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Why Hire An Estate Planning Attorney?

Why Hire An Estate Planning Attorney?

Even if you’ve never thought about it before, every person has an estate. That estate could include your house, car, bank accounts, life insurance policies, personal possessions, or even your furniture. To lay out precisely what happens after you pass away, you’ll need an estate plan.

An estate plan consists of a combination of legal documents that will list who you want to receive your assets when you pass away. Not only that, it can detail precisely when these items and money will be distributed.

Everyone has specific wishes for what happens to their things when they pass away, but not everyone sits down to plan all of that out. Sometimes, people feel invincible, and in other cases, they feel they need to wait to plan one out.

Having a solid estate plan that you work on with an estate planning attorney will help ensure your wishes are met when you pass away. 

Estate Planning Is Essential, But Often Avoided

Many people put off planning their estate. Maybe you’re too busy, or you think you have plenty of time left to plan out your end of life wishes. Maybe you just don’t want to deal with the paperwork itself as it seems to be overwhelming.

In other cases, people may not want to think about it because they simply don’t want to think about their death. Other times, people worry that they don’t have enough assets to even worry about it.

Regardless, it’s vastly important to plan what happens to your estate before you pass away to ensure your wishes are met to the fullest.

Do I Really Need An Attorney?

You could write your own estate plan —  nothing prevents you from doing so.

However, an estate planning involves drafting legal documents, and there are many times where that document will need to stand up in court if it comes under any scrutiny. Any incorrect or inconclusive language could put your estate in jeopardy.

Hiring an estate attorney is the best way to ensure your estate plan is ironclad and can hold up to the test of time. When you’re not around to defend what you meant in your plan, it is essential to know your attorney did the work required in making that document capable of defending your wishes to the very letter.

What Happens If I Die Without an Estate Plan?

If there is no estate plan when you pass away, the assets will be distributed according to the probate laws of the state you live in. In this case, Alabama intestate succession laws come into effect. When your estate plan is properly drafted, many of the cumbersome and expensive formalities of estate distribution are avoided. 

In Alabama, probate laws are extraordinarily complex and leave out many you may consider family, such as stepchildren and foster children. Much of your wealth may be used to pay the courts, attorneys, or other parties that could have been passed to your loved one with a property estate plan. 

Regardless if you tell someone in your family that they’re entitled to something when you pass away, it doesn’t matter to the state unless it’s written down in a valid will or trust. If it isn’t, everything is distributed via Alabama intestate succession laws.

To prevent future heartbreak and financial insecurity of your family members, planning your estate is an absolute must.

An Estate Planning Attorney Can Protect You and Your Family

An Alabama estate planning attorney can help ensure that your estate plan includes documents that make your loved ones’ lives easier when you pass. They’ll make sure everything needed is handled ahead of time, letting your family focus on grieving, instead of worrying about finances and dividing assets.

Attorneys can ensure that specific language is used throughout the document, ensuring that your assets go to the correct people, trusts are set up for minor children, and guardianship nomination is settled.

One missing word or signature can mean that your family loses the protection your estate plan provides. An attorney is trained to make sure every piece of your estate plan is accurate and up-to-date, ensuring that your estate is handled the way you want.

Attorneys Can Prevent Mistakes

By hiring an attorney to help you plan your estate, you can avoid many common pitfalls plaguing others who venture into estate planning alone.

One mistake that people often make when planning their own estate is in designating beneficiaries. Naming particular beneficiaries to receive your IRA or 401k can mean significant tax implications for the recipient.

An attorney will also help go through your family history and ensure you haven’t left anyone out of the estate plan, and ensure you make changes to your plan as changes in your life occur.

Attorneys Help Reduce Those Taxes

As mentioned before, there can be significant tax implications on passing down some of your assets. Your attorney can help determine whether your estate is liable for specific federal estate taxes.

Attorneys are trained to help value your gross estate, determine what debts you will owe at the time of death, and handle any deductions your estate is eligible to.

This can prevent a considerable portion of your estate from going to taxes when it otherwise shouldn’t. Attorneys can ensure more of your money and assets go where you want it, rather than to the government.

Attorneys Provide Objectivity

Finally, attorneys can help you plan your estate with an objective stance. Family dynamics can add a layer of emotional distress to the estate planning process, and an attorney can help as an extra voice of reason to handle the current and future needs of your loved ones.

The attorney is there to provide you with direct and unbiased answers, which can protect your family down the road.

Ready To Plan?

While you may not want to think about what will happen when you pass away, you also want to make sure that your family is protected and taken care of. Having a will in place can help ensure that your assets get distributed in the way you want.

The experienced attorneys at Brackin & Johnson have been preparing estate planning documents of all kinds for decades. Whether your estate planning is simple or very complex, we will provide you with the estate planning solutions that you need to protect your family legacy.

Contact us today and let us assist you with all of your estate planning needs.

Dying Without a Will in Alabama: What You Need to Know

Dying Without a Will in Alabama: What You Need to Know

When a resident of Alabama dies without leaving behind a Last Will and Testament, the Alabama intestate succession laws layout clearly who shall inherit the deceased estate.

Unlike many states, Alabama has a specific plan within its code of laws that explains precisely what should happen when a person dies without leaving instructions on their post-death wishes.

However, these laws may mean that the deceased person’s wishes won’t be met if not clearly laid out in their will beforehand. If you have been considering creating a will but haven’t yet, your estate and your wishes are potentially at risk. Keep reading to see the ways that Alabama intestacy laws handle your estate.

Dying Without A Will In Alabama

Before looking at how an estate would pass under the code of Alabama, one must first have a basic understanding of what typically happens when someone dies without leaving behind their Last Will and Testament. Most people will put together their Testament during their lives because they want to ensure that their wishes are met after death.

However, there are many cases where people may simply forget to compose one. In other cases, a person may think their death is far on the horizon and a will is not needed yet. This is a risky game, and potentially puts the future of one’s family and their estate in the state’s hands.

Another common situation is when someone is too uncomfortable discussing the topic of death. It can feel overwhelming to consider what happens when you pass away, and so many people choose to avoid the uncomfortable altogether. 

Regardless, the person in question must be the one to create the will. According to the Alabama code, if they don’t actively create a will while living, their property will be dispersed according to intestate law.

What Property Is Considered

When it comes to Alabama law, only assets that would have been handed down through a will are affected. In essence, this means only things you own in your name are considered when a will is not present when you pass. 

Here are some examples of assets that won’t be affected by the intestate succession laws. 

  • The property you’ve placed into a living trust
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Funds in retirement accounts, IRA, or a 401(k) 
  • Securities held in a transfer-on-death account
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts
  • The property you own with someone else 

All of the above assets will pass to the outlined recipient(s), whether you have a will or not. 

How Property Is Split

According to Alabama Intestacy laws, property inheritance is decided upon based on what family members the person in question has.

Survived by a spouse and children, all of whom are children of the spouse: The surviving spouse will inherit the first $50,000 plus one-half of the balance of the probate estate, and the remainder will be split amongst the children.

Survived by a spouse and one or more children who are not descendants of the spouse: In this situation, consider that the deceased remarried, and his new wife had children from a previous marriage. If this were the case, the spouse would receive one-half of the probate, and the deceased person’s children would inherit the other one-half.

Survived by a spouse and no descendants or parents: The spouse will receive the entire estate.

Survived by descendants and no spouse: All descendants will share the estate.

Survived by a spouse and one or more parents and no descendants: The surviving spouse will inherit the first $100,000 of the estate, and the remainder will be distributed between the surviving parents and the spouse.

Survived only by parents: If this were the case, the parents would inherit the entire estate in equal shares, if both are living.

The Complication of Children

Alabama intestate law can be tricky to understand regarding adopted children or stepchildren. You need to understand how all family members will or could be affected by the lack of a Will. 

  • Foster children and stepchildren will not automatically inherit anything under Alabama law. 
  • Adopted children will receive a share equal to your biological children. 
  • Children placed up for adoption who were adopted legally by another family will not receive a share unless your spouse adopted them. 
  • Children born outside of marriage will inherit automatically if the mother or father can legally prove paternity before or after the decedent’s passing. 
  • Children born during your marriage will automatically be assumed to be your children. 
  • Posthumous children who are biologically yours yet born after your death will still share the intestate property. 
  • Grandchildren will only inherit a child’s property if their child is deceased before they die.  

What happens if there are no family members?

The Alabama intestacy laws specifically name parents, descendants, and spouses as the primary recipients of the estate when a person dies without a will. However, if none of these options are available, there are two possible outcomes.

Survived by a sibling or descendants of siblings: The deceased person’s siblings and the sibling’s children will inherit the entire estate.

Survived by no family: This event is improbable, but the entire probate estate will be surrendered to the State of Alabama if it does happen.

Things To Think About

If you’re even considering a will, it’s essential to meet with a lawyer to discuss your end-of-life plans. If you’re no longer close with a spouse yet are still legally married, and you die without a will, that spouse will inherit everything. Likewise, if you no longer have any family to leave your estate to, you may not wish to see your life’s work handed off to the state.

A will is an absolute must if you care about where your estate ends up when you pass away.

The experienced attorneys at Brackin & Johnson have been preparing estate planning documents of all kinds for decades. Whether your estate planning is simple or very complex, we will provide you with the estate planning solutions that you need to protect your family legacy.

Contact us today and let us assist you with all of your estate planning needs.

What is Uncontested Divorce in Alabama?

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In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on all issues that need to be resolved during the divorce process, such as child support, alimony, and the division of marital property. Choosing this route can save time, money, and stress for everyone involved.

Choosing an uncontested divorce may sound easy enough, but there are things to consider when making this decision. So, before you make this important decision, let’s discuss some facts about uncontested divorce, things you should consider when deciding which route to take, and how the process works.

Things to Consider When Filing for Divorce

There are some factors that you should take into account when deciding if you should file for a contested or an uncontested divorce. It’s essential to consider the following aspects before making that decision.

One of the first things people look at when making this decision is the financial aspect. And while finances are something that can sway your decision one way or another, there are a couple of other things to consider.

Divorce is a very emotional time for people, so you must consider how well you can handle your emotions. If you are feeling resentment towards your soon-to-be ex, you may find that those emotions can take precedence over reason and patience, which can turn your simple uncontested divorce into a long, drawn-out court battle.

If children are involved, you should consider that as well. Remember, they also have to deal with the divorce, and they have no control over anything in this process. The more you and your spouse can agree on things, and the less fighting there is, the better it will be on your children.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

As mentioned above, an uncontested divorce means that the couple agrees on all of the issues surrounding the divorce. That means a contested divorce is when the couple can’t agree on one or more important issues, and their divorce must go to court and be presented in front of a judge.

Often, a couple can begin the process of an uncontested divorce only to end up in a contested divorce because they can’t agree on things such as alimony or parenting time. Contested divorces take a considerable amount more time to settle than uncontested divorces, and are potentially far more expensive.

How Uncontested Divorces Work in Alabama

According to the Alabama Code § 30-2-1(a)(7), either spouse may file for divorce based on fault or no-fault grounds. While the couple must agree on issues, child support is not negotiable, and the court will make that determination according to child support guidelines.

To get an uncontested divorce in Alabama, you must take the following steps:

  • Prove Alabama Residency – At least one spouse must be an Alabama resident for at least six months before filing for divorce.
  • Have Your Documentation Prepared – Even if your divorce is uncontested, it’s essential to make sure you have as much documentation as you can together and organized so that it is readily available if needed.
  • Complete the Paperwork – Contact your local county clerk’s office to complete all of the necessary forms.
  • File the Forms – You must file your forms at the Circuit Court in the county where you reside or the county you lived in when you separated from your spouse.
  • Proof of Service – After filing your forms, you have to legally notify your spouse via certified mail, have a deputy or a process server serve them, or they can accept the paperwork from you and complete an “Answer and Waiver” form. If your spouse cannot be located, you can complete a proof of service by publication. When you do this, a notice of the divorce is published in the newspaper for four consecutive weeks. After that time, if your spouse has not responded, they will be considered served.
  • Submit Proof of Service to the Courts – After your spouse is served, submit proof to the courts.

After completing these steps, the courts will review the submitted documents. If everything is in order, after a three-day waiting period, they will sign off on your uncontested divorce.

Baldwin County Family Law—Representation Tailored To You and Your Family

At Brackin & Johnson, we get the results you deserve when you need them most. With more than 40 years of experience, we can provide comprehensive care and representation tailored to your needs and unique situation. 

We will focus on resolving conflicts peacefully through negotiation or mediation. However, if needed, we will fight for you if your case ends up going in front of a judge.

No one divorce or child custody case is the same as the next. We are ready to help you understand your legal options and create the best case for your interests. Contact us today for the best legal services in Baldwin County. 

Contact Brackin & Johnson Today!

We produce results by getting our clients what they are entitled to receive.

(251) 943-4040

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