Proactive Planning With a Probate Lawyer in Mississippi Helps To Avoid Will Contests

Probate lawyers in Mississippi work with their clients to put together plans that clearly explain what the client wants.  At least, that’s the hope.  When it comes to the administration of a will, however, there are several instances where a will is contested, often by an adult child of the decedent.

One of the biggest problems that leads to a will being contested has to do with communication within the family.  This can relate to parents not communicating their wishes to their children and relying on a will to do it for them, or to siblings not communicating with one another during the will administration so that everyone has a different perspective on what is going on.

There are several reasons a will can be contested, and there are also ways that our Mississippi probate lawyers help families and individuals proactively avoid the expense and drama.

Unequal Distribution Among Beneficiaries

When one sibling receives less than another (either in reality or in perception), it can trigger a desire to contest the will.  Really, though, there are plenty of good reasons for an unequal distribution.  Perhaps one child acted as the parent’s caretaker, and a bigger portion of the estate is being left to him or her as compensation.  Sometimes a business is left to one or more siblings, with a larger portion of the personal estate left to another.  It’s almost impossible to make these things “even,” and some siblings may choose to squabble about it.

In many cases, these issues can be avoided or mitigated by making sure to explain in the will the reason for decisions that are being made.  That way, not only is there an explanation that can help stop a will from being contested, there is also recourse for the courts to rule in favor of the original intentions. 

Diminished Capacity

A commonly-cited reason for stopping the will administration process by contesting the will is “diminished capacity.”  In these cases, someone with a stake in the outcome of the will tells the courts that he or she believes that the deceased wasn’t capable of making good decisions due to some sort of mental impairment.  Even if you are perfectly reasonable and sound at the time that you make changes to your will, that doesn’t mean that someone can’t come back after your death and suggest that you weren’t.

In order to help discourage this from happening during the Hinds County probate court process, it may be helpful to put your reasons for changes directly into the will.  Again, this comes back to communication.  If you communicate why you are making changes by writing it into the will, you can help avoid some major issues.  Additionally, you may even wish to have your doctor evaluate you at the time to ensure that you are not suffering from diminished capacity.

Disinheritance

Disinheritance of one beneficiary can certainly trigger a lawsuit against the estate.  While you may have perfectly good reasons for the disinheritance, that doesn’t mean that the disinherited person will agree.  Sometimes just contesting the will on these grounds is enough to get the other heirs to provide a financial settlement in order to avoid a drawn-out and expensive court process.

As mentioned above, communication is key.  Describe in the will why you have made the decisions you have regarding disinheriting someone.  Cover your bases when it comes to diminished capacity by speaking with your doctor.  You may also want to discuss your decision with a third party (perhaps your attorney) who will be able to bring that understanding to the situation when it comes time for the actual will administration.

Why Probate?

Probate is the process of transferring title from a deceased person to their heirs.  The primary purpose of Probate is to give the deceased person’s creditors the opportunity to be paid and to ensure that legal title to the assets is clearly established.  If the deceased did not set up a trust, then there is a very high chance that probate will be necessary. Probate is also important because it ensures that all heirs have a full and fair opportunity to know about the assets of the estate, and to ensure everyone is treated fairly.

During the probate process, the deceased’s property needs to be accounted for, a responsibility that usually falls to a person appointed by the court, which is called an “Executor” or “Administrator”, depending on if there is a Will or not.  This is where a probate attorney will help the family member or other appointed individual by directing him or her in how to do this accounting.

Here are some general guidelines to follow when it comes to Probate:

  • Real estate, personal possessions, and some bank accounts need to be accounted for and go through the probate process.
  • Life insurance generally does NOT go through probate, as there is a named beneficiary.
  • Many retirement accounts do NOT go through probate, either, for the same reason.
  • Some bank accounts do NOT go through probate, if the deceased set them up as “Pay-on-death” or “in trust for”.
  • Living trusts do NOT go through probate, which is one of the main reasons for creating them in the first place.

Most people believe that “I have a Last Will and Testament, so I don’t have to go through Probate”, this is most definitely not true.  Keep in mind that simply having a will does not necessarily ease the probate process along either.  While this document is helpful in determining how your estate is to be distributed, the courts will still have to determine its validity and pay any outstanding debts from the estate.  What is left can then be distributed according to the wishes outlined in the will.

There are some complaints with the process that lawyers hear regularly.  For one thing, it can be costly.  It also takes a considerable amount of time for the estate to go through probate.  Finally, the process is public, which means that pretty much anyone can have access to information regarding the value of the estate and how it is distributed.  In many cases, these are simply unavoidable annoyances.  If these are major concerns for you, then give our office a call so we can plan in advance so you can determine how best to protect your assets in a way that avoids probate altogether.

Probate in Mississippi requires the services of an attorney.  At the Morton Law Firm, we assist many families each year through the often frustrating and tedious probate process.  For more information click here.

Information to Give the Trustee of Your Estate | Mississippi Trust Lawyer

One of the jobs of a Mississippi trust lawyer is to help clients choose the person who will be responsible for a trust that has been set up.  The trustee has several very important jobs, and things will go smoother if he or she is aware of these responsibilities up front.  Here is some good information that should be shared with a trustee in order to administer the trust with as little difficulty as possible when the time comes.

One Reason “Trust” Is So Important in the Word “Trustee”

In order to ensure that the trust administration goes according to plan, the trustee should review the document that set it out in the first place.  It makes sense to do this while the person creating the trust is still alive so that you can talk about the true intentions behind the trust.  Both parties may choose to sit down with the Mississippi trust lawyer in order to talk through any confusing points.  When it comes time to administer the trust, the trustee will have valuable insight on what was originally intended and how to bring those goals about.

Along those same lines, it is the trustee’s responsibility to make sure that he or she is acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries.  If there is a question about how best to manage the assets, the attorney can be brought in for advice and to make sure that decisions being made are in line with Mississippi state and federal laws.  For this reason, it’s imperative to choose a trustee who not only has good business sense but who is also extremely trustworthy.  He or she should understand that the trust is not for personal gain and be able to withstand temptation to use the trust for his or her own benefit.

Keeping Track of the Trust

The trustee’s main focus should be to manage the assets of the trust in the most effective way possible.  This may mean investing money in smart ways and also includes distributing funds to beneficiaries when appropriate.  One of the easiest things the trustee can do to keep track of funds is to open a checking account for the trust.  Any money that comes in or goes out of the trust can go through this checking account, creating an easy-to-see method for tracking income and expenses.

As an added safeguard, the trustee should provide an annual accounting of the trust to the beneficiaries.  This allows them to understand how the trust is being managed.  It may also be appropriate to provide this information to your Mississippi trust lawyer or other legal entity. Keeping in regular contact with the beneficiaries ensures that they are benefiting appropriately from the funds and also develops a relationship of trust between the parties involved.

Estate Planning for Women | Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, Madison and Metro Jackson Area Will and Trust Lawyer

Will and trust lawyers in Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, Madison and Metro Jackson Area recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to estate plans.  Every situation is different, and each person needs individualized attention.  While there are services that offer cookie-cutter forms that will supposedly allow you to set up a decent plan, there is no comparison to working with an actual estate planning attorney who can work with human understanding to meet your real needs.

For example, the needs of women have been changing dramatically over the past several years.  Gone are the days when a woman was expected to stay home and live on an “allowance” if her husband chose to give her one.  Instead, so many women today have their own jobs, their own finances, and their own desire to protect their assets.

Older Women and Widows

In addition, women typically live longer than men.  So, even if the husband was originally in charge of working with the will and trust lawyer, once he has passed away, the widow has an entirely new set of needs.  She needs to make sure that her estate is able to support her as costs continue to rise, as well as to determine what she would like to have happen to her assets after her own death.

Not all estate planning lawyers in Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, Madison and Metro Jackson Area are current with the times, either.  There is still a tendency to create trusts that will “take care of them” without them actually having any say over the contents of the trust.  Today’s women are often quite capable of managing their own finances and are better served by having flexibility to grow their funds rather than being restricted by the trust.

Younger Women

There are plenty of reasons that a younger woman should to meet with a Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, Madison and Metro Jackson Area will and trust lawyer, too.  In the case of a single mother, assigning a guardian is critical in case of the mother’s death or incapacitation.  If a guardian is not legally named, the courts will step in and choose a guardian for the child without taking the mother’s wishes into consideration. An estate planning attorney may also advise younger mothers to consider setting up a trust for their child(ren) and maybe even to look into life insurance policies that could be used to fund the child(ren)’s future.

Whether married or not, many younger women have careers and would benefit from retirement planning in this earlier stage of life.  By being proactive early on, a woman can set up her 401k and other accounts to make sure she realizes her long-term financial goals.  Looking to retire young, to pay for your kids’ college, or to travel the world?  A Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, Madison and Metro Jackson Area will and trust lawyer can help put things in motion now to make that a reality later.

If you have a significant other in your life, it makes sense for the two of you to work together with the estate planning attorney to make sure that your goals align and that your plans are compatible.  Your attorney can help you properly deal with “his, hers and ours” to ensure that your assets are titled properly and that your financial house together is built on a solid foundation.

Questions for a Probate Attorney in Mississippi: Does All Property Go Through Probate?

Probate attorneys in Mississippi are charged with the responsibility of helping a deceased’s loved ones through the probate process.  This is the court procedure that closes out a person’s estate when he or she has passed away.  If the deceased did not set up a trust, then there is a very high chance that probate will be necessary.

During the probate process, the deceased’s property needs to be accounted for, a responsibility that usually falls to a person appointed by the courts.  Again, the probate attorney will help the family member or other appointed individual by directing him or her in how to do this accounting.  One of the biggest questions at this time is what property goes through probate, and what property is exempt?

Laws can differ from state to state, so it’s important to meet with a Mississippi probate lawyer to ensure you have all of the relevant information.  That said, here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Real estate, personal possessions, and some bank accounts need to be accounted for and go through the probate process
  • Life insurance generally does NOT go through probate, as there is a named beneficiary
  • Many retirement accounts do NOT go through probate, either, for the same reason
  • Some bank accounts do NOT go through probate, if the deceased set them up as “Pay-on-death” or “in trust for”
  • Living trusts do NOT go through probate, which is one of the main reasons for creating them in the first place

Keep in mind that simply having a will does not necessarily circumvent the probate in Hinds County.  While this document is helpful in determining how your estate is to be distributed, the courts will still have to determine its validity and pay any outstanding debts from the estate.  What is left can then be distributed according to the wishes outlined in the will.

There are some complaints with the process that probate lawyers in Clinton hear regularly.  For one thing, it can be costly.  It also takes a considerable amount of time for the estate to go through probate.  Finally, the process is public, which means that pretty much anyone can have access to information regarding the value of the estate and how it is distributed.  In many cases, these are simply unavoidable annoyances.  If these are major concerns for you, then talk to a probate lawyer in Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, or Canton in advance so you can determine how best to protect your assets in a way that avoids probate altogether.

How to Contest a Will in Clinton

Despite the best efforts of wills and trusts lawyers in Clinton, there are times when a will is challenged.  There can be many reasons why this happens, and it is up to the courts to determine what is appropriate in these situations.  Some of these include:

  • The will wasn’t signed
  • The person creating the will didn’t have the capacity to legally sign the will
  • He or she was unduly influenced into signing it
  • The will is fraudulent
  • The person challenging the will feels that a different personal representative should be chosen

None of these reasons for challenging (or contesting) a will is to be taken lightly.  In order to prove that the will is invalid, one of these reasons needs to be proven in a court of law.  The idea of simply challenging a will because you don’t like the contents may seem reasonable; but if you can’t prove one of the above factors for invalidating it, you may very well be wasting your time and resources.

Clinton Wills and Trusts Lawyers

If you do wish to challenge a will, you will want to take your concerns to a lawyer who has experience in Mississippi wills and trusts administration.  He or she will give you some insight into whether or not you have a case.  Be sure to choose a reputable attorney, so that you don’t end up wasting your money on a no-win case.

The lawyer will help you determine if you are a person with “standing.”  That means you need to be someone who actually has a financial stake in the outcome of the will.  Someone in that position would include a child who stands to receive considerably less than siblings (or who has been cut out altogether), a potential beneficiary who believes too much of the estate has been given to a third party (such as a charity), or someone who was included in an earlier will but finds that the new will treats him or her much more unfavorably.

Challenging the Will

In order to challenge a will, the person in question needs to file the contest with the Hinds County probate court, and there is a set time limit for doing so.  Because estate law changes frequently, you should consult a Clinton wills and trusts lawyer to be sure of what the current timeframe is.  He or she will help you decide if you want to pursue the case and to file the appropriate paperwork with the courts.

After reviewing the will, the courts will determine if all or part of it should be considered invalid.  If the whole document is found invalid, then the estate will be distributed according to the laws of Mississippi probate, unless there is an earlier version of the will that the court finds to be valid.  Keep in mind that these may not actually be more favorable than the original contents of the will and will take a considerable amount of money from the overall estate before it is dispersed.

Contact A Clinton Will and Trust Attorney

If you have questions about how to contest a will in the greater Clinton and Jackson Metro area, please feel free to contact our Clinton will, trust and probate attorneys at (601) 925-9797 to schedule a free phone consultation with the mention of this article.

What Does a Probate Lawyer in Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison Do?

Oftentimes, a person isn’t even aware of what a probate lawyer in Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison does until he or she is in need of one.  Of course, is a great idea to hire a probate lawyer before you actually “need” his or her services so things can go as smoothly as possible when it comes to taking an estate through the probate process.  Unfortunately, that’s not always how it works.  It’s very common to go looking for a probate lawyer in Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison once a loved one has passed and help is needed immediately.

The Hinds, Rankin or Madison County Probate Process

The Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison probate lawyer’s job is to offer assistance as an estate passes through the court system in order for it to be distributed properly.  There are several steps that the court must go through to close an estate, and the attorney’s job is to make sure everything is initiated and followed through on as these steps are being followed.

Some of the basics of probate include:

  • Validating the will
  • Creating an inventory of assets
  • Getting appropriate appraisals for assets
  • Creating a list of debts
  • Paying debts
  • Dispersing the remaining property according to the will

If there is no will, the estate is said to be “in testate,” and the court will have even more say in what becomes of the decedent’s property.

When You Need a Probate Lawyer in Hinds, Rankin or Madison County

Not every estate needs a probate lawyer.  Some Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison families have placed their assets into trusts that actually don’t go through the probate process, for example.  Additionally, some wills are very simple and easy to execute, say as in a case where there are little to no debts and common property is left to a surviving spouse alone.

In most other cases, however, hiring a probate lawyer in Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison will simplify the process for all involved and will most likely save the estate a fair amount of money.  That is because the attorney will be able to implement strategies to help lower the amount of taxes that need to be paid.

He or she can also become an objective outside party who can act as the executor of the will in situations where family tensions run high.  Along those same lines, if someone with a legal financial interest in the estate wants to contest the will, it makes sense to have a probate attorney working to make sure the decedent’s wishes are carried out to the best of the court’s ability.

Finally, it can be a good idea to get a Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison probate lawyer involved in cases where an individual has a terminal illness.  The attorney can help to get affairs in order by drawing up a will and understanding first-hand what it is that the person wants for the estate.

What the Probate Lawyer Will Do

There are many, many tasks that the probate lawyer will perform on behalf of the estate.

  • Filing documents with the court
  • Creating lists of assets
  • Place legal notices in newspapers
  • Contact creditors
  • Make sure taxes are paid on the estate

A Mississipi probate lawyer must keep current on relevant laws as they change and will work to help clients and heirs follow all of the right procedures while doing their best to protect their interests.

Jackson Probate 101: The Basics

Probate is a process that can differ from state to state.  This means that the laws which apply here in Mississippi might not be the same as other places.  With such variance in what applies, it’s just good sense to work with an estate planning attorney in Jackson Mississippi who will be up-to-date on all of the most recent information.  That said, there are some probate basics that everyone should understand.

The Will

Probate in Jackson is a court process to legally administer and close out an estate.  Unless you have specific trusts in place, your estate will likely go through this process, even if you have a will.  This is surprising news to some folks who thought that having a will would take care of everything and avoid the probate process in Mississippi.  Really, though, probate is used to ensure that the will is valid, as well as to distribute your assets according to the will.

Debts

If you have outstanding debts, the probate process is also a time for them to be paid.  The court will take a look at your assets and debts and determine how those debts are to be paid.  These debts are typically paid before your heirs receive their share of what is left.  In some cases, a Hinds County probate attorney can help you to reduce the number of assets that are vulnerable to being used for this purpose through the use of trusts.

Executor of the Estate

The person named as the executor (which may also be chosen by the courts, especially if you don’t have a will) is charged with gathering together all of your information to present during probate in Hinds County.  This means that all of your accounts, assets, and debts need to be listed and submitted to the court in a timely manner.  The executor will also be responsible for overseeing the distribution of your estate and for making sure that the court’s decisions are carried out.

Probate Lawyer

Probate lawyers in Clinton take on a number of roles in the process, one of which is acting as the executor of the will.  Some families prefer to have a professional take on these responsibilities, although there is a cost for the service.  Even if there is an executor, however, hiring a probate lawyer in Clinton is a good idea, as he or she will be familiar with the process and can therefore save the heirs considerable time, frustration, and money for the estate.

The Process

Again, the probate process can vary, but in Hinds County it will generally include the following:

  • Papers will be filed by the executor or lawyer to start probate
  • The will (if there is one) is presented along with a list of assets and debts
  • Notification of the death is made to relatives and creditors
  • The executor manages the assets for the estate for the duration of the probate process

Speak to a Hinds County Probate Attorney

If you are facing the probate process after the loss of a loved one, we encourage you to contact our Jackson probate attorneys to begin the process of closing out his or her estate.  Through compassionate guidance and hands-on legal help, we will ensure that your loved one’s affairs are properly taken care of so you can focus on your family and the healing process.  To schedule a complimentary consultation, simply call our Jackson probate attorneys at (601) 925-9797.

Clinton Probate 101: The Basics

Probate is a process that can differ from state to state.  This means that the laws which apply here in Mississippi might not be the same as other places.  With such variance in what applies, it’s just good sense to work with an estate planning attorney in Clinton who will be up-to-date on all of the most recent information.  That said, there are some probate basics that everyone should understand.

The Will

Probate in Clinton is a court process to legally administer and close out an estate.  Unless you have specific trusts in place, your estate will likely go through this process, even if you have a will.  This is surprising news to some folks who thought that having a will would take care of everything and avoid the probate process in Mississippi.  Really, though, probate is used to ensure that the will is valid, as well as to distribute your assets according to the will.

Debts

If you have outstanding debts, the probate process is also a time for them to be paid.  The court will take a look at your assets and debts and determine how those debts are to be paid.  These debts are typically paid before your heirs receive their share of what is left.  In some cases, a Hinds County probate attorney can help you to reduce the number of assets that are vulnerable to being used for this purpose through the use of trusts.

Executor of the Estate

The person named as the executor (which may also be chosen by the courts, especially if you don’t have a will) is charged with gathering together all of your information to present during probate in Hinds County.  This means that all of your accounts, assets, and debts need to be listed and submitted to the court in a timely manner.  The executor will also be responsible for overseeing the distribution of your estate and for making sure that the court’s decisions are carried out.

Probate Lawyer

Probate lawyers in Clinton take on a number of roles in the process, one of which is acting as the executor of the will.  Some families prefer to have a professional take on these responsibilities, although there is a cost for the service.  Even if there is an executor, however, hiring a probate lawyer in Clinton is a good idea, as he or she will be familiar with the process and can therefore save the heirs considerable time, frustration, and money for the estate.

The Process

Again, the probate process can vary, but in Hinds County it will generally include the following:

  • Papers will be filed by the executor or lawyer to start probate
  • The will (if there is one) is presented along with a list of assets and debts
  • Notification of the death is made to relatives and creditors
  • The executor manages the assets for the estate for the duration of the probate process

Speak to a Hinds County Probate Attorney

If you are facing the probate process after the loss of a loved one, we encourage you to contact our Clinton probate attorneys to begin the process of closing out his or her estate.  Through compassionate guidance and hands-on legal help, we will ensure that your loved one’s affairs are properly taken care of so you can focus on your family and the healing process.  To schedule a complimentary consultation, simply call our Clinton probate attorneys at (601) 925-9797.

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