A common misconception about estate planning is that it is only for the wealthy and for the elderly. However, that is simply not true. Even young families are in need of estate planning, and it is when you fail to engage in proper estate planning that your surviving family can end up in a long and drawn out court proceeding that can last for years and cost upwards of $20,000 or more.
If a young family fails to do any estate planning or even have a Last Will and Testament in place, then the State of Tennessee has written one for you. This is referred to by lawyers as intestate succession. Essentially, your assets will pass to your loved ones according to Tennessee law, which may or may not be according to your wishes. In addition, an administrator will need to be selected, appointed, and confirmed by the court before any actions can take place to settle your estate. This usually takes longer than a probate matter where there is already a will in place.
However, even more importantly, if you are a young family and you have done no estate planning, your children will likely be the ones that are most effective by your failure to plan. In Tennessee, if you die with minor children, then a guardian or guardians will need to be selected, appointed, and confirmed to have physical care of the minor children, as well as preserving the financial assets that you leave behind to that child or children. You see, anyone under the age of 18 cannot inherit money and assets in their own name. Therefore, this guardian would need to watch over and preserve those assets until the minor child or children reach the age of 18.
In addition, having a guardian selected, appointed, and confirmed when you have done no estate planning is a public court proceeding where a judge will have the ultimate authority and decision on who shall be named guardian of your minor children. Also, if there is any fighting among your surviving family, this court proceeding could go into months or years before a guardian or guardian is selected for the benefit of your minor children.
For this reason, it is important to engage in proper estate planning. Even if you are a young couple, at the very least, you should have a last will and testament so you can name a guardian of your minor children in the event of your death. If you named a guardian or guardians in your last will and testament, then a court proceeding to name the guardian of your minor children will simply not be necessary and you will avoid a lot of the stress, heartache, delay, and tens of thousands of dollars of financial cost that would have been required if you had failed to name a guardian of your minor children.
If you have questions about estate planning, irrevocable and revocable living trusts, and avoiding nursing home expenses, please reach out to me before you go see any other lawyer or make any other decision on your estate planning so I can send you our free legal report “Estate Planning in Tennessee,” which goes over all the common questions about probate in Tennessee, Medicaid, nursing home expenses, and protecting your assets for your loved ones.
Also, if you would like to learn more about estate planning, avoiding nursing home poverty, and avoiding probate in an educational environment, please reserve a spot at one of our upcoming live educational events or webinars that we have scheduled this month.