home care staff members are not legally allowed to take on skilled medical care such as dispensing medications and working with tube feedings. Most at-home caregiving services are covered through private pay.

Home Healthcare

Home healthcare is skilled nursing care that is prescribed and directed by a physician and supervised by a registered nurse. Home healthcare is suited for complex health issues that require a higher level of medical assistance, or when a loved one is recovering from an injury or recent illness. A professional skilled nursing team can accommodate a client’s numerous medical care situations such as monitoring vital signs, medication setup and management, dressing changes, and continence care.

“Generally, home healthcare is delivered by Medicare-certified companies and may include physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy,” Grote Johnson said. “A registered nurse makes a care plan and supervises a home health aide who helps a client with activities of daily living such as bathing and dressing. The RN does supervisory visits in the home at least once every two weeks.”

Medicare and other health service providers that pay for home healthcare determine the number and length of nurse visits to the home. Private pay skilled nursing care has no limit on in-home service hours. Specialized palliative care and hospice care also fit within the realm of home healthcare.

Palliative Care

Palliative care is specialized support for people living with a serious illness or transitioning toward death. Palliative care focuses on pain relief, comfort and reduced stress for an ill loved one and balanced overall health for the patient and family members. Palliative care serves not only the dying but also those with chronic diseases such as cancer, congestive heart failure, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s. A specially trained palliative care team includes doctors, nurses, professional caregivers and other specialists who work together to improve the quality of life for the care client.

Hospice Care

Originating in Europe during the Middle Ages, hospice, which is derived from the Latin word for “hospitality,” is care that aids the critically ill and dying with medical, emotional and spiritual support. Hospice or end-of-life care is a type of palliative care, but the ailing person is no longer seeking curative treatment. The aim of hospice care is to extend comfort, peace and dignity to individuals in the dying process. Hospice programs also support a patient’s family with counseling and bereavement care. Hospice teams of doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains and other caregivers provide care in patients’ homes or at a hospice center, hospital or in-patient care facility.

“Hospice typically serves a terminally ill person with a life expectancy of six months or less,” Grote Johnson explains. “In some cases, a hospice patient’s health improves to the point where the individual no longer needs the specialized care. Also, if a person starts to feel better, they may want to negate hospice and start receiving curative medical treatment again. At any point, a hospice client can change their mind about their care.”

Tips for Choosing At-Home Care

Because of the quickly expanding number of at-home services on the market today, Perry Brown, President Right at Home Nashville advises those in need of care and their families to consider the following tips for choosing at-home care:

  • Select services only from a professional, licensed agency. Make sure you see actual proof of certification and licensing for the agency.
  • Be certain that the caregiver who works with your loved one is insured and bonded.
  • Get a detailed care plan or treatment plan upfront. Ask about goals of the suggested services.
  • Review the caregiver’s qualifications, experience and amount of supervision on the job.
  • Discuss all financial costs and evaluate options for saving money on home care, including long-term care insurance, a reverse mortgage, Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits, etc. Reference Right at Home’s information on how to pay for home care.

For securing skilled nursing care and home healthcare, Grote Johnson offers additional suggestions. “Choose a company that knows and maintains federal and state regulations,” Grote Johnson advises. “Make sure the company does criminal background checks on their nurses and caregivers and verifies their licenses. Ask whether the nursing staff has gone through a thorough orientation and if they know infection control practices and what to do in emergencies. Also, make sure skilled nursing staff members have critical thinking skills and completed competency testing, and that home health nurses have the proper qualifications, because they are taking your loved one’s life into their hands in what could be life-or-death situations.”

Availability of qualified at-home services varies by locales across the country, so Brown recommends reviewing at-home agencies online, then visiting with the agencies in person. “Be sure to check references of the in-home agency candidates and their specific caregivers,” Brown explained. “Talk to others in the community who are familiar with the agencies and their reputations. In getting the best care possible for your loved one, every question and concern matters.”
For additional information about choosing home care, home healthcare, palliative care or hospice care in your area, talk with local medical professionals for referrals, or contact the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, or use the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator.

Nine Things You Need to Know When You Get an Inheritance

Nine Things You Need to Know When You Get an Inheritance

If you’re closely related to someone who has recently passed away, it’s likely that you’ll be in line to inherit at least a part of their estate. It can be a complicated process, depending on the circumstances.  To make this process easier for you, we’ve outlined some things you need to know as a potential inheritor of a Tennessee estate.

1. Take the time to grieve

If you’ve just lost a loved one, the first thing you need to do is take the time to grieve. This could be overwhelming, especially if you were close to the person who has passed away. You may not even know how to react if you’ve been left a large inheritance. Taking the time to grieve the death of a loved one is important, and you should not be pressured into making decisions. Also, don’t rush through any of the legal processes outlined in this article. There’s no need to hurry to open an estate, and you should make sure that you’re given enough time to make well-thought-out decisions and take care of things properly. All of the necessary information will be available to you once you are ready.

2. Take the time to understand the terms of the will

Another important thing to do is take the time to understand the terms of the will. If there was a will, then you’ll need to know who was named as the executor (aka personal representative) of the estate. You’ll also need to know whether there are any special provisions in the will, like leaving a specific piece of property to a specific person. You’ll want to know where the original will is being kept, as well as the executor’s contact information so you can stay informed about the progress of the estate. 

Once the will is probated, there will be a record of it that you can access at any time. You’ll be able to see the contents of the will, as well as the names of everyone who was named as a beneficiary. This is something that you’ll need to keep in mind when communicating with the people who were named in the will.

3. Find out if there is any debt included with your share of the inheritance

Debt follows the person who incurred it, so a person’s debt usually belongs to their estate- not those inheriting from them. However, if your loved one left you anything with a debt tied to it, you may have to figure out how to resolve the debt before accepting the inheritance. 

This includes things like car loans, mortgages, or other debts that your loved one may have had when they passed away.  Even if you inherit something with debt tied to it, you do not have to inherit debt. You can choose not to accept the item or to sell it and take whatever it is worth after the debt is paid. 

 It’s important that you know if there is any debt included with your inheritance so that you can plan accordingly. It’s possible that you could get a loan to cover the cost of the debt and then pay it off gradually over time. 

In my personal and professional opinion, it usually makes sense to take over a loan on something that will appreciate, such as real estate, but not on any depreciating assets like a vehicle. However, this is something that will have to be decided in consideration of your personal situation.

4. Find out what happens during the probate process

The probate process is the process of opening a probate estate, gathering all assets owned, and distributing the assets from the estate. During the probate process, the executor of the estate will file the will and any other documents that might be necessary with the court and has the responsibility of distributing the assets according to the terms of the will. These documents will become part of the public record. The executor of the estate will open an estate account with the court, and you can check in on it and see what progress is being made as the assets are distributed.

5. Check for Inherited IRA Rules and Taxes

If you inherit retirement accounts from a loved one, you will need to make a decision about how and when to cash out the account. 

While spouses can easily “roll” retirement accounts to the surviving spouse, this is not an option for anyone else. As the non-spouse beneficiary of a retirement account, you have two options:   (1) take all money out immediately or (2) you can “stretch” the distributions up to ten years. 

 Because most retirement accounts are “tax deferred” accounts, you will want to explore the tax consequences of any retirement investment accounts that you inherit. If your family member invested into a 401k, IRA, or similar type of account, they  did not pay taxes when contributing to their retirement. That means that taxes must be paid when the money is taken out. 

The financial institution will usually help you by holding an estimated tax payment  but you will still want to make sure you are aware of what you will need to pay at tax time to account for those inheritances, no matter how you took the distribution.

6. Allow time for the Executor to carry out their duties

As soon as you’re named as a beneficiary to a will and the estate has been opened through probate, you can expect that the Executor will begin to take care of things, such as contacting creditors and making arrangements for the sale of any real estate. It’s important that you give them some time to do what they need to do. Expect that it will take about a year for the entire process to run its course. This is a rough estimate and will vary depending on how complicated the estate is, how many assets there are, if any estate tax is due, and whether there are any potential disputes. The Executor will keep you updated on progress and let you know when you can expect to receive the inheritance.

7. Communicate with the Executor

Keep in regular communication with the Executor of the estate. Ask if there is anything you need to do or can do to help. If you have questions, make sure that you ask the Executor and get the answers that you need to the point you understand. You can also ask to speak with the attorney for the estate.  If you are having issues with the Executor getting back to you, or you suspect there are difficulties, it may be worth consulting a lawyer on your own.

8. Decide how you want to handle your share

Before you get a check, decide how you want to spend any money that you receive.  Maybe you and your deceased loved one had already talked through what they hoped would happen with any funds they left you. Many people have a financial goal that their inheritance will help them reach, such as buying a house or investing in their own retirement. Some families use the money to take a trip together and make memories. Having a plan is the best way to make sure that your loved one’s legacy is honored.

9. Update your Plan

One of the most important things to consider is that receiving an inheritance could cause your own estate planning to need to be updated or revised. If you are currently the beneficiary of a trust or other estate planning document, you should contact your estate planning attorney to determine whether or not you need to make any updates. 

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