Tuscaloosa Estate Planning Services
Helping the people of West Alabama preserve their wealth and protect their families.
You have worked hard for the wealth and assets you have acquired over the course of your life. You deserve to control how that property is distributed when the unthinkable happens. Whether you are concerned about providing for the support of your spouse after you pass on or you have young children to provide for, creating a solid estate plan is essential to ensure your final wishes are honored and your loved ones are taken care of.
Estate planning is the effort taken to draft documents designed to protect your accumulated wealth and property to ensure it is properly distributed according to your wishes. Estate planning allows you to direct how you want you health, financial and legal rights managed in the event that you become sick or incapacitated and cannot express your own decisions. There are many different components and tools available to develop an estate plan that will be the best for your unique situation. At the Elmer Law Firm, we look at your particular set of facts, discuss your goals, and come up with an overall plan that satisfies your wishes. It takes a knowledgeable estate planning attorney who can guide you through the process of protecting what you earned so that you can provide for those who depend on you.
Estate Planning Services
Below are some of the services the Elmer Law Firm provides in implementing our client’s plans to protect their estates and provide for their families. These are the tools you can use to ensure your wishes are carried out. The goal is to establish how to handle the distributions of your assets after you are gone. Several of these tools are to ensure your wishes are carried out in the event you are no longer able to make your own decisions due to illness. Other documents regard your legal and financial authority in the event that you lose the ability to manage your own affairs.
– Wills & Trust
– Power of Attorney
– Health Care Directive
Wills & Trusts
A will, often formally referred to as your last will and testament, is the document which sets out how your estate is to be distributed, to who, and in what manner upon your death. Depending on the assets owned by the person whose will it is, called the Testator, a will may have any number of provisions. Most frequently however, the will names several specific gifts to specific individuals plus a “catchall” of who is to receive the balance of your assets.
In an age where the trend is to make legal documents more understandable to non-attorneys, the will is still an extremely formal document. If the document is not drafted properly by an individual with estate planning expertise and property executed, it is all too easy for an error to go unnoticed. This can lead to a situation where you clearly expressed your wishes, but did not property execute the will. Potentially, this could result in the will not being enforceable in part, or worse yet, entirely void.
For those family members who will be too young to responsibly manage an inheritance, you may wish to establish a trust created in your will, called a Testamentary Trust. You may also wish to establish a revocable trust while you are still living for the benefit of certain family members, called an inter vivos trust, or living trust.
Property which you transfer into such a trust is not subject to probate and can save considerable time, expense, and trouble for your executor and beneficiaries since trust assets do not pass through the probate process.There are many different options available to you in implementing exactly how to manage your estate. That is why it is important that you sit down with an experienced Tuscaloosa estate planning attorney to discuss your options and desires should something unforeseen occur.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a document which grants another trusted person the authority to act on your behalf in a legal capacity. These documents may be very broad and encompass any decision which you yourself could make which is called a general or durable power of attorney (DPA). On the other hand, they may be narrowly tailored and only concern a specific event of circumstance which is called a specific power of attorney.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is a very flexible tool which can be used to allow a trusted family member or friend to control your financial and legal matters just as if they were you. In the event that you are ill or otherwise unable to express your own wishes, a DPA can become effective and allow this person (also known as your attorney-in-fact) to make any decision that you yourself could make. While the authority given to your attorney-in-fact may be limited by the document, it is this tool that can be so powerful in your overall estate plan. Either as a standalone document or coupled with other parts of your estate plan, a DPA is one of the most useful instruments available to you in ensuring your affairs are taken care of when you are no longer able to.
Health Care Directives
A living will is a document that you draft while you are mentally sound and competent that states what your intentions are in the event you become unable to make your own medical decisions. It sets your wishes as to what forms of treatment you want and what forms of treatment you do not want in the process of keeping you alive. They can be as general or as specific as you want, but in general you want to at least make it clear which of the more common forms of treatment you want to accept or reject. In addition, you may also wish to name a representative whom you trust and have discussed your wishes with and knows your well enough to make these important medical decisions for you if the situation arises.
Common issues are whether you want to be kept on life support, fed intravenously through a tube, or have blood transfusions performed to keep you alive. It is often wise to address at least these common forms of life extending treatments in your living will. If you have other concerns specific to your health situation, you can discuss that with Mr. Elmer to ensure all of your conerns are addressed in the document.
Health Care Proxy
Also called a durable power of attorney for healthcare, a health care proxy is a document in which you appoint a trusted family member or friend to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to decide for yourself or are unable to express your wishes. The agent that you appoint to act for you in the document will have the authority to make any healthcare decision for you once it is deemed by your healthcare professionals that you are unable to make your own decisions. The document may also state how you would like to be treated in certain circumstances.
It is recommended to have both a living will and health care proxy in effect. These ‘heatlh care directives’ allow you to tell the world how you want to be treated and who can make decisions for you when you lack the ability to decide for yourself. In the unfortunate event that you are in such poor medical condition that you cannot make these important medical decisions, you want to express as clearly as possible your wishes and what measures you want undertaken to keep you alive. A properly drafted health care proxy will ensure that your health care choices are carried out.
The Power of Charitable Contributions
Charitable Contributions are an important part of any will. These are the gifts, either, financial or real property, you will leave to organizations that you feel passionate about. By creating a charitable trust, you may establish an endowment for a research organization, or establish a scholarship for a local campt in honor of a relative. Charitable contributions through your will or trust are a great way to leave a legacy for your life or to honor someone else’s memory.