Estate planning is an important process that people need to consider when they want to ensure that their assets can be transferred to their heirs in the simplest – and least taxed – method possible. In many cases, individuals want to do what they can to help avoid fights between family members and probate court proceedings.
Regardless of age or wealth, all people stand to benefit from having an estate plan. A properly constructed estate plan can provide for an orderly distribution of a person’s estate according to their wishes, reduce estate taxes, and help beneficiaries avoid potential issues with creditors.
If you need assistance developing your own estate plan, you should contact Leigh Daniel Family Law today. Our Huntsville will and estate lawyer can discuss your options with you when you call us or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
Do I Need a Will or Wills and Estates Lawyers in Huntsville?
Without a will, there is no guarantee that the property that is most valuable to you will be distributed according to your wishes. When a person dies without a will, a person dies “intestate” and the probate court becomes responsible for distribution of their assets.
A legal will puts a person in charge of the distribution of their assets. Creating a will allows a person to name an executor to handle all important financial matters relating to the estate and help avoid possible disputes between family members about who should oversee such responsibilities.
In addition to making sure property is distributed according to a person’s desires, another major reason for people to create a will is for the sake of their children. A will allows a person to name legal guardians for minor children.
Some people want to make sure that gifts or donations are made to charitable organization on their behalf. Others might wish to specifically disinherit certain individuals who would otherwise stand to inherit assets. Both of these wishes can be accomplished with a will.
How Can Lawyers for Wills and Estates Help Me?
While people can create their own wills using legal software or websites, many people’s estate plans and wishes are far more complicated than standardized forms allow. In such cases, an experienced lawyer can help develop the estate plan that accomplishes all of your goals and minimizes stress for your beneficiaries. A lawyer can also avoid mistakes that often make “form” wills invalid.
You should work with a Huntsville estate planning attorney when developing your own estate plan because your documents will include a number of important legal decisions. You may arrange for payment of long-term health care and delegate management of your financial affairs, personal care, and medical decisions should you become incapacitated.
Another advantage of working with a lawyer for many people is identifying all possible ways to reduce tax liability for beneficiaries. Leigh Daniel has more than 20 years of legal experience and can help you draft all of the documents you need for an estate plan.
Asset-Protection Planning in Huntsville, AL
Asset-protection planning allows a person to take steps to protect property when they believe there may be threats posed by creditors or lawsuits. People should take asset-protection planning steps before these types of claims arise in order to avoid possible fraudulent transfer claims.
Most asset-protection plans help preserve property and assets so a debtor can be in a more favorable position when dealing with a creditor. Asset-protection planning allows people to resolve debts from the most advantageous positions possible.
Some individuals take more traditional, less complicated forms of asset-protection planning that do not always deliver the intended outcomes.
Liability insurance covers a broad range of assets but can actually end up generating litigation and is also subject to limits that can lead to frustrations with policy exclusions. Others attempt to use business entities such as corporations or limited liability companies (LLCs) to try and separate personal and business assets and liabilities, but many assets end up still being subject to judgments.
Asset-protection planning is not about attempts to hide a person’s assets. Instead, the process is merely about protecting property that otherwise could be subject to legal actions.
How to Avoid Probate & What Is So Bad About Probate?
The term “probate” is defined as the official proving of a will. While some people have heard that dealing with a probate court is not terribly complicated (which can be true in cases of very small estates involving few assets), many others have heard countless horror stories about the time and money required to resolve these matters.
When a person dies with a will, the probate court will swear in the named executor and require notice to all persons (including creditors) who could have an interest in the estate. A person may contest a will in probate court or file a lawsuit in a circuit court if the probate court admits the will.
Alabama state allows for only “interested persons” defined under Alabama Code § 43-8-1 as “any person having an enforceable right or claim, which may be affected by the proceeding, and may include heirs, devisees, children, spouses, creditors, beneficiaries and any others having a property right in or claim against a trust estate or the estate of a decedent which may be affected by the proceeding,” and also including “persons having priority for appointment as personal representative, and other fiduciaries representing interested persons” to file petitions to contest wills. The possible grounds for contesting a will may include:
- Mental Incapacity — The person signing did not know what they were doing when signing the will.
- Undue Influence — Another party pressured the person into signing the will.
- Fraud — The individual was tricked into signing the will.
- Improper Execution — The will fails to satisfy the requirements of Alabama state law.
People have only six months to challenge a will’s validity. When a will is invalidated or a person dies without a will, they die intestate and the probate court oversees distribution of property according to the state’s intestacy laws. Alabama intestate succession laws can be found in Article 3 of the Probate Code in Chapter 7 of the Alabama Code.
Several reasons exist for people to help their heirs avoid probate court. The biggest reasons are the cost and the time. Probate cases can involve payment of numerous fees. Additionally, people who die without wills can leave loved ones with no ways to legally access money they left behind, often placing some family members in difficult situations in which they are trying to find ways just to afford basic costs of living.