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Nashville Estate Administration Law Blog

The primary reasons to contest a will

Just because a Tennessee resident appears to have signed and dated a will, it does not mean that the will is going to be valid. There are a lot of rules and regulations that go into the validation of a will, and there are many ways that such a document could be contested in court. Following are some of the primary reasons for contesting a will:

Lack of testamentary capacity: The primary factor in having "testamentary capacity." That refers to the legal grounds to draft and file a will, Was the person 18 years old at the time that he or she drafted the will in question? If the answer is yes, testamentary capacity is likely to exist. However, the adult might not have testamentary capacity if he or she was not mentally sound enough to understand the will in question at the time it was executed. In this respect, an individual could lose testamentary capacity if he or she was suffering from insanity, dementia, senility or some other condition that renders him or her mentally incapacitated.

5 estate planning steps you may want to consider

The baby boomer generation expects to leave approximately $30 trillion worth of inheritances to their millennial children over the course of the next three to four decades. If you're a baby boomer, you will no doubt be concerned that your small share of this wealth is appropriately transferred. In this respect, the following five estate planning strategies could assist you with your wealth transfer goals:

  • Make sure your kids know what they're getting: Your children might think they're going to inherit millions of dollars one day, when maybe they will only receive $100,000 each -- or much, much less. It's important to be open about your estate planning because: it will make sure they don't fight over your assets after you're gone and it will make sure the distribution of your estate goes as smoothly and successfully as possible.
  • Consider an equal distribution: You might not want to do it -- depending on your family dynamics -- but an equal distribution is the best way to keep your family together and prevent a will contest lawsuit or estate battle.
  • Don't leave things up to the honesty of one sibling: Make sure you phrase your estate documents to legally codify the distribution plan you have in mind. Trusting one sibling to honestly distribute your estate is a recipe for a family disaster.
  • Explain your reasoning: Whatever you choose, explain the "why" to your kids. Even if they don't agree, they will be more accepting and respectful of your choices. Try to explain your reasons before you die and include a note with your will to remind them.
  • Consider a trust: Trusts are very flexible documents and estate planners can attach specific guidelines and conditions to the money and assets they leave behind.

Although the $30 trillion baby boomer inheritance amount could change -- depending on advancements in healthcare and changes in the economy -- one thing is certain: As a nation, we're approaching a massive wealth transfer. If you want yours to happen smoothly, lawfully and according to your wishes, make sure you fully understand all of the estate planning options available to you.

Probate is not necessary: Here's some tips for avoiding it

Every asset left to a relative by way of a will needs to go through probate proceedings. This means that your relatives will have to weight to receive their inheritances. It also means that your relatives will be subject to time-consuming and often stressful legal proceedings.

However, you have other estate planning options available to you that could render probate entirely unnecessary for certain assets inside your estate plan. Trust planning for example, is an excellent way to revoke your ownership of certain assets so that a revocable living trust is the technical owner and the assets will be passed directly to heirs .

Being transparent with estate planning saves families

Countless Tennessee residents never take the time to create an estate plan, and it leaves their family in chaos after they're gone as potential heirs and relatives squabble over how the estate should be wrapped up and distributed. However, of the more responsible Tennessee residents who finalize their estate plans, it's surprising how many fail to take one vital step that can help ensure the peace and sanctity of their families after they're gone. This vital step involves being transparent with their plans.

The more transparent an estate planner is with his or her wills, trusts and other decisions -- particularly with regard to asset distribution -- the more likely his or her family will maintain good and loving relationships after the person passes away. The fact is, no matter what we might assume, our family members have ideas about what they're going to receive from us when we pass away. If these ideas are different from the actual plans we've set in place, it can create resentment, jealousy and feelings of unfairness. It can even cause some family members to distrust a will and suspect that it was not what their loved one actually intended.

Is a trust necessary to avoid taxes?

We work our entire lives to save money, build our estates and leave a legacy behind to our children. The thought that a massive chunk of our estate will get consumed by the government can be particularly troubling. As such, estate planning lawyers have devised a host of strategies that can help families reduce their estate tax burdens over the years. But are these strategies even necessary in 2018?

Inheritance and estate taxes are a valid concern for many Tennessee residents. However, for 98 percent of the American public estate taxes will be zero. Although complicated trust arrangements may have been necessary in the past to avoid estate taxes, in 2018, they will not be required for those who have estates valued at less than $11.2 million.

Estate dispute: Elvis Juice gets to keep its name

A British beer company has been making beer with the moniker Elvis Juice, and the estate of Elvis Presley feels that they are hijacking the King of Rock's brand. The estate of Elvis Presley launched a lawsuit against BrewDog, a beer company that produces the beer called Elvis Juice. BrewDog recently won the lawsuit and it will get to continue using the name.

Elvis Juice is a grapefruit-flavored India Pale Ale that BrewDog has made since 2015. It has become the third highest-selling craft beer in England. However, Authentic Brands Group, which polices the Elvis Presley brand, wrote the owners of BrewDog a letter telling them to cease and desist using the name.

Prince's estate wins battle to prevent the release of music

Prince fans and those interested in estate planning law have been paying close attention to the difficulties experienced by the heirs of the late pop musician. There have been numerous battles between people who claim to have the right to inherit part of Prince's estate and also between various business people who claim to have a right to part of Prince's estate. The fact that Prince died without finalizing a will or estate plan has made the navigation of his estate and the probate process exceedingly complicated.

In the most recent drama to surface around the late musician's wealth, a producer has been fighting to release previously unreleased music made by the musician. However, Prince's heirs have prevailed in their attempts to prevent the publication of this music. Although fans might want this music to be released as soon as possible, the win will likely benefit the heirs in the long run -- as it will preserve their ability to earn income from these extremely valuable assets.

What are the steps of the probate process?

No one ever celebrates the probate process, but they certainly like to celebrate the day that it's over. This is when the assets of the probated estate begin to get distributed, and the beneficiaries get to benefit from whatever moneys that were left to them. Also, even if the estate doesn't have any assets involved with it, family members will usually breathe a sigh of relief and feel a sense of closure that the estate is finally settled.

If you're currently in the midst of probate proceedings, you're probably very aware that you want the process to be over and done with. Here is a short list of guideline that will help you stay on track with the process and how much more will be required before your probate process is done:

  • Gathering all the probatable property and calculating all of the debts of the decedent.
  • Communicating with creditors and tending to all remaining debts by using the money in the estate to pay them off when necessary.
  • Searching out any of the decedent's rights to receive dividends or income.
  • Settling any disputes or debts brought forward in the claims process by creditors.
  • Distributing the remaining assets to heirs.

What will happen to my art collection after I'm gone?

Art is your passion. You've been collecting fine paintings for the last three decades, but now that you're coming closer to the end of your life, you're starting to worry about what could happen to your paintings when you're gone -- especially because they've appreciated in value so much since you originally purchased them.

You'll need to include your art collection in your estate plan. The thing is, you'll want to do this with care and attention to detail. Most estate planners do a poor job of addressing art in the distribution plans in their wills and other estate planning documents. Your goal will be to avoid these mistakes. To help you along the way, here is some pertinent advice:

4 ways to avoid the probate process

In a perfect world, we would pass away and the loved ones named in our will would instantly receive the assets we've bestowed upon them. However, because numerous disagreements can arise during the estate distribution process -- and because creditors get a chance to lay their claims upon the state prior to distribution -- an estate needs to go through probate before its assets can be distributed.

Probate takes time, money and it can be stressful for heirs to navigate. For this reason, many Tennessee residents employ some of the following four probate-avoidance strategies in their estate plans:

  • Joint property ownership: By naming your heir as a joint tenant on an asset, your heir will be a co-owner of the property. As such, when you pass away, your heir will simply assume complete ownership of the property without the need for the probate process.
  • Death beneficiaries: Most insurance and financial accounts will have a beneficiary designation. When you complete the beneficiary designation, the named person can receive the assets upon your death without probate.
  • Revocable living trusts: When surrendering your assets to the ownership of a trust, you can name your heir as a beneficiary the trust. Legally, you no longer own these assets -- even though you can dismantle the trust at any time. As such, the trust assets will go directly to the beneficiary and bypass probate.
  • Gifting your assets: By giving away your assets before you die, you can also transfer ownership without the need for probate.

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