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Legal issues of estate planning can be complex

Some Tennessee residents may believe that estate planning is only for the affluent; however, regardless of a person's wealth, proper attention to estate planning can provide peace of mind and avoid contention between family members after a loved one's death. Estate planning is not a do-it-yourself project. It involves many legal issues, and the guidance of an experienced professional can help prevent some common errors.

The biggest mistake is likely the failure to plan at all. If you die without a will, state law will serve as an estate plan, and a probate judge will execute it. Intestacy laws will determine how your estate will be divided, and this may not agree at all with what you had in mind. Regardless of whether you have a complicated estate plan or a single-page will, you will be in charge of what happens after your death, and you can direct how and to whom your assets will be distributed. If you have minor children, state law may allow you to name a guardian in your will.

An experienced probate and estate planning attorney can enlighten you on how marital estate tax exemptions can be used to your advantage. Another unintentional mistake made by some is to rely on the advice of friends or family. Each person's circumstances are unique, and careful evaluation by a qualified individual is essential. It is also suggested that a relative may not be the best choice to serve as the executor of your estate. Apart from possible conflicts of interest if the executor is also one of the beneficiaries, it is an important job that is best handled by a responsible and impartial person.

Estate planning is not a one-time responsibility as important events such as marriages, divorces, births and more may affect an existing plan. Revisiting plans and changing beneficiaries where necessary is best done at least once a year. With the continued advice and guidance of an experienced Tennessee attorney, legal issues and family feuds after your death may be avoided.

Source:, "Simple or Complex? When it Comes to Planning, Just Do It!", Dec. 21, 2015

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