Estate Planning

Getting married, having children, divorcing, starting second marriages and blending families? Perhaps the recent loss of a spouse? These are all reasons to consider creating or updating your estate plans. Going through the probate process without a Will can cost your family 10X what a Will would have cost you! You are NOT saving money by skipping your estate planning! If you have minor children, you really need to have an estate plan! Leaving your minor children as orphans and pawns of the system shouldn’t even be an option, and yet, many young parents simply don’t like to consider what will happen if they die and leave minors to fend for themselves.

Estate Planning is for Everyone

Some folks in Alabama don’t think they need an estate plan, especially those who are not married, don’t have children, or believe they don’t have enough assets. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Regardless of a person’s wealth or family situation, everyone needs an estate plan. A well-designed estate plan will help prepare for the possibility of incapacity in addition to distributing assets at death.

If you own real estate in more than one state, unless you have a properly-drafted estate plan, you will have the privilege of going through probate in every state where you own real estate. This can get quite expensive!

The Alabama Elder Care Law Firm, LLC has extensive experience working with a wide range of clients to tailor estate plans to meet their distinctive circumstances. An Essential Estate Plan™ includes three basic documents:

Durable Power of Attorney ­– this document designates another individual to make financial decisions on your behalf when you are incapable of doing so, either temporarily or permanently.

Advance Directive for Healthcare — also referred to as a healthcare proxy, an advance directive allows you to select an individual to make decisions about the medical care you should receive if you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated.

Last Will and Testament — or a will, establishes how your assets will be transferred at the end of life, allows you to select guardians to care for your minor children, and names an individual — the personal representative or executor — who is tasked with carrying out your instructions.

These documents are essential because without putting them in place, the state will make decisions about your healthcare decisions, guardianship of your children, and managing and distributing your assets in a way that may not agree with your wishes.

Other Estate Planning Tools

Some plans may require the flexibility that a trust can provide. For example, a trust can be put in place for individuals whose resources may make them ineligible for Medicaid when they are in need of a nursing home or other long-term care. These trusts will protect assets from nursing-home spend down requirements and Medicaid liens as well as judgment creditors.

One estate planning tool that is  a popular alternative to a Last Will and Testament is a Revocable Living Trust (RLT). The benefit of an RLT is that goes into effect immediately and it allows you, as the settlor or grantor, to manage your affairs during your lifetime.

By putting an RLT in place, you can also plan for incapacity and avoid the delay and cost of probate, possibly saving your family several thousand dollars and a year or more of time. Unlike a will, which is publicly filed in Probate Court, a trust is a private document that will ensure your privacy is protected from the prying eyes of ex-spouses, employees and nosy neighbors.

An RLT is particularly useful for families that own real estate in more than one state. In most cases, an individual’s will must be probated every state where he or she owns real estate. So if you own property in Florida as well as here in Alabama, your loved ones will be forced to spend more time and money undergoing probate in two states. By establishing a well-designed RLT instead of a will, you can avoid probate in any state where you own property.

Essential Estate Planning™

At The Alabama Elder Care Law Firm, LLC, we can help you make choices about who will make medical and financial decisions for you when you are not able to do so, how to protect your assets, and how to provide for your loved ones. The choice is yours: you can have the state decide, or you can choose someone you love and trust. But you must put those choices into a format that the State will accept, and that format is what we call Essential Estate Planning™.

If you have questions about estate planning in Jefferson and Shelby counties and all of Alabama, call our office today at (205) 390-0101 for a free evaluation.

The Alabama Elder Care Law Firm, LLC is the premier estate planning law firm in Birmingham, Alabama. We serve residents of Jefferson, Shelby, Blount, St. Clair and other nearby counties in all aspects of estate planning, elder law and probate administration. By relying on our Essential Estate Plan™ program, you will have peace of mind, knowing that your wishes will be carried out if you are unable to manage your affairs or when you pass away.