I was speaking with a couple recently following one of my educational events in Brentwood, and their questions were what estate legal services does the average family need to have in place? I asked this couple a follow up question just so I could better understand the reason for their question, and I asked them what they mean by “average family?” This couple said what should a family with around $500,000 in assets between their home, bank accounts, investment accounts, and life insurance put in place when it comes to estate legal services?
I told this couple that there are really 5 must haves when it comes to choosing Tennessee estate legal services for your family:
- Revocable Living Trust Funding With All of Your Assets
I discussed with this couple that a revocable living trust funded with all of your assets is important even when you only have $500,000 in combined joint assets. I explained that if you own assets in your name, even if you have a last will and testament when you die, then all of your assets will be required to go through a public and drawn out probate court proceeding. I explained to this couple that probate can last anywhere from six months to two years or longer and costs usually around $20,000 or more in attorney’s fees, court costs, and other miscellaneous expenses. In addition, it’s a public court process where all the debts and assets that you own will become public record. I explained that when a revocable living trust is in place and all of the assets are titled in the name of the trust, then a probate proceeding is not necessary. In this situation, all of the assets pass immediately to the surviving family members, usually within days.
- Last Will and Testament
I also discussed with this couple that a Last Will and Testament is needed for everyone regardless of their level of wealth. I explained that a will is the most common type of estate planning document, and that says where your property will go and who will be in charge after you die. In addition, a will is especially important if you have minor children as a will names a guardian in the event that you have minor children at your death.
- Disability Legal Documents
Finally, I discussed with this couple that even an average family needs to have their disability legal documents in place. I explained that these documents includes the healthcare power of attorney, durable power of attorney, and living will declaration. These documents enable a person that you trust, usually a spouse or an adult child, to make important financial decisions on your behalf when you are no longer capable to do so. In addition, the healthcare power of attorney names a person of your choosing as well, usually a spouse or an adult child, to make healthcare decisions on your behalf and access medical records when you are no longer capable to do so. Also, I explained to this couple that the final disability legal document, the living will declaration, states your wishes when it comes to the withdrawal and withholding of life support systems. Finally, I discussed with them that if these disability legal documents were not in place their family would be left with no other alternative but to sue them, to have them declared incompetent, so that a judge could name a guardian over them with they are no longer able to make their healthcare and financial decisions.