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Nashville Estate Administration Law Blog

Mistakes to avoid when choosing your beneficiaries

Putting together your estate plan is one of the most important things you will ever do. An estate plan can consist of a will, power of attorney, medical directive and many other items that protect you, your spouse and your heirs should you become incapacitated and when you die. Let's discuss the mistakes you need to avoid when choosing your beneficiaries.

Never name your estate as your beneficiary for a retirement plan. This will force the estate to go through probate, which could have been avoided if you named an individual or multiple people as your beneficiaries.

Tennessee basics on will creation

Your last will and testament is probably the most important estate planning document you will create. Therefore, you will want to ensure that the will you draft and sign is both lawful and appropriate given your situation. Here are a few basic considerations that every Tennessee testator should keep in mind when creating such a document:

Age and mental state of the testator

On what grounds can I challenge a will?

Challenging a will isn't easy; in the vast majority of cases, decedent and his or her attorneys will have appropriately drafted and executed the will. However, if the right circumstances exist, it's certainly is possible to successfully challenge a will on legal grounds.

Here the most common complaints by which someone can seek to challenge a will:

Can your chosen executor do the following tasks effectively?

One of the most important considerations when selecting an executor for your estate is to ensure that your chosen executor can effectively complete the tasks required, and/or has the capacity to learn.

While you do need to be able to trust your executor, you also need to choose a levelheaded and diplomatic executor, it's essential that he or she will be able to navigate the following duties:

  • Complete and submit papers to the court to begin probate proceedings and validate the will.
  • Inventory all assets that belong to the estate.
  • Account for all debts owed by the estate.
  • Gather assets and funds owned by the estate to satisfy debts and bills related to taxes, funeral expenses and more.
  • Close credit cards and advise banks and government agencies of the death.
  • File income tax returns.
  • Distribute remaining assets to beneficiaries as per the instructions in the will.

What do I need to include in my will?

One of the reasons why a will could be invalidated after someone dies is because not all of the necessary components were included in the will. Sometimes, missing a single required component could invalidate a will. To protect your last will and testament from future legal challenges when you're no longer available to state your wishes, you should make sure that the following elements for your will were present:

-- You were at least 18 years old when you drafted the will.

Vital questions to ask before planning your estate

Before you start planning your estate, it's important to understand the lay of the land. For example, what kinds of things do you want your estate plan to achieve, and how will you go about planning your estate to achieve them? Because most estate planners and will drafters don't know what they need or what options are available, estate planning attorneys are skilled at asking their clients the following questions:

What's the primary reason why you are creating an estate plan?

Wills and will contests: Who can challenge a will?

Not everyone can contest a will. The individuals who can contest a will must be people who stand to benefit in the event that (1) the will is invalidated and the estate will be distributed according to Tennessee intestacy laws, (2) in the event that the will is invalidated and this results in honoring a previous will or (3) in the event that a subsequent will is honored.

Under Tennessee probate law, those who stand to benefit if the will is invalidated are known as "interested parties." Of course, these interested parties must have a valid reason for contesting the will, but if a viable cause of action for invalidating the will exists, the following parties might have the right to challenge the current will:

Managing inheritance expectations

Many children have expectations regarding what they will get from their parents when they pass away. One major cause of estate disputes between heirs and beneficiaries is when these expectations are not met.

For instance, some children expect the division of assets to be completely equal. If they feel like one child got slightly more than another, a complicated dispute begins. In other cases, one child may have a very specific asset that he or she expects to get -- a family heirloom, perhaps -- and could then start a dispute when it goes to someone else.

How Anthony Bourdain's trust kept his true wealth confidential

Not long after the death of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, it was revealed that his estate held a seemingly low value of approximately $1.2 million. However, the seemingly low value of Bourdain's estate is not likely the true amount of the late chef's estate because the TV star also had a confidential trust, the details of which will remain unknown.

According to court documents, Bourdain left the majority of his publicly-known assets that don't fall inside the trust to be inherited by his 11-year-old daughter. The breakdown of the chef's public estate included the following:

  • $425,000 in cash and savings
  • $35,000 in investment accounts
  • $250,00 in property
  • $500,000 in intangible property that includes residuals and royalties

Do you need to leave money to someone with a substance problem?

Substance abuse is a common problem and most families have at least one person who is struggling with it. If you have someone like this in your family, and you plan to leave this person a sizable inheritance, the situation presents a unique estate planning challenge: How do you leave money to someone with a substance problem while preventing the individual from spending it on a potentially life-threatening addiction?

Many Tennessee estate planners might simply choose to leave their assets to someone else. However, through the creative use of a trust, you might still be able to reserve assets for your loved one without endangering his or her life.

When you need legal help, we are here for you.

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