Wills, Trusts & Estates lawyer in Athens and Huntsville, AL

Wills, Trusts, and Estate Support

If you are like most people, you know that estate planning is a good idea. A plan will ensure your property will pass to the right people with minimal cost and bureaucracy. And if you have minor children, you also know that you want your estate plan to name those who you want to care for your children in the event of your death or incapacitation. You may also know that you want your plan to leave specific instructions about your finances and medical care in case you become incapacitated and no longer able to make those decisions for yourself.

Most people know they need a plan, but most people never take the time to create a plan. In our experience, we have learned that people put off this task first because they don’t want to think about their mortality, and, second, they don’t want to pay the legal fees associated with creating a plan. And, for those with minor children, often the most significant impediment is deciding who will be responsible for raising the minor children.

Indeed, estate planning is not easy, but it is vitally important. At Michael Tease Law PC we are here to help. We will help you leave your property by will or living trust or both. If you have children, we will help you name guardians to raise them and managers to look after their inheritance in the event you die or become incapacitated. And, equally important, we will help you plan for what would happen if you ever become unable to make medical and financial decisions for yourself.

Estate Plans are essential for every adult, no matter how large or modest the estate. What follows is a summary of some of the documents one typically finds in an estate plan.

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What is a Will?

A will or testament is a legal document that states your final wishes and coordinates the distribution of your assets after death. A will is essential to bequeath (pass) property that you own in your name alone to someone else.

If you fail to write a will, your estate will be distributed under the Alabama “laws of intestacy.” The laws of intestacy are a sort of default distribution scheme that distributes your assets to your next of kin. Contrary to what some believe, the State doesn’t inherit your property; your next of kin do.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal agreement that spells out the rules that you want to be followed for property held in trust for your beneficiaries. There are many types of trusts, and they can be used for many purposes. Some standard terms are:

  • The person setting up the trust is the settlor
  • The property you put into the trust is known as trust property
  • The person in charge of the trust is known as the trustee
  • The persons receiving some or all the trust property are known as the beneficiaries
  • The rules the trust must follow to distribute the trust property are known as the trust agreement

Should my plan include a will, a trust, or both? The answer is: It depends. It depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you aren’t sure what you are trying to accomplish, don’t worry. That is why we are here.

What is a Health Care Directive?

Health care directives are instructions to your doctors and health providers about what you want to happen if you can’t make the decision on your own because of illness or incapacitation.

What is a Health Care Proxy?

In Alabama, a Health Care Proxy, also known as Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, appoints someone you trust to make medical decisions for you if you become too sick to speak for yourself. The person you select is called a health care proxy.

What is a Living Will?

A Living Will lets you specify what type of end-of-life care you want when the time comes. The goal for this document is to make your intentions clear concerning end-of-life health care decisions.

Three Critical Legal Documents Every Parent of a College Student Should Get As Soon As Possible

When kids go to college, parents become preoccupied with housing, transportation, vetting roommates, enrollment, financing, moving all the furniture and personal belongings, just to name a few stressful things. What rarely occurs to parents, however, until some unfortunate incident, is that their college student is usually an adult child. And, without specific legal documents, parents cannot intervene on behalf of the adult child in the event the child is injured, ill or incapacitated while away at school.

1. HIPAA Authorization Form

Imagine, no matter how unpleasant, that your 19-year-old son or daughter while away at college many hours from you is involved in a severe car accident and is rushed to the hospital. When you find out about the accident, you immediately call the hospital to check on your child’s condition. To your horror, you hear the nurse say, “Sorry, but due to HIPPA laws, I can’t provide you with any information.”

HIPPA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is a federal law that safeguards who can access an adult’s private health data. In the imaginary exercise above, the nurse is prohibited by Law from revealing information to you about your adult child and would face hefty fines and jail time if she violated HIPPA laws.

This situation illustrates why a HIPPA authorization, signed by your adult child and naming you as an authorized party, is critical.

2. Healthcare Power of Attorney (Healthcare Proxy)

Now imagine your 19-year-old son is unconscious in the hospital following the accident. If he signed the HIPAA Authorization Form, the Health Care provider could share information with you on your son’s health status. Yet, if your adult child has not also signed a Healthcare Power of Attorney naming you as his “healthcare proxy,” you will not be allowed to review his medical records or make informed medical decisions on his behalf. Your son’s diagnosis and treatment will be solely in the hands of the healthcare providers.

This situation illustrates why a medical power of attorney, signed by your son and naming you as the healthcare proxy, is critical.

3. General Durable Power of Attorney

A medical power of attorney form is only for health care choices should your son or daughter become incapacitated. A general durable power of attorney covers financial decisions.

This document allows a college student to give authority to another person (the parents) to make financial and legal decisions.

This situation illustrates why a medical power of attorney, signed by your son and naming you as the healthcare proxy, is critical.