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Understanding the Difference Between A Will and A Living Will

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Wills have evolved considerably over the years. What once started as simple instructions to distribute one’s assets after death has spawned multiple different documents related to estate planning. Do you know their differences and which one is right for you?

Living wills and Last Wills and Testaments are the two most commonly used documents for estate planning. However, they aren’t interchangeable. Confusing the two could have disastrous consequences, from leaving the state of your assets in question to medical professionals ignoring your directives.

Learning how these two documents work is the first step to taking control of your estate planning. Though probate and estate planning can be complicated subjects, we think you’ll find that distinguishing these two types of wills is very simple once you are armed with the information you need to move forward. 

What is a Last Will and Testament?

A last will and testament is a document that dictates instructions to follow after someone’s death. It’s an essential piece of estate planning for anyone with assets (or debts) to distribute after they die (a house, car, or savings account, for example) or minors who need care. The will writer (or testator) writes and signs the will and assigns a personal representative to handle the instructions of the will once the testator has passed. The will must also be signed by two witnesses and notarized before it can be verified. These are known as “self-proving” wills. 

The probate of your will begins by having it admitted to probate and the court issuing letters testamentary. Your personal representative can then begin to tend to the affairs of the estate such as defending claims of creditors, maintaining assets, and marshalling the estate, to name a few. 

While, ideally, your executor will act on your last wishes without issue, a court will follow the probate process to ensure the will is valid. In essence, probate exists to confirm that the instructions outlined in your will can still be followed at the time of your passing and don’t violate the law. Of course, anyone may challenge the validity of your will during or before the probate process as well. A well-drafted will can avoid, or shorten, many of those concerns.

Having a will is the simplest way to enforce your final wishes legally. Your assets will be distributed following intestacy laws if you pass without a will in place. Though intestacy laws are pretty clear-cut, they are much more cumbersome and expensive for your loved ones.

The original needs to be kept in a safe place where someone can readily produce it when needed. You do not need to keep your will on your person. Our local probate court has a vault which stores wills for a nominal fee. 

What Is A Living Will?

A living will is also knownas an advanced healthcare directive(“AHCD”). A living will outlines what steps you do or do not want to take in a critical medical situation. Medical staff will only follow a living will once they confirm you are incapacitated. 

Living wills most commonly include the efforts you want (or don’t want) medical professionals to take to save your life. It’s essential to have it if you are opposed to specific procedures. A living will can also instruct whether or not you want to donate organs or body parts in the event of your passing. 

Another goal of the living will is to prevent family members from fighting over what decision to make on your behalf. However, you can also specify someone in your living will to make medical decisions on your behalf. Usually, such designations are known as health care power of attorney. 

In Alabama, your living will is valid so long as you’re age 19 or older, the will is in writing, and you’ve signed and dated in the presence of two witnesses. 

In addition to keeping a copy for yourself, you should give a copy of your living will to any medical professionals who regularly treat you. You may want to give it out to members of your family as well. Finally, though not legally necessary, it is a good idea to provide a copy to your lawyer to retain as well. 

How Are They Different?

A simple way to view it is this —  your last will guides people on how to divide your assets and care for your children (if you have any) once you pass. Your living will instructs medical professionals how to treat you in a life-or-death situation when you’re unable to communicate for yourself. The former is only enforceable after your passing, while the latter if only effective when you’re still alive. 

Which one is right for you depends entirely on your needs. However, it’s important to note that it’s not a “one or the other” situation, and having both can help prepare you and your loved ones for the unexpected. An Alabama probate attorney will usually advise you to have both for this very reason.

Let Brackin & Johnson Help Plan For Your Future

While it’s true that you don’t need a lawyer to write up and enforce either type of will, writing it on your own exposes you to huge risks. How can you be sure your will is legally enforceable? Is the language concise enough to remove doubt and prevent legal challenges?

That’s why you need Brackin & Johnson on your side.

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.

How to Find the Best Criminal Defense Attorney for Your Case

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Most people know that hiring a defense attorney once charged with a crime is the best course of action. But the lawyer you hire will make the difference between winning and losing a case. So how can you be sure you’re hiring the best lawyer for your case?

Every lawyer will have their strengths and areas of expertise, and it’s up to you to sort them out and find the one best equipped for your needs. But many factors determine whether or not an attorney is a good match for you, and they can be confusing if you’ve never hired a lawyer before. Do you know how to avoid this unnecessary frustration in an already stressful time?

There’s no silver bullet to picking the perfect lawyer, but there is expert advice that will help you make an informed decision. We’ve outlined a five-step process to choosing the right criminal defense lawyer for you. By focusing on these areas, you can eliminate many of the headaches and much of the uncertainty that can come with hiring an attorney. So if you’re ready to simplify the process and make the right decision, keep reading.

1. Define Your Needs

The first thing you should focus on is defining what kind of criminal defense attorney services meet your needs. Not every criminal defense lawyer will specialize in the field relevant to your case. So, before you start your search, you need to zero in on what you want from your lawyer.

For example, you may need a lawyer that also specializes in family law if you’re facing domestic assault charges or an Alabama criminal lawyer if there’s any possibility that you’ll face federal charges as well. Take some time to create a list of criminal offenses that you may be charged with, and research the corresponding criminal defense attorney services that you’ll need. 

If you don’t understand all of your charges, you should bring that up when you’re interviewing lawyers. Any attorney you speak with will help you make sense of your circumstances and let you know if their firm can help. Between your brainstorming and interviews, you should have a clear picture of what you need from an attorney. 

2. Define Your Criteria

While your personal needs for choosing a lawyer is important, you should also consider more objective factors. Consider things like costs and location when searching for an attorney. For example, if one lawyer charges more than another but is more proficient,, or more experienced, he or she may provide superior services. 

However, it would be best to consider your costs as well. For example, if your ideal lawyer lives several miles away, can you afford to travel back and forth to see them or make the time for meetings? If not, can they assist you with virtual meetings? Striking a balance between experience, budget, location, and other variables should factor into your decision.

3. Have a Consultation

There’s no substitute for a face to face consultation. Sit and talk with a lawyer that you have found or that was recommended to you. 

Your lawyer should give you an honest evaluation of your case based on the facts provided and be able to provide a firm procedural road map for your case. Your lawyer should understand the personalities of judges, prosecutors, and administrative staff that with whom you will interact. 

Your lawyer should have an understanding of the law surrounding your concerns and should be able to explain the likely outcomes in your case as well as best and worst case scenarios.  

4. Ask for Referrals

There’s no such thing as doing too much research. A lawyer will always try to paint themselves in the best light when you inquire, and online reviews aren’t always reliable. So rather than treat either of these sources as absolute truths, you can get even more accuracy by seeking out referrals. 

It’s not uncommon for attorneys to refer to other lawyers when asked. Referrals can be beneficial if you’re overwhelmed by the search or simply have trouble finding someone who meets your criteria. Of course, once you have a referral, be sure to research their background to confirm that it’s a good match.

5. Look At Their Success Record

Just because someone is a lawyer doesn’t mean they’re skilled. While it’s true that becoming a lawyer requires years of hard work, study, and dedication, those things alone don’t guarantee success. That’s why it’s vital to look at a lawyer’s win/loss record, especially with cases similar to your own.

Winning and losing is relative. Sometimes a conviction for a lesser charge is a big win. A well-negotiated plea agreement, or trial ending in “not guilty” are both good results, depending on circumstances. Be sure your lawyer is taking into account all of your concerns and staying focused on getting you the best result possible. 

You Can Count on Brackin & Johnson

It’s incredibly stressful to face criminal charges, and the pressure you feel about hiring the right lawyer can make it even worse. It’s tempting to rush the process just to get it over with, but doing so could be a huge mistake. Instead, you need a lawyer who understands what you’re going through and will give you the best legal services possible.

That’s precisely what we do at Brackin & Johnson.

For over 35 years, we’ve helped the people of Baldwin County with their criminal defense, personal injury, road accident, family law, elder law, ejectment, eviction, and estate planning needs. So let us put our expertise to work for you. Contact us today for a case evaluation and put your mind at ease.

How to Choose the Right Elder Law Attorney

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Elder law is a particular area of the law that deals with the needs of senior adults. Things like wills, future health care choices and other decisions are established through elder care (often with assistance of a family member) to keep a parent or spouse’s wishes intact as they continue to age. However, all of this requires legal documentation and the help of an attorney to establish.

Knowing which elder law attorney is right for you isn’t always easy. It’s a broad field that encompasses many different specialties. Identifying how they line up with your needs can be challenging–but it doesn’t have to be.

We’ve outlined some key ways to ensure you’re choosing an elder law attorney that is best suited for your needs. With these steps, you only need to focus on your needs and ask the right questions. 

1. Get A Referral From Someone You Trust

If you find yourself struggling to make time to research lawyers and want to make things easier, sometimes it is best to seek out referrals from friends or family. When you ask someone for a referral, be sure that the lawyer in question works in a relevant area of law. Just because they’re a good lawyer in their area of law doesn’t mean they can necessarily help you in the realm of elder law.

You can also get referrals from other lawyers. Believe it or not, lawyers give out recommendations when they cannot help a potential client. So if you had a positive experience with a lawyer but that does not specialize in elder law, their recommendation could be just as valuable.

2. Look At Their Credentials

To practice law in Alabama, an attorney must be licensed in the state and register with the Bar Association. Most people know this, but these requirements are only the bare minimum. If you want to look for signs of outstanding achievement, you’ll need to dig a little deeper.

Don’t be fooled by designations that sound important. Many of these only require that the attorney pay a fee to an organization in order to receive their designation. You need to inquire as to their knowledge of how the estate planning tools of interest work together, what happens if they contradict one another, or what happens if there is future litigation surrounding the documents. 

3. Check Their Experience

Attorneys rarely get to give you a detailed synopsis of their experience through their advertisements. Instead, they will most often describe the general areas of law that they practice and tell you how long they’ve been operating. Those are both fine things to know, but seeking out more details will give you a better picture of what they are passionate about and what kind of fit they may be for you and your case.

For example, two lawyers who work in elder law may not focus on the same issues. So it’s vital to know if their skillsets line up with your needs. Elder law covers a wide range of subjects, including estate planning, elder abuse, veterans benefits, Medicare and Medicaid planning, long-term care, and power of attorney, to name a few. An elder law firm with a broad range of experience and attention to detail is better positioned to give long-term advice and develop a comprehensive plan. 

Before searching for an elder law attorney, list the specific issues you want to be addressed and use them as selection criteria. Then, you can compare it to what’s listed on a firm’s website to start filtering candidates before you ever schedule a consultation. You may be surprised at how quickly this method brings you qualified candidates. 

4. Ask About Their Billing Structure

Finding a lawyer that meets all your legal needs is only half the battle. The second half? Be sure you can afford their services. 

When consulting with a lawyer, ask them how they bill clients (if they don’t mention it themselves–most will). Some charge by the hour, while others operate with a flat rate. Ask about any additional fees they may charge so you can have a complete picture to calculate costs with. 

Finding a lawyer who fits comfortably within your budget can be tricky at times. It’s no secret that legal services can be expensive. However, lawyers want to work with clients, and most have a certain level of flexibility. 

5. Gauge Their Interactions with You

When you first consult with a lawyer, pay close attention to how they interact with you. What they say and how they speak are good indicators of what your working relationship will be like. For example, if they’re courteous, invite you to ask questions, and ask many questions themselves, you’ll likely have an easier time working alongside them. 

You want to make sure they respond to your emails and messages promptly, especially if you expect to do a lot of long-distance communication. But, again, it’s about feeling respected and having control of the situation. After all, they need your work just as much as you need their help.

Brackin & Johnson – Experienced Elder Law Attorneys

As a senior or the loved one of a senior, an experienced elder lawyer can help you address legal matters that can affect one’s quality of life and health. You’ll need an expert to interpret complex Alabama laws and you’ll want the very best to help you plan for your loved ones. 

At Brackin & Johnson, our experienced Elder Law attorneys can assist you or your loved ones with planning for long term care and ensuring medical needs are met should the time come when you or your family member can no longer care for oneself. 

We are passionate about developing an estate plan that works for your family, and we will work with you to ensure that your future is laid out in writing. If you’re searching for a skilled attorney specializing in elder law, get in touch with us today to schedule your free initial consultation

Contact Brackin & Johnson Today!

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

(251) 943-4040

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