Nearly every day I will receive a phone call from a client and he or she will say, “I need to get my will done” or “my financial advisor told me I need to get my will updated so I’m calling you.” For many Tennessee families, this is what they believe is meant by estate planning or getting their legal affairs in order. However, estate planning and legal life planning is so much more than just getting your will done.
Every time I have a conversation with a new client regarding estate planning and legal life planning the conversation needs to be about their family, their children, their spouse, their grandchildren, and what they want to accomplish for their family. Simply saying to the attorney, “I need to get my will done” is not going to accomplish anything. Furthermore, if the attorney that you are speaking with puts together your will in response to this question without any further follow up questions, then you need to ask yourself should I even be working with this attorney.
Depending upon your family situation and what you are looking to accomplish, a will may be what you think you need to accomplish your goals. However, many of my clients find that a revocable living trust is the best way for their family as they want things to be as simple as possible for their surviving family members. Nevertheless, whether you establish a Last Will and Testament or a Revocable Living Trust, these are not the only legal life planning documents that you need to have in place to make things simple for your family.
Every family, regardless of what they are looking to accomplish, should have their power of attorney documents in place. These should include your durable power of attorney and your health care power of attorney. These documents simply name a person of your choosing, called your agent or your attorney-in-fact, to make your financial decisions and your health care decisions if you are ever in a physical or mental condition where you are no longer able to make your own financial and health care decisions.
If something were to happen to you and you do not have these power of attorney documents in place, then your family would be left with no other alternative but to sue you, they would go to court and be involved in a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding, and in a public court proceeding a judge would declare you incompetent and name a third person conservator or guardian over you to make your financial decisions when you are no longer able to do so for yourself.
In addition, the person named conservator or guardian may or may not be the person that you would have wanted to make these decisions on your behalf. However, and usually even more important, the entire proceeding regarding your health and mental state becomes public record for the whole world to see. In addition, the financial cost in pursuing is going to be substantial for your family members.
For these reasons, estate planning and legal life planning is extremely important. In addition, estate planning is not just “getting your will done.” It is so much more than just your will, and it is important, at the very least, to have a conversation with an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning attorney to discuss your family and the goals that you have for your family when that time comes that you are no longer here.
If you have questions about estate planning in Tennessee or how you can set up your legal affairs so that your assets are protected and you provide a smooth transition to your loved ones, then I encourage you to attend one of our live free educational events scheduled this month. At these events you will hear a lot of real life stories about families that paid thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses, families that were able to avoid unnecessary expenses, and families that enjoyed zero government intrusion into their families’ private lives.
I look forward to speaking with you at one of our upcoming live educational events!