Estate Planning

Planning for the Future

Estate Planning is an often over looked area of law.  Estate Planning lets you make decisions about your life and your family in case you are some day unable to make those decisions.  

You do not need to be elderly or a multimillionaire to benefit from an estate plan.  If you own property, have children grandchildren or pets, or even anticipate that you ever may become sick, you could benefit from an estate plan tailored to your needs and your family.  

Below are the three most common estate planning documents.  Read on for information about their purpose and potential uses.

While the below are the three most common documents for estate planning, your estate planning may include other steps or documents depending on your personal needs.  Some individuals may want to deed their land to family members prior to passing away, other individuals may need help setting up a bank account to become payable on death; still others may choose to set up a trust; there are many decisions to consider when planning your estate.  Just as no two people are the same, neither are two estate plans the same.


Common Estate Planning Topics


Power of Attorney


A Power of Attorney is a document that allows another person act on your behalf as if they were you.  You can choose to give one person the power to make financial decisions for you, and another can make medical decisions.  You can give one person all the power, or you can give the authority to two people to use with each other's permission.  

A Power of Attorney can also be set up for different periods of time.  Many times when speaking of a Power of Attorney, it is a Durable Power of Attorney.  Durable means that the Power of Attorney will still be active in the event that you become incapacitated, or can't make your own decisions.  You can also set up a Power of Attorney for a specific reason such as to sell a piece of land.  

If you have set up a consult to do your estate planning, and you are thinking about setting up a Power of Attorney, make sure to think about who you would like to elect.  Often attorneys also want to know who you'd like as an alternate, just in case your proposed Power of Attorney can't hold that responsibility

There are many different ways to set up a Power of Attorney, that is why it's best to speak with an attorney about the best way to set your's up for your own individual needs. 

A Power of Attorney is active and can be used by the person listed as soon as it is signed. 


Living Will


A Living Will is a document that allows you to choose what doctors and family should do if you become medically incapacitated and it is unlikely you will recover.  This is sometimes referred to as an Advanced Directive.  

An Advanced Directive is what it sounds like; it is something that is written up in advance, that allows you to direct what you'd like to be done.  A Living Will is one form of an Advanced Directive that Tennessee recognizes.  A Power of Attorney specifically for healthcare is another form now recognized by Tennessee.

A Living Will is the document that doctors and nurses ask you about when you go in for surgery.  The difference between a Living Will and Power of Attorney for Healthcare is that you typically make very specific decisions in a Living Will.  Common decisions you make in this document include; whether or not you want to donate organs when you are medically unlikely to recover from your injuries/illness; whether or not you want to be kept on a ventilator if you are unlikely to recover, whether or not you want to be feed by a tube or not if you are unlikely to recover, whether or not you want to discontinue treatment for your disorder if it is unlikely you will ever recover, and other similar decisions.  

Some like to have a Living Will created to ensure that their wishes are known and followed, while some tell their Power of Attorney what their wishes are and allow them to make the decisions if a situation where such a decision must be made arises.  It is a personal decision.  


Last Will and Testament


A Last Will and Testament is a document that dictates what you would like done after you pass away.  It is typically shortened and just called a Will, not to be confused with a Living Will which is discussed above.  A Will allows you to decide what happens to your possessions, property and pets when you pass away.  You can recommend guardians for your children and you can establish a Trust for your child(ren), grandchild(ren) or pet's future care.  Again, a Will is very specific to the person it's being written for.  It is best to speak with an attorney to decide what should be in your Will, what shouldn't be in your Will and what provisions might protect your assets so that you can have them used as you desire.  If a Will is done incorrectly and does not follow the rules that your state specifies, your family may not be able to use it, or may end up spending extra money trying to get it probated.


Probate is the process that your family may have to go through in order to take possession of your things, property and money after you pass.  Many times a person will do an online fill-in-the-blank Will or write out everything by hand, many times these are not considered valid Wills.  The Court costs associated with probating these "Wills" are typically far greater than if the person had just had a proper Will done by an attorney.  There is also the risk, that the Court will not use the "Will" and they will decide what to do with your things, your pets, your children and your money.  Some things can be done by yourself, but a Will really shouldn't be one of those.  

Our typical Estate Planning consists of preparing one, two or all three of the above mentioned documents.  Sometimes it may involve other documents such as deeds or the creation of a trust.

Typically there will be two meetings; an intake and an execution.  

At the first meeting (intake) we will discuss your needs and gather all the appropriate information to prepare your documents.

After the documents are prepared we will have a second meeting.

The second meeting is called an execution.  You will get a chance to review all of the documents and the lawyer will explain the function of each.  You will be shown where to sign each document, then the lawyer and two witnesses will sign and notarize all of the documents.