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St. Clair County Estate Planning Lawyer

Estate planning is one of the most valuable tools anyone can utilize to protect their assets and ensure their final wishes are fulfilled. Sadly, people often mistakenly believe that estate planning is only for the very wealthy or elderly. However, this is far from the truth, as a wide variety of individuals and families can benefit from a well-crafted estate plan.

We know that you want to plan ahead so that your heirs and beneficiaries do not have to deal with financial worries and costly probate after your death.

Estate planning can give you peace of mind knowing that your heirs and other beneficiaries will be provided for after your death. Additionally, you can also utilize estate planning for many legal needs including:

  • Create a trust or will.
  • Name beneficiaries and an administrator for your estate.
  • Name a healthcare proxy to make decisions regarding medical care.

If you are still trying to determine whether you would benefit from creating an estate plan, contact Jim Golden Law to learn more information. We will be happy to schedule a meeting to provide you with a free estate planning consultation.

Does My Estate Have to Go Through Probate in Alabama?

Probate is a court-supervised legal process in which the terms of a will are fulfilled, including paying all taxes and debts the estate owes and distributing assets to rightful heirs and beneficiaries.

Probate can be a lengthy and time-consuming process and cost a great deal of money depending on the deceased’s personal circumstances. However, Alabama law dictates that an estate must go through probate.

However, there are exceptions if the property goes straight to another person. For example, if a home has the deceased’s name and a joint owner such as a spouse, the property would be exempt from the probate process. The same applies to insurance policies, investments, or other assets with a named beneficiary.

However, if the property only has the name of the deceased listed, it will need to go through the probate process.

Additionally, if the estate is valued at not more than $25,000, it could be eligible for a “small estate probate.” Certain legal conditions must be completed, such as a notice of the estate being published for a week, all arrangements being completed, and expenses paid.

Why Do I Need to Create a Will?

A last will and testament is vital to any well-refined estate plan. Under Alabama law, if an individual dies without a will, they are said to have died “intestate.” If this occurs, the state will determine how the deceased’s assets will be distributed and who will receive them.

Therefore, creating a will is a valuable tool to protect your loved ones and ensure they receive their inheritance. You can also plan for the distribution of your assets and any other estate matter pertaining to your situation.

A will is essential for individuals with minor-age children as it can specify who gains custody of them. Many parents mistakenly believe their parents or other family members will automatically be granted custody of their children; however, without a will in place, this is not always the case. In extreme circumstances, your children could end up in state custody while your relatives undergo costly litigation to obtain legal rights.

Jim Golden Law can help you determine what needs to be included in your will, such as who should be the named executor responsible for the administration of your assets after you pass away. Our qualified estate planning attorney will sit down with you and help you determine how to protect your loved ones best after you pass away.

Why is it Important to Have an Advanced Directive as Part of an Estate Plan?

An Advanced Directive is the most essential of all the estate planning documents you can use to protect your future. An Advanced Directive will convey your wishes about medical care to physicians and loved ones in the event you are incapacitated and cannot speak for yourself.

An Advanced Directive dictates the type of medical care you do and do not want. Having an Advanced Directive in place helps eliminate potential disputes and gives family members peace of mind knowing they are following your wishes.

An Advanced Directive contains two sections, a living will and a health care proxy designation. The living will portion dictates your wishes as far as medical treatment. At the same time, the health care proxy designation appoints the individual of your choice to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so for yourself.

What Are the Benefits of Establishing a Trust?

A trust is a legal agreement between an individual who creates the trust, also known as the grantor, and a third-party trustee. The trustee is responsible for managing the assets that are included in the trust.

There are many benefits associated with establishing a trust, one of the most significant being that it can help to avoid costly probate. The most common trusts that Alabama citizens use include:

  • Revocable Trust: The assets contained in the trust remain under the grantor’s control and are designated how they would like their assets distributed. A revocable trust can be modified or terminated at any time at the grantor’s discretion and is the best option if you want to minimize taxes on your estate. However, a common misconception is that a revocable trust will protect your primary residence and other assets from being seized by a nursing home or during bankruptcy. Because a revocable trust allows an individual to maintain control over their assets, it does not afford the grantor any legal protection.
  • Irrevocable Trust: A grantor releases all ownership of assets included in the trust. Creating an Irrevocable Trust can help protect your assets from Medicaid because the property contained in this type of trust essentially removes your ownership rights and gives them to your beneficiaries after you pass away. However, the most significant advantage of an irrevocable trust is that it will help you to minimize estate taxes that your family may be responsible for paying after your death.
  • Special Needs Trust: Often, individuals with special needs require more money than their allotted monthly government benefit to provide for the things they need. However, these individuals are limited as to how much outside money they can receive without it jeopardizing their benefits. If you have a special needs beneficiary, you can create a trust that will allow your family member to receive an inheritance without the threat of them losing essential benefits.

A trust will also allow you to plan ahead for how your property will be distributed, either all at once or through staggered payments to beneficiaries. If you are still trying to determine the benefits of creating a trust, contact our law offices to schedule an appointment with our experienced estate planning attorney.

We will gladly explain the various types of trusts that are available and the potential benefits associated with each, such as avoiding estate taxes, reducing the tax burden, and asset protection.

Call Our St. Clair County Estate Planning Lawyer Today!

Jim Golden Law has vast experience in creating estate plans that provide for our client’s individual needs. Whether creating a will, planning for your children, or expressing your wishes regarding medical care, our law firm can help you know you did your part in planning for your family.

However, individuals should know that elder law and estate planning differ. Elder law deals with legal aspects that occur during an individual’s life, and estate planning deals with what happens after they pass away.

Additionally, individuals who have recently gone through a divorce should have their estate plan updated immediately to reflect any changes that need to be made regarding asset distribution and named beneficiaries. In addition, it is vital that you make the necessary changes to your will as soon as possible so that there is no costly litigation for other family members to try and deal with after your death.

We understand that it may be difficult to think about the time after you are gone. However, it is in the best interest of your loved ones to create an estate plan that is tailor-made for your family’s needs. An estate plan can also help you avoid potential guardianship if you cannot make decisions due to physical or mental illness.

Our law firm will be happy to sit down with you and determine what your needs and goals are for your loved ones after you pass away. Contact Jim Golden Law to schedule a free consultation to discuss your estate planning needs with our experienced attorney.