IRS Eliminates Valuation Discounts for Family Owned Entities: TAKE ACTION NOW!

family entity valuation discounts estate planning attorneyNEWSFLASH: The IRS has issued regulations limiting or eliminating the use of valuation discounts for family owned or controlled businesses and entities.

One of the key benefits of Family Entities over the last several years has been the opportunity for significant valuation discounts for estate and gift tax purposes for clients with taxable estates. Last year, we advised  in our Estate Planning Newsletter that we expected the IRS to issue regulations limiting or eliminating the use of valuation discounts for family owned or controlled entities. Earlier this month, the IRS finally issued those proposed regulations. The  regulations are set to virtually eliminate the use of family entity valuation discounts as an estate planning tool.

However, there is still time to take advantage of valuation discounts. But, you need to act now. 

What is a Family Entity?

A Family Entity is exactly as it sounds — a company (limited liability company, corporation or partnership) that is owned and controlled by the organizer and the members of his or her family.

What Are Valuation Discounts?

Traditionally, ownership interests of a Family Entity have been valued at a reduced or discounted value. The basis for the discount is lack of control, lack of marketability, and other factors that result from the entity structure.  An ownership interest in a Family Entity is often valued at 20%-40% less than the actual fair market value of the underlying asset. This means that you could transfer an asset to a Family Entity and then later transfer your ownership interest in the Family Entity (either through lifetime gifting or at death) at a value significantly less than the fair market value of the underlying asset.

The use of family entities to obtain valuation discounts is a well-tested Estate Planning tool. Other methods of Estate Tax Planning often do not provide the same benefits. Because this method of estate and tax planning has proven so effective, it is imperative that clients with potentially taxable estates take advantage of Family Entity Valuation Discounts before the new IRS regulations take effect.

What’s the Hurry?

Entities created and funded prior to the enactment of the new IRS regulations will be governed by the current (more favorable) rules. But, there is very little time left to take advantage of Valuation Discounts. While it is not yet clear exactly when the new regulations will become final, many Estate Planning Attorneys believe they could become effective as soon as December 1, 2016.  No one can be certain of the date, which is why you should act now.

Our Advice to You

  • We recommend that any client wishing to take advantage of Family Entity Valuation Discounts as an Estate Planning strategy do so well before December 1, 2016.
  • If you already have a Family Owned Entity, this is a good time to consider whether additional gifts or sales of ownership interests would be beneficial in order to maximize the value of the gift or sale.
  • Anyone with a current Family Entity should contact us  to discuss taking further advantage of the current IRS regulations.
  • If you are concerned about the value of your estate for Estate Tax purposes or  if you are interested in learning more about Family Entity Valuation Discounts, please contact us at (901) 372-5003 or email us here so we can determine if a Family Entity can yield significant tax and other benefits for you and your family.

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8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

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Digital Assets: Who can access my online accounts if I die?

digital assets estate planning lawyerChances are, if you are reading this Blog Post, you own Digital Assets and have one or more online accounts.  As Estate Planning Lawyers, we continue to see changes in the law to address our increasingly tech-savvy culture. The use of electronic information has continued to play a larger role in the Estate Planning and Administration we do for our clients.

Have you ever thought about what might happen to your Facebook account if you died?  Who would get your iTunes library and how would they access it?

Tennessee Legislature Passes Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act

The Tennessee legislature recently passed the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (the “Act”), which became effective July 1, 2016. The intent of the Act is to aid in a Fiduciary’s ability to access an individual’s Digital Assets.  A Fiduciary is someone either appointed by a person or a Probate Court Court to act on behalf of the person in the event of incapacity or death.  A fiduciary may be appointed by a person in a Power of Attorney or Last Will and Testament, or by a Court in a guardianship, conservatorship, or intestate estate proceeding.  The Act also attempts to protect a person’s privacy, as it also allows the person to restrict a fiduciary’s access to digital assets, and provides additional safeguards by allowing the Custodian of the asset to request certain documentation before providing requested information. A fiduciary granted access to digital assets is held to a fiduciary standard under the Act, requiring the fiduciary to act in the best interests of the person with a duty of care, loyalty and confidentiality.

What are Digital Assets?

The Act defines Digital Assets as “an electronic record in which an individual has a right or interest,” and this “does not include an underlying asset or liability unless the asset or liability is itself an electronic record.”  The Act does not necessarily grant the fiduciary access to a person’s cell phone, computer, tablet, etc., but this class of assets includes a wide variety of items, including:

  • assets from Twitter and Facebook accounts
  • assets such as PayPal accounts
  • iTunes accounts
  • Accumulated frequent flyer miles
  • Online banking or trading accounts.

How is Access Granted?

The Act lays out specific requirements as to how the fiduciary must go about requesting access to the digital assets depending on the nature of the fiduciary representation, the type of document (if any) granting the fiduciary the authority to access digital assets, and the depth of the information needed by the fiduciary.

What Should I do about my digital assets and online accounts?

Granting a fiduciary the authority to access your digital assets (or limiting their access) should be done with specificity.   You can and should address these issues in your Last Will and Testament and Power of Attorney.  You should also make sure that any usernames, passwords, and account numbers for your digital assets and online accounts are in a safe place so that your fiduciary can get this information and provide it if requested by a custodian (such as the bank, Facebook, etc.).

If you are concerned about your appointed fiduciary’s current potential access to your digital assets, you should consult with an attorney experienced in fiduciary matters, who can review the relevant documents and properly advise you about your specific situation.

What if I need access to someone else’s online accounts?

If you are currently in a fiduciary position and you need to obtain access to that person’s digital assets or records or online accounts, please be sure to consult with an estate planning attorney to find out how you should go about obtaining this information/access, because the procedures can differ based on your fiduciary role, the powers you have been granted, and the type of information you are trying to obtain.

Let us help you

Our Estate Planning Attorneys can help develop a digital assets plan to best suit your individual needs.  Visit our website to learn more about our work and call us today at 901-372-5003.

Wiseman Bray PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

Other Resources:

Estate Planning 101: Power of Attorney and Living Will

Joint Property Ownership Pitfalls and Solutions

joint property ownershipOur law firm has worked on a couple of cases lately involving joint property ownership; that is, property owned by a group of several individuals. Owning a piece of land or real estate with a group of individuals or family members can lead to many problems, a few of which we will discuss here.

What Happens to Real Estate When a Person Dies?

In Tennessee, real property typically passes outside of Probate in accordance with the publicly recorded property documents in the County where the property is located.  A person can also plan for the disposition of real property in a Will or Trust.  If you die owning real property in your sole name, though, it can cause significant problems for your Beneficiaries that can be avoided by proper planning.

In both cases I mentioned above, the group of individuals came into joint property ownership because of intestate succession (i.e., dying without a Will).  You may think that you do not need a Will because your property will pass to your heirs regardless.  However, there are many problems and burdens that your heirs will face if property passes to them through intestate succession.  Here’s what can happen if a landowner dies without a Will:

  • Land may pass to heirs who do not wish to be landowners.
  • Land may pass to heirs who do not know that they are now landowners (i.e. lost heirs).
  • Land may pass to heirs who are not prepared for the responsibility of owning real estate (i.e. paying real estate taxes, maintaining insurance, upkeep of the property)
  • If there is a mortgage, payments may be required very soon after the death of the original owner and before any inherited owner has a chance to determine how to address the new ownership – i.e. sell the property, allow it to be foreclosed upon, etc.
  • The title to the property will be unclear and extra effort will be required to determine all legal owners in a joint property ownership situation. It can be very difficult to locate heirs and to determine with certainty who all owns a piece of property, especially if some of the original heirs have died, or if the family isn’t in close contact or is spread across the country. A title search may be required, and title searches can be expensive.

Increased Costs for Inherited Owners

When a piece of property passes through intestate succession, when ownership is unclear, or when a piece of property is owned by a large group of individuals, there will be extra expense involved when the property is sold. As a general matter, the entire sales process will take longer than usual. Each separate legal owner must be found and consulted with.  Then, each owner must agree to all parts of the sale process (i.e. negotiating the price, negotiating and completing repairs, and signing all required paperwork).  It can be very difficult getting a group of family members or individuals to all cooperate and agree during the course of a real estate transaction.

Inherited owners who want to sell property can expect to have to do some additional work with the buyer’s title company such as filing probate documents, getting releases from TennCare, and dealing with potential creditors of the deceased person.  A title company may require proceeds to be escrowed for up to a year after the deceased person’s death.

Legal Issues of One Owner Can Affect Other Owners

Inherited and multiple owners can also come with their own personal problems.  A judgment lien or a bankruptcy filing of one inherited owner will immediately attach to the inherited property, which could cause delays and problems for any co-owners wishing to sell the property.

Ways to Avoid Common Problems of Joint Property Ownership

If you must own property with a group of individuals or family members, or if you desire to pass property to a group of people, there are ways you can accomplish joint property ownership which lessen the burden and expense involved. Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney or Property Lawyer about the best way to achieve your personal goals. For example, more effective “joint ownership” can be achieved in the following ways:

  1. Own as Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship. This type of ownership is common with married couples, but it can also be used with any individuals wishing to create this type of joint tenancy.  Upon the death of one joint tenant, the remaining tenant owns the property outright.  This results in protection from a debtor-tenant’s creditors because liens can only attach to the right of the debtor-tenant, which is nothing more than a “potential survivorship right.”  This protection ends if the non-debtor tenant dies and the debtor- tenant then owns the property outright.  One negative of this type of ownership is that the property will only pass to the other joint tenant, so the Estate of the first to die loses any equity to pass on to other individuals.  In addition, potential gift tax issues may arise since the Grantor is “gifting” rights to the property to the person they are creating a joint tenancy with.
  2. Own the Property in a Limited Liability Corporation.  Ask a business organization attorney about property ownership through an LLC. The rights of the members will depend on the structure of the LLC. Creating an LLC requires maintenance of paperwork to the State to keep the LLC active which will be required if the LLC wants to sell the property.
  3. Put the Property Into a Living Trust.  This is achieved by conveying the property to a Trustee on behalf of a Trust. (A Trust itself can’t own property; rather it must be an individual Trustee on behalf of the Trust.)  The property will then be maintained and distributed in accordance with the Trust Agreement.  A Living Trust allows the Grantor to make changes during his or her lifetime (therefore keeping control and autonomy) but also allows for the streamlining of management and an easy transition of the property upon the death of the original Grantor.  The successor Trustee can sell or manage the property outside of Probate, and depending on the Trust terms, without the input of or disruption to the Beneficiaries.

Beneficiary Deeds

Tennessee does not offer this, but some states allow the use of a Beneficiary Deed to clarify how a property is to pass upon the owner’s death. Essentially, a Beneficiary Deed lets a person name a beneficiary and only takes effect upon the death of the owner. Ask your Estate Planning Attorney about the availability of Beneficiary Deeds if you own property in multiple states.

Right to Partition

If you are tied up in joint property ownership, or if you own a piece of property with a group of individuals or family members and you want to end the relationship and go your separate way, you can. In Tennessee, you have the legal right to what is called “partition.” Speak with a civil litigation attorney about filing a partition lawsuit. In this kind of lawsuit, you ask the judge to partition the property, either “in kind” or “by sale.” To learn more about this kind of lawsuit, read our previous Blog Post about Partition Lawsuits.

Need Help with a Property Ownership Issue?

Have questions about joint property ownership or other real estate issues? Please call us at 901-372-5003 or send Wiseman Bray PLLC an email.

Wiseman Bray PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

(901) 372-5003 Office

www.WisemanBray.com

 

**Blog Post by:  Erin Shea and Carlisle Dale

erin shea, injury lawyer at wiseman bray memphis  carlisle dale, memphis asset protection

 

 

 

 

**Special thanks to Real Estate Closing Attorney Jennifer Sisson of Sisson and Sisson Law Firm for contributing her wisdom and insight to this Blog Post.

Don’t be like Prince: Get a Will.

prince died without a will, memphis estate probate lawyer

It’s been widely reported that Prince probably died without a Will. This has left many people wondering:

How could someone rich and famous like Prince die without a Will?

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people, even the super-wealthy, to to die without even the simplest form of an Estate Plan. While at least one source reports that Prince’s Estate may be worth less than what people think, this surprising omission of someone of Prince’s celebrity status should give us all cause to stop and think about what might happen to our own families and hard-earned assets in the event of an untimely death.

2 Simple Reasons to Have a Will or Estate Plan

When we meet with potential clients and give basic estate planning seminars, we stress the importance of having, at the very least, a basic estate plan in place. This is important because:

1. Your wishes will be known. Have you ever tried to guess what another person wants? This is why many of us find Christmas shopping very stressful. The only way you can be sure to “get what you want” is to properly (and legally) communicate your wishes and desires. Just telling someone won’t cut it. After all, neither a judge nor your family will be able to ask you after your death.

2. You can help prevent family feuds and division. You may think your family is so tightknit that they would never quarrel over your assets after you die. You may be right, but you may also be wrong. Why take the chance? Make your wishes so clear that your family members have nothing to fight about amongst themselves after your death.

An Estate Plan is important regardless of your financial status. You do not have to be “rich” to need a Will. Even if you think you don’t have enough assets to justify planning ahead, it is likely that your possessions have real meaning to family members or friends. It is also likely that you have a larger Estate than you may realize.

2 Simple Reasons People Don’t Have a Will or Estate Plan

1. Fear of Losing or Giving up Control. Like Prince, many people like to retain complete control over their assets and business affairs. There’s not a thing in the world wrong with this. However, having an Estate Plan does not mean that you lose control! In fact, Estate Planning is a way to extend the control over your affairs “beyond the grave.”

2. Death is an Unpleasant and Uncertain Event. People often put off any planning or do not want to think about their passing. It is easy to procrastinate and it always seems like planning can be left for another today. However, death is an unfortunate reality for us all. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

What happens without a Will?

If you don’t have an Estate Plan or Will, in Memphis and Nashville Tennessee, your Estate, like Prince’s, may become subject to state law and Probate Court orders. This is likely to lead to familial dissension and excessive fees and costs for the Estate, which in the end reduces the amount of assets remaining for your Beneficiaries. Your money may also wind up going to the Government! For example, in Prince’s case, the Probate Court has appointed a Corporate Executor for his Estate, and many attorneys will be involved because of the number of potential Beneficiaries. There will be many questions as to how the royalties and future earnings from Prince’s music will be handled. Estate taxes will have to be paid. All of these factors will lead to a lot of money being spent (and some might even say “wasted”). All of the headaches and money spent, as well as the publicity involved, could have been avoided, or at least minimized, if Prince had planned ahead by having a Will or Estate Plan.

Moral of the Story:  Don’t be like Prince.

Don’t be like Prince. Plan ahead now! Having an Estate Plan is easy, and every person can and should have one in place. A basic plan can be relatively inexpensive, even if drafted by a licensed Tennessee estate planning attorney, like the ones at Wiseman Bray PLLC.  We have offices in Memphis and Nashville. In Tennessee, and some other states, it is also possible, although often not recommended, for a handwritten Will to be valid. To read our blog post about handwritten wills, CLICK HERE.

Need a Tennessee Estate Planning Lawyer?

Call Wiseman Bray PLLC if you’re in the Memphis or Nashville area at 901-372-5003 or email us here.

You can sign up for email notifications of our blog posts here.

Wyoming Close LLCs Protect Assets

Wyoming Close LLC Asset Protection Memphis TNA popular asset protection tool we use at Wiseman Bray PLLC is the Wyoming Close Limited Liability Company.  One or more people can establish and own this type of entity and may also manage the LLC.   

Anyone can establish a Wyoming Close LLC, even if you do not live in Wyoming or conduct your business there.

Protection from Lawsuits

Under current law, assets inside a Wyoming Close LLC are protected from “outside” lawsuits and creditors, such as those resulting from a car accident or malpractice action.  In a few states, like Wyoming, the sole remedy for a creditor of an LLC member against that member’s LLC interest is a “charging order.”  A charging order only allows the creditor access to the debtor’s LLC interest to the extent distributions are made to the member.

Estate and Gift Tax Benefits

Under current law, the value of a membership interest in a Wyoming Close LLC may be subject to valuation discounts for estate and gift tax purposes. We anticipate in the future that the IRS will institute regulations limiting tax benefits.

Separation of  “Hot” and “Cool” Assets 

A “hot” asset is something like a rental property.  A “cool” asset is something like a brokerage account. Separate LLCs should be formed to keep “hot” and “cool” assets separate.  “Cool” assets should be isolated from “hot” assets because any “inside” lawsuits, such as those resulting from accidents occurring on property inside the LLC, will subject “cool” assets to claims of creditors of the “hot” assets.

Is a Wyoming Close LLC right for you?

If you have questions about whether a Wyoming Close LLC might be right for you, or if you’re curious about other forms of asset protection and business organizations, please call us at 901-372-5003 or email us here. We will examine your personal situation and work to develop the asset protection strategy that is right for you.

Larry Bray

Larry Bray

Lindsay Jones

Lindsay Jones

Carlisle Dale

Carlisle Dale

Basic Asset Protection in Tennessee

asset protection lawyer, asset protection attorney, memphis How do you achieve asset protection? How do you best limit your liability and protect the assets and investments you have spent so much of your life building up?  While you cannot completely eliminate exposure to potential liability, you can achieve asset protection through the use of simple techniques, like buying the right kind of insurance, or through the use of more sophisticated tools like asset protection trusts.

General Layers of Asset Protection Planning

  1. Purchase Protective Insurance.  Examples: long-term care insurance, professional liability insurance, and umbrella personal liability coverage. Insurance is the simplest and most affordable way to protect your assets.  When our clients ask us if we think they have enough insurance, we always tell them that you can never be over insured.
  2. Utilize Statutory Law Protections.  Examples: ownership of real estate as tenants by the entireties, homestead exemptions, retirement plans, and life insurance or annuities.  Real property owned by a husband and wife as tenants by the entirety is exempt from the separate creditors of each spouse.  Additionally, other statutory protections provide that specific assets may be protected from creditors in certain circumstances.  For example, in Tennessee, life insurance passing to a surviving spouse or child passes free of the claims of a decedent’s creditors.  You should consult an attorney to find out which of your assets may be statutorily protected.
  3. Domestic Asset Protection Trusts.  Tennessee is only one of a handful of states that has a specific statute allowing an individual to create a self-settled asset protection trust.  This means that a person can create the trust, have control over certain aspects of the trust, and also be a beneficiary of a trust.  The rules governing these types of trusts are very specific.  These types of trusts are also available in Mississippi, Delaware, Alaska, and Nevada. If you are interested in learning more, click here.
  4. Domestic Entity Planning.  Example: Wyoming Close LLC.  An LLC, unlike a corporation, allows the members of the entity to separate their personal liability from their liability as members of the company.  The most enticing feature of an LLC is the fact that a creditor of the LLC cannot attach the personal assets of the LLC’s members.  We prefer using a Wyoming LLC because the laws in Wyoming are among the most favorable in terms of the protection an LLC provides.

Need an Asset Protection Attorney to Help Protect Your Assets?

We are experienced asset protection attorneys with offices in Memphis and Nashville. We can help develop a plan to best suit your individual needs. Call us today at 901-372-5003 or email us here. 

 carlisle dale, memphis asset protection

By:      Carlisle Dale

Wiseman Bray PLLC

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

(901) 372-5003 Office

(901) 383-6599 Fax

www.WisemanBray.com

 

 

Top 8 Ways to Save Money on Attorney Fees

attorney fees, attorney's fees, legal fees

Let’s talk about attorney fees. When confronted with a legal claim or issue, some people simply want to “turn it over to the lawyer and be done with it.” Others prefer a more hands-on approach, and they prefer to work closely with legal counsel.  Some clients want to resolve a matter as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible, while others desire vindication and want nothing short of a judicial ruling or jury verdict. However, there is one thing that all clients probably agree on.  The lower the attorney fees, the better. 

How do you keep legal fees in check?

Make sure your goals and legal strategy are clear. Lawyers work for clients, and attorney fees are based on the amount of work the lawyer performs for the client.  Clear communication and responsiveness from both the lawyer and the client is critical.  Above all, you must make sure you communicate clear goals, and then to listen and understand what actions your lawyer is suggesting.

What can I do to save money on attorney fees?

There are also a few things you can do to reduce attorney fees, legal costs, and expenses:

(1)  Come prepared.  Each time you meet with your lawyer, anticipate questions and come prepared with information. Bring a timeline, notes, a list of witnesses and contact information, and relevant documents.  Don’t make your lawyer beg for the information he or she will need in order to best represent you.

(2)  Obtain, review and organize your documents.  The overwhelming majority of cases can be boiled down to a few key documents. You don’t want to pay your lawyer to obtain documents you could get yourself. Nor do you want to pay a lawyer to “find a needle in a haystack” or to review unorganized or unnecessary documents searching for one relevant piece of information.

(3)  Promptly do what your lawyer asks you to do.  Respond quickly to information and discovery requests from your attorney.  Failure to do so drives up costs immeasurably.  It can lead to unnecessary communications between opposing lawyers, and between clients and lawyers, and often leads to unnecessary motions being filed by opposing counsel.

(4)  Stay on top of your case. Keep copies of all papers, letters, and pleadings.  Take notes when you talk to your attorney.  Keep yourself informed about your case.  You’d be shocked at how often clients call and/or ask for meetings to re-review things they should already know, or to get copies of papers they already have.

(5)  Be an “information gatherer.”  This one is especially true for companies and small businesses. You know your business, employees, and contacts better than your lawyer. Utilize your knowledge and relationships. You can often obtain information and documents much more easily and cost efficiently than your lawyer can.

(6)  Utilize your lawyer’s assistant.  Many of your questions and phone calls can be directed to your lawyer’s assistant, most of which is not recorded as billable time.  For example, questions about scheduling, getting copies of documents, or coordinating meetings and events can easily be handled by a legal assistant much more cheaply than talking to the lawyer every time.

(7)  Understand the difference between legal advice and counseling.  It is obviously critical that you communicate effectively with your lawyer, but keep communications to the point. Oftentimes clients complain or vent about the opposing party, the unfairness of the situation and/or the legal process, or the tactics of the other lawyer.  It’s perfectly okay if you want to pay your attorney to be a sympathetic ear for you, but understand that you pay for your attorney’s time, and that you can very likely get a sympathetic ear elsewhere for free.

(8)  Compromise. Litigation is expensive. Realize that “wins” come in varying shapes and sizes, and that negotiating from a position of strength borne out of effective and thorough preparation can lead to the best long-term outcome.  Indeed, a lengthy lawsuit may not be the best long-term strategy even though you think might have a slam dunk case at trial two years from now.  Winning the battle isn’t worth losing the war.  Smart and tactical compromise can be a virtue, particularly when taking into account both the direct and indirect costs of litigation.

Wiseman Bray has offices in Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee.  Call us today at 901-372-5003.

 

Wiseman Bray PLLC

(901) 372-5003

8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103

Memphis, Tennessee 38018

Small Firm. Better Focus. Big Results.

 

 

Can I Write My Own Will? Is a Handwritten Will Valid?

handwritten will, holographic will, probate lawyer

In some cases, a handwritten Will can be considered valid and admitted to Probate Court.  Under Tennessee law, a handwritten Will is called a “Holographic Will.”  It is not necessary that the document be witnessed, but all the material provisions and the signature must be in the Testator’s handwriting.

What does “Testator” Mean?

The testator is the person who is making the Will.

How Do You Prove a Valid Handwritten Will?

The Testator’s handwriting must be proven by 2 witnesses.  Before petitioning the Probate Judge to admit the document to Probate Court as a valid Last Will and Testament, the Executor will likely have to find 2 people who can testify that the material provisions and signature are in fact written in the Testator’s handwriting.

Why We Don’t Advise Handwritten Wills

While writing your own Will seems like a simple solution to making sure your assets go where you want them to go after your death, there are many pitfalls. For example:

  • You may mistakenly believe that the disposition of certain assets will be governed by the terms of your handwritten Will.
  • A handwritten document is more easily lost.
  • A handwritten Will requires additional proof to be admitted to Probate Court.
  • When you handwrite a Will, you are likely to amend or rewrite that Will in the future.  You are more likely to leave multiple handwritten documents that contain conflicting provisions.
  • Pertinent provisions may be left out of a handwritten Will, including provisions relating to the disposition of assets or provisions that may ease the burden of administrating the Estate.
  • Many handwritten Wills are not properly executed and are unable to be admitted to Probate Court.

A Will drafted by a Probate Lawyer is likely to more clearly convey your wishes so that it can be correctly interpreted by your Executor and the Probate Court Judge after your death.

Need a Will? Call a Probate Lawyer.

If you would like to speak with a Probate Lawyer about a Will or about how to make sure your wishes are carried out after your death, give us a call at 901-372-5003 or email us here. With offices in Memphis and Nashville, you can also visit our website to learn more about our attorneys and the work that we do for our clients.

 

What does my spouse get when I die? Ask the Probate Lawyer.

will for spouse, ask probate lawyerMany people believe that if you die without a will, that everything passes to your surviving spouse. Did you know that is not necessarily true? Read on to learn more from a probate lawyer about what a surviving spouse is entitled to in Tennessee.

If you die WITHOUT a Will

If you die without a Will, the distribution of your assets will be governed by the Tennessee laws of intestate succession.  If you die “intestate,” it means that you die without leaving a Will. This is what will happen if you die without a Will:

  • If you have a surviving spouse, he or she will receive your entire Estate if you had no descendants at the time of your death.
  • If you are survived by descendants, your spouse is entitled to either (a) one-third (1/3) of your estate, or (b) a child’s share, whichever is greater.

If you die WITH a Will

Even if you die with a Will that does not include your spouse, he or she will still be entitled to a portion of your assets. Your surviving spouse may take what it called an “Elective Share” against your Estate, which is based on the length of the marriage.  There is a sliding scale, but the maximum Elective Share a surviving spouse can take is forty percent (40%) of the net Estate if the couple was married nine (9) years or more.

You Cannot Disinherit Your Spouse in Tennessee

Whether you die with or without a Will, in all but a few rare cases, your spouse will be entitled to a portion of your Estate. Generally, you must be legally divorced from your spouse in order to prevent that person from receiving a share of your Estate.

Other Allowances for Spouses

Other allowances for surviving spouses (which may also apply to minor children) include a $50,000 exemption for personal property, a reasonable allowance for a year’s worth of support according to the previous standard of living, and either the right to the homestead or $5,000 from the proceeds of the sale of the home.  In some cases, a surviving spouse might be entitled to certain accounts of less than $10,000 or wages due to the decedent if no formal probate estate is opened.

Need a Will? Need a Probate Lawyer? 

Please contact Wiseman Bray PLLC at 901-372-5003 or email us here if you have questions about leaving a Will, Estate Planning, or Probate issues.  We have a team of lawyers ready to help you.

 

named estate representative of will

Ask the Probate Lawyer: What to do if you’re named as Executor in a Will.

Probate Lawyer for Personal Representative of Estate

If you’ve been designated to serve as the Personal Representative (sometimes also called Executor or Executrix) in a Will, you will need to hire a Probate Lawyer to handle the Estate in Probate Court. Don’t worry: the attorney fees charged by the Probate Lawyer will typically come out of the funds of the Estate, not from your own personal assets.

Once you’ve hired a Probate Lawyer, you’ll meet with the attorney and begin to gather all pertinent information. The attorney will prepare and file documents to petition the Probate Court to admit the deceased person’s Will for probate administration.

Can’t I just handle the business of the Estate Myself?

No.  In Tennessee, the administration of an Estate must be done with the assistance of a licensed  attorney. Many people mistakenly believe that if you are named as the Personal Representative in a Will, then you only need a copy of the Will and an I.D. to conduct business on behalf of the deceased person or the Estate, but this is not correct. To legally transact business on behalf of the Estate, you must be officially appointed by the Probate Court and present the proper authorization.

Do I have to go to Probate Court?

Yes, if the deceased person had assets or accounts that do not have a joint owner or a beneficiary named. You will have to go to Probate Court with the attorney to prove the Will and to be officially appointed by the Probate Judge as the Personal Representative of the Estate.  At this court appearance, the attorney will address the judge and you will be asked certain questions about the deceased person and the Will.  The Probate Judge will then review the Will and the proof and decide whether or not to admit the Will for probate. If the Will is admitted, you, as the Personal Representative, will then be sworn in as a fiduciary, and you will be issued “Letters Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration,” which will allow you to legally conduct business on behalf of the Estate.

Required Steps in Probate Administration

Once the Estate has been opened and you’ve been officially appointed to serve, you will complete the following required steps with the help of your Probate Lawyer:

(1)   Establish a separate bank account for the Estate;

(2)   Give notice to beneficiaries of the opening of the Estate;

(3)   Give notice to creditors and TennCare of the opening of the estate;

(4)   File affidavits regarding notice to beneficiaries and TennCare;

(5)   File annual accountings and inventories; and

(6)   Collect the deceased person’s assets and distribute them amongst the beneficiaries. 

Do I Get Paid for the Time and Expenses I Incur While Serving as a Personal Representative? 

Yes. A Personal Representative is entitled to reimbursement of expenses that he or she personally incurs in administering the Estate. A Personal Representative is entitled to a reasonable fee at the conclusion of the administration of the estate. However, the position is truly more of a responsibility than a profitable endeavor. There is a significant amount of work for the Personal Representative to do. The amount of the fee depends on a number of factors, which the Probate Lawyer will discuss with you. 

How long does the Probate Process take?

An Estate must remain open for a minimum of 4 months to allow creditors time to file any claims.  On average, it has been our experience that 6-9 months is a reasonable estimate of the time it takes to conclude the administration of an Estate if everything is straightforward.  In some cases, it can take 12-15 months.  If an Estate takes longer than 15 months to administer, it generally means that there has been a problem that has arisen during the process, such as a tax problem, a will contest, or even the presentation of an unknown heir.

Let us be your Probate Lawyer. We can help. 

Call us at 901-372-5003 if you need help. If you hire us, we’ll walk you through the entire process and do our best to make your job as Personal Representative as easy for you as possible. We handle probate cases throughout Tennessee and Mississippi, including in Shelby County, Memphis, Bartlett, Arlington, Germantown, and Cordova.

Other References:

Visit our website  to find answers to common Probate and Estate Planning questions.

Shelby County Probate Court

Davidson County Probate Court