Estate Planning Attorneys Serving Huntsville, Decatur and all of Northern Alabama
Arranging for the ultimate disposition of accumulated assets and possessions is important for everyone. Littrell Law Firm provides a wide variety of estate-planning options. Whether your primary concern is providing for your family in the event of premature death or reducing potential tax liability, we will find the option that works for you.
Our ultimate goal in estate planning is to fulfill your wishes for the disposition of your estate. We work hard to ensure the simplest and most risk free disposition possible, while minimizing tax liability and ensuring estate liquidity.
Many people feel that a will is an unnecessary expense, however, wills are often very important for estates of all sizes. A properly executed will ensures smaller estate assets are not wasted. Larger estates may incorporate a will into a broad spectrum of planning tools. Wills are necessary to set up testamentary trusts, which are very useful, even for smaller estates.
If a person dies without a will, the laws of descent and distribution determine who will receive their assets. These laws may be very different from your intentions. For example, a surviving spouse may not receive enough to ensure adequate support. A person must execute a will to pass property to his or her spouse, children, or relatives in proportions that differ from legal statutes.
Living trusts, also called “inter vivos trusts”, allow you to transfer property to the trust during your lifetime. Assets you place into a trust are exempt from probate administration when you die. Avoiding probate can result in substantial time and and expense savings, and preserve your privacy. Trusts avoid creating probate court documents, which are public record and available for public inspection. Trusts also avoid the need for conservatorship proceedings, if you become incapacitated.
You may choose to create a living trust that is revocable or irrevocable. There are various factors to consider when choosing between the two types, including expense, tax treatment, and the age and condition of the beneficiary.
Many people own property in various forms of co-ownership. Certain forms of co-ownership have mechanisms that automatically (by “operation of law”) provide a surviving co-owner with a deceased co-owners interest, at the time of death. These transfers are automatic because they occur even without a will or trust. If a transfer is by operation of law, it will occur regardless of contrary will or trust provisions.
Joint tenancies, joint accounts, and Totten trust accounts provide for automatic transfer of interest at death, are easy to establish, and are easy to terminate after the death of one of the owners. These may be established without the help of an attorney. But, they are inflexible arrangements, and may create greater tax liability downstream.
Competent adults have the right to control the decisions made for their own medical care. A durable power of attorney for healthcare allows you to designate a person to make general health care decisions for you, in the event you become incapacitated.
Whether or not to have life sustaining treatment provided, withheld, or withdrawn, when you are suffering from terminal conditions and are permanently unconscious, may be decided beforehand. An advance directive for healthcare may include a living will, healthcare proxy, or both. A living will allows you to instruct your doctor on the procedures and treatments you wish to have, in the event you are unable to make those decisions yourself. Your living will may also designate a person or “health care proxy” to make those decisions on your behalf.
Guardianship for Minors
The chances are that your life expectancy exceeds the time your youngest child will reach the age of majority, and guardianship will not be required. However, the inclusion of guardianship provisions in your will or other writing assures that you are prepared. As a parent, you may choose a guardian of the person or property, or both.
Contact our offices today to learn how an estate planning attorney can help you and your family protect your assets.