As a Tennessee attorney that has focused his entire career in the area of estate planning, business planning, and tax law, I am continually shocked by the number of Tennessee families that do not get their estate planning completed. One just has to take a look at the Chancery Court filings to see the number of intestate probate filings (fancy legal phrase for dying without a will in place) to see that quite a few Tennesseans die without their estate planning completed.
In fact, recent studies have shown only 40% of people have a Will and only 17% have a Trust. The reason why many Tennessee families fail to get their estate planning completed is that they are likely confused, they do not think they have an “estate”, many think that a “simple will” is sufficient to meet their needs, and many think that a “will”, “living will”, and “power of attorney” is all that they need.
Drumroll please …. everyone has an “estate”. Now, your estate may be small, large, or just average, but everyone has an “estate”. In fact, many of the clients that call my office go with a Trust or series of Trusts as part of their comprehensive estate planning strategy.
There is a reason for this. The reason is that in Tennessee, probate a is a public proceeding that opens up the value of your assets, who is inheriting from your estate, who is not inheriting from your estate, and who you owe money to is opened up to a public court proceeding. Literally, anyone can go down to the court house and get all of this information now and in the future!
In addition, a “simple will” is not an estate planning document that will protect your children’s inheritance from divorce and creditor claims, it will not allow your surviving spouse to keep the double-step in tax basis, and it will not protect your assets from potential long-term care medical costs.
Finally, in my opinion, when Tennessee families hear the phrase “estate planning”, they are confused, not sure what it means, and think it doesn’t apply to them, or not enough for them to worry about. Therefore, I tend not to use the phrase “estate planning”. In its place, I use the phrase “Family Wealth Transfer Planning.” When my clients hear me use this phrase, it is immediately understood. Every family in Tennessee has family wealth and needs a plan for the smooth transition of that wealth for the next generation.
When you hear the phrases “estate planning” or “wills” or “trusts”, don’t say “that doesn’t apply to me.” What you should instead be thinking is … how do I ensure that my family wealth is protected and that I have a plan in place for the smooth transition of that wealth to my children, and more importantly that the wealth my family created is protected.
If you have questions about Family Wealth Transfer Planning, please review our website for other articles, videos, or download one of our Free Books. If you are ready to speak with an attorney, please call our office at (615) 472-2482 for a Family Wealth Transfer Planning Meeting.
As always, we are here to help.