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Nashville Estate Administration Law Blog

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.

Family tries to secure 'hermit' uncle's $1.6 million estate

A retired factory worker from the Milwaukee area died after developing advanced dementia at the age of 92. Before his health began to fail, however, the man went to a financial advisor in Mequon to get help with a very conservative retirement investment. During the last several years of his life, he ended up giving power of attorney for medical and health issues to his investment advisor -- who he also made the beneficiary of his two annuities and his estate valued at approximately $1.6 million.

The elderly man, who is said to have lived like a hermit, did not leave anything to his nieces and nephews who number approximately a dozen. Rather, all of his estate and affairs were left to the care of his investment advisor. After the man passed away, the advisor arranged for the 92-year-old man's private funeral and cremation. Family members were not allowed to attend the services.

What are the duties of the executor during probate?

Most estate planners in Tennessee will want to avoid probate. However, there are many situations when probate avoidance strategies aren't practical; or, it's simply too late to avoid probate and the owner of the estate is already deceased. Regardless of the situation, you might be curious who actually handles the probate process, which -- depending on the complexity of the estate -- could be a difficult process to navigate for the average Davidson residence.

In cases where the decedent has drafted a last will and testament, the executor of the estate will manage the probate proceedings. The executor will have been named inside the will by the owner of the estate. The executor will oversee the entire probate process. If no executor has been named, then the probate court will appoint an estate administrator. This person will usually be a relative or the heir who stands to inherit the most from the estate.

How do I make sure a will is valid?

There have been many cases in which a Tennessee will was contested and rendered invalid by family members and heirs after a loved one dies. As such, making sure your last will and testament is valid is essential to having your wishes followed after you're gone.

In order to increase the chances of your will holding up in court against a will contest, you'll want to pay attention to the following details that make a will valid:

  • When you drafted your will, you were 18 years of age or older, lawfully married or serving in the U.S. military.
  • You were of sound mind when you made your will and you understood the nature and extent of your estate, and that in drafting your will you were indicating how and to whom your assets will be distributed.
  • You intended for the document to serve as your last will and testament at the time you signed it.
  • Your drafting of the will was voluntary and you were not coerced, or it did not appear that you could have been coerced, at the time you created the document.
  • You properly disposed of your property in the will. This means that you have listed the various assets and items pertaining to your estate and indicated who will receive what among your family and friends.
  • You signed and dated the will before at least two parties, and these witnessing parties did not benefit from your will.

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