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WILLS & TRUSTS

Brandon, MS Wills and Estates Lawyer Serving Rankin, Hinds and Madison Counties
The Importance of Wills

The average American will work 80,000 hours in a lifetime, which is close to 45 to 55 years.  Yet, despite all of the resources and assets we accumulate in our lifetimes, national statistics indicate that 80 percent of Americans die without leaving a will.  This could be due to fear of death, procrastination, or misinformation (people presume that only the rich need to have wills). 

What many individuals don't realize is that, in the absence of a will or other legal arrangement to distribute property at death, the state must step in to administer the estate.  This can result in lengthy delays before the rightful heirs receive their property.  And, because the estate has no instructions from the deceased, no specific bequests or charitable gifts can be made.
last will and testament
If there is no will, or if the will is determined to be invalid, consequences include: 
  • State law, not the deceased, will determine disposition of assets
  • Additional expenses will be incurred and extra work will be required to qualify an administrator.  State inheritance tax and federal estate taxes could be reduced with proper planning.
  • A judge will determine who gets custody of children.
  • If there is no surviving spouse or close relative, the state may take the property.
  • The procedures for asset distribution become more complicated, and the law makes no exceptions for persons in unusual need or for your own wishes. 
  • It can lead to fights and lawsuits among surviving family members
    
A will should be a statement dealing with the things you truly care about, like your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, your church, and the charities that you hold dear.  When loved ones are grieving and dealing with death, they shouldn't be overwhelmed with financial concerns.  Careful estate planning helps take care of that.


Powers of Attorney

An important part of lifetime planning is the power of attorney. Every adult has day-to-day affairs to manage, like paying bills, for instance. Many people are under the impression that if they are unexpectedly debilitated due to injury or illness, their spouse or child can automatically act for them to manage their financial and medical affairs. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. But if a person has properly executed a power of attorney, their partner or another person who they have designated can administer assets and manage their affairs for them. 

The lack of a properly executed power of attorney can cause numerous difficulties for a person who is severely ill or injured and unable to make financial or medical decisions. Most States have detailed, expensive court procedures, called guardianships or conservatorships, to provide for the appointment of a guardian or conservator to manage the person's affairs for them. These appointments normally require lengthy, formal proceedings in court and can be quite expensive. These proceedings generally require lawyers to prepare and file the necessary papers, doctors to provide medical testimony regarding the mental incapacity of the subject of the action, and the involvement of a temporary guardian to investigate, and even intercede in, surrogate proceedings. This can be a very slow, costly, and frustrating process, which is the last thing a family needs to deal with when decisions must be made quickly.

But by preparing a power of attorney, you can avoid the inconvenience and costs of these proceedings. Power of attorney designations must be done while you are competent, alert, and aware of the consequences of your decision. With this document, your agent (often called an attorney-in-fact) may perform any legal function or task that you give them the authority to perform on your behalf. Without this document, the person designated to have this power will be determined by the courts after lengthy and costly proceedings. 

When designating an agent, you can grant them as much or as little power as you see fit, and you can have it take effect immediately or only upon the occurrence of a future event. You can also revoke this power at any time after giving it by giving written notice to the agent designated in the document. 

So, why would anyone give such sweeping authority to another person? For one, convenience. Maybe you are buying or selling assets and don't wish to show up in person to close the transaction. With a power of attorney, you can designate someone to do this for you. But probably the most important reason is preparation for the unexpected. If you are suddenly unable to act on your own behalf due to absence or incapacity, it is important to have someone that you trust designated to make decisions on your behalf. This can save you and your family not only a lot of time, but also a substantial amount of money.


Contact Woods Law Firm, PLLC to Learn About Your Estate Planning Options
     
Estate planning is your opportunity to make sure your wishes are carried out when you pass away.  At Woods Law Firm, PLLC we use a variety of tools in the estate planning process, such as: 

  • Wills
  • Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Living Wills & Advance Health-Care Directives

If you or someone you know is in need of guidance in the estate planning process, give us a call and we will help ensure that your assets and the ones you care about most are protected and well taken care of.

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Phone:  (601) 706-9757
Fax: (601) 825-3677

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202 East Government Street
Brandon, MS 39042
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