Writing Your Own Obituary | Will Lawyers in Mississippi

Working with a will lawyer in Mississippi can bring up some uncomfortable feelings.  Those of us in this area of law are very aware of the fact that many people avoid important planning for this very reason.  After all, there aren’t a whole lot of people who want to contemplate their own demise, let alone the feelings of those left behind.

Writing your own obituary can actually be kind of a cathartic experience that helps with the estate planning process.  It gives you an opportunity to reflect on your own life, as well as to help shape how you will be remembered.  It also takes some of the burden off of those who are left behind that might not be up to writing such an intense piece in the middle of grieving.  You can write your obituary and have your will lawyer in Mississippi keep it in your file so that it is ready to go when it is needed.

What to Include

You don’t necessarily have to write a full obituary if you don’t want, but it’s a good idea to at least make a list of some key points to make it easier on the person who does the actual writing later.  The guidelines for obituaries vary depending on where they will be published.  Many funeral homes will place them on their web sites free of charge, but newspapers will charge for including them.  A will lawyer in Mississippi will be able to tell you what local outlets expect when it comes to length and cost.

Some of the things that you may want to include are:

  • ·         Date and place of birth
  • ·         Education and employment background
  • ·         Military service
  • ·         Achievements and awards
  • ·         Family information regarding children, grandchildren, spouses, and parents
  • ·         Hobbies and interests
  • ·         A photo you would like used

In addition, you may want to include your wishes regarding memorials.  If you’d like flowers sent to the church or funeral home, for instance, you can include that.  It’s common for people to request that donations be made to a favorite charity “in lieu of flowers”.

Again, you may prefer not to write the entire obituary yourself, rather you may choose to just include this information in your documents so that your family and friends have it to refer to when they create the obituary after your death.  If you do choose to write your own, you may want to review it with your Mississippi will lawyer every once in a while to ensure that it is kept up to date and reflects any recent changes.

Hinds, Rankin and Madison County Estate Planning Tips for New Mothers

When you have a new baby, a visit to the estate planning lawyer isn’t usually very high on your priority list.  Really, though, it should be.  Estate lawyers in Hinds, Rankin and Madison County are very aware of how your needs shift with the addition of a new little one in the mix.

At its heart, we think of estate planning as a tool to provide for those who come after us.  When you bring a new baby home, your thoughts and desires immediately move toward figuring out how to care for him or her.  While that means things like weighing the pros and cons of using a pacifier or choosing between disposable and cloth diapers, there are some other “big picture” concerns that you should consider now.

If you are still in the “expecting” stage and your baby hasn’t been born yet, then this is a great time to start getting all of your documentation lined up and ready to implement.  We all know that things get pretty hectic once the new baby arrives, so it’s not a bad idea to meet with your Hinds, Rankin and Madison County estate lawyer while you’re still pregnant.

For those whose little bundles have already arrived, however, it is not too late.  (It’s almost never too late to start your estate planning, really.)  Once you’ve got your bearings and can take a deep breath, pick up the phone and call an attorney who has good knowledge in the area.  If you live outside of the Hinds, Rankin and Madison County area, we are happy to refer you to another firm who can help.

When you meet with your estate planning lawyer, you can expect to cover several topics that are very relevant to being a new mother.  For example, you may be advised to consider acquiring a life insurance policy.  This type of policy can provide financial means for your child should you die unexpectedly.  By putting together a trust, you can even create a plan for how you would like the money to be used.

Estate planning doesn’t just have to be about you dying, either.  A good lawyer in Hinds, Rankin and Madison County can help to direct you on topics such as how to prepare for retirement and how to set up a college fund for your new baby.  These are the types of things that are always better to set up in advance because they will have more time to accumulate funds for later.

Finally, the most important reason to set up a meeting with your Hinds, Rankin and Madison County estate planning attorney is to name a guardian for your child.  Should the worst happen, you want to know that someone you trust will be raising your precious little one.  This is not something that should be put off, because it is the only way that you get to have a say in who that important person will be.

If you are ready to get started creating a plan that ensures your family will be protected no matter what happens, please feel free to give our office a call at (601) 925-9797 and ask to schedule a FREE Legacy Planning Session with the mention of this article ($300 value!)

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.

Should Facebook Play Into Estate Planning For Mississippi Residents?

Estate planning lawyers in Mississippi have always had to keep up with the times, and this is just as true in Mississippi as it is anywhere else.  Oftentimes these changes include things like new legislation, but there are other factors that need to be considered, such as differing lifestyles and advancing technologies.  Have you ever stopped to wonder what happens to your Facebook when you die?

It’s a question that even the legal world is starting to address.  Of course, Facebook is only one of the social networks out there, and it’s likely that more will emerge, with some taking over the spotlight.  For now, Facebook is certainly one of the most talked about, as Facebook has reached a billion users.  As of November of 2012, Twitter had 500 million, Google+ had 400 million, Skype had 280, and LinkedIn had 175 million.  And this represents only a fraction of the social networks that are out there.

New York, Oklahoma, and Nebraska were some of the first states to start taking a look at how estate planning attorneys might assist clients in designating personal representatives to take over their social media accounts should the original owner become deceased or incapacitated.  Some people are referring to this as an “online executor,” and it’s even being suggested to officially name this person in the will or trust.

What About Facebook?

While it still remains to be seen how things will play out, especially as newer technologies become part of the Mississippi estate planning landscape, Facebook (as well as many other social media networks) already does have a system in place for dealing with the death of a user.

When someone passes away, Facebook allows another person to notify them.  They will need to be able to supply the individual’s full name (used on the account), email address used to create the account, and the URL of the deceased’s profile.  This is done through a form.  In addition, the person must report their relationship with the deceased.

At this point, Facebook will ask what should be done with the profile.  Some families prefer to take the entire thing down.  Others choose the option of “memorializing” the page.  When this happens, Facebook allows only those who were already confirmed as friends to see and post on the page.  Many friends do this as a way to leave memories or express condolences to those left behind.  If the account has been memorialized, it is removed from the general search function.

Another common option is for people to create their own pages in memory of a friend or family member.  This can even be done in conjunction with the memorializing of the original page.  The benefit is that this allows those who were not confirmed friends on the original account to leave messages, post photos, etc.

So, do you need to get a Mississippi will lawyer involved when it comes to your Facebook account?  The answer to that is “maybe.”  If your account is part of your business strategy, for example, you might find it to be even more imperative.  Even for those who just use Facebook and other social media for personal communication, naming an online executor is something to consider.

Our Mississippi wills, trusts and probate law firm can help you get started in creating a digital asset protection plan that best meets your personal or business needs.  We have offices in Clinton, Flowood, Hattiesburg, and Southaven Mississippi, and also serve the cities of Madison, Ridgeland, Pearl, Brandon, and Jackson, Mississippi.  For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation, please give our office a call at (601) 925-9797.

Estate Planning and Divorce in Hinds, Rankin or Madison County

When a divorce—also called a dissolution of marriage—is imminent, meeting with an estate planning attorney in Hinds, Rankin or Madison County is likely not at the top of anyone’s list of things to do.  But, it very well should be.  Keep in mind that divorces can take a fairly long time (months or even years) to complete.  It makes sense to consider what would become of your assets, or even your physical self, if you should become incapacitated or die before the divorce has been finalized.

If you do not take steps to change your estate plan in light of an impending divorce, then your soon-to-be ex may still be entitled to everything that was agreed upon when it was originally drawn up (or as the courts deem appropriate if no estate plan is in place).  This means that if he or she has your medical power of attorney, all of your medical decisions will be in the hands of someone who may not have your best interests in mind.  Likewise, if you are incapacitated and your spouse has power over your finances, it’s possible that you will not be happy with the outcome.

Another concern comes up if you and your spouse are co-trustees on various trusts or other accounts.  Again, if you become incapacitated, the spouse could access and use all kinds of property that you would not want him or her to have access to.  This becomes a real worry when you realize that this person could actually buy or sell property or even take out loans without your consent.

And, if you have inherited or stand to inherit from your parents, another potential problem arises.  Should you pass away before the divorce is final, your inheritance may legally pass directly to the person you were in the process of trying to get out of your life.  Even if you have assets that would be passed directly to your minor children, without a proper estate plan in place, the courts will likely put your ex in charge of any money or other property that you leave them.

In order to protect your interests during a divorce, it makes good sense to talk with your estate planning attorney.  A qualified will attorney in Hinds, Rankin or Madison County can offer advice on where you may be vulnerable.  You may need to work with him or her quickly in order to revoke the appropriate documents, and keep in mind that you might need to contact various institutions personally to ensure they are aware of the revocation.

Once a divorce has become final, there will probably be some accounts and situations in which ex-spouses are no longer beneficiaries, but there are others where you will need to make deliberate changes.  An estate planning attorney who is familiar with the laws specific to Mississippi is the best option for ensuring that you are protecting yourself both during and after a dissolution of marriage.

Keeping Your Wills and Trusts Updated | Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison Trust Lawyer

It’s always a great feeling when a new client meets with a wills and trusts attorney in Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison to get started on his or her estate planning.  Every day, people in Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison recognize the importance of putting a plan into place to prepare for their own futures as well as those of their heirs.  Wills and trusts are two very important tools that the client and lawyer can create to protect that future.  As important as that initial meeting is, however, there is still a need to follow up regularly to keep your wills and trusts updated and reflective of your current situation.

There are some times when it is obvious that your wills and trusts should be updated, but there are other times that are easier to overlook.

Major Life Changes

When there is a major change in your life, it’s time to call your Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison wills and trusts lawyer.  These types of changes, such as a marriage, divorce, or birth of a child may dramatically affect who you want to name as beneficiaries.  For example, if you’ve been divorced but your ex is still named in your wills and trusts, he or she could still benefit after your death.

Health situations are also another big indicator that it’s time to update your wills and trusts.  Medical care can be incredibly expensive, and you may need to rearrange your plans to accommodate the costs.  If dealing with a terminal illness or potentially life-threatening treatment, it also makes sense to ensure that your plans reflect your wishes.

Many Purchases Should Trigger Updates

Wills and trusts lawyers are able to help clients lay out a plan based on what the client has at the time.  When your situation changes through major purchases (or sales) of real estate or other valuable assets, you should update your estate plan to reflect those changes.  You want to ensure that the asset is included in your will or protected by your trust.

Purchases of, or changes in insurance policies, will likely also lead to a call to your Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison attorney.  These purchases will affect what you have to leave behind and will need to be reflected in your estate plan.

Annual Review

While you may not need to make changes with your wills and trusts attorney every year, it’s still a good idea to do an annual review of all your estate planning materials.  In addition to refreshing yourself on what is there, your lawyer will also be able to advise you on any laws that have recently changed that might affect decisions you’d previously made.  Just reading over the documents may be enough to notice a change that needs to be made.  Not only does this give you an opportunity to make sure your plans still fit your needs, but by keeping them up-to-date, you are strengthening your will against being invalidated later.  After all, if you’ve worked with an attorney to keep the wills and trusts fresh and in accordance with the most recent life changes, they are likely to reflect your true intentions.

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.

Talk With Your Clinton, Flowood and Metro Jackson Area Elder Lawyer about Recent Medicare Changes

Recent changes to Medicare are giving elder lawyers and their clients some new options, and you may want to meet with your Mississippi attorney to see if they apply to you.  A class-action lawsuit was brought, and the proposed settlement has some big implications for those with disabilities and chronic conditions.

For decades, standard Medicare practice was to not provide skilled nursing and therapy for those whose conditions were unlikely to improve.  This has caused considerable problems for those with chronic or terminal conditions or with disabilities who would still have benefited from these services.  Now, home health care, outpatient therapy, and skilled nursing are much more likely to be covered for a chronic illness or disability.

The class-action suit was brought by a large group of people, with plaintiffs including organizations such as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Parkinson’s Action Network, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and others.  As a result of the outcome, it appears that more than 10,000 individuals who had claims denied earlier may be able to have those same claims reviewed again with different results.

According to the agreement, Medicare will begin to cover these services when they “maintain the patient’s current condition or prevent or slow further deterioration.”  This is great news for those whose condition isn’t expected to improve but who still require assistance to improve their quality of life.

According to the New York Times, this change has potential to help those with:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic Brain Injury

Elder lawyers in Clinton, Flowood and Metro Jackson Area  and the rest of the country see this as a positive change for clients who were often denied care because they simply couldn’t afford it and Medicare wouldn’t cover their needs.  There is still a potential for Medicare contractors to use more restrictive guidelines that could deny coverage for therapy or skilled nursing if the patient isn’t showing improvement.

The proposed changes are geared toward those in the traditional Medicare program, as well as to those with private Medicare Advantage.  Most Medicare recipients are 65 and older, which is why a skilled elder lawyer in Clinton, Flowood and Metro Jackson Area keeps abreast of these kinds of changes that might affect clients.

What a Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, Madison and Metro Jackson Area Special Needs Planning Attorney Will Do for You

Special needs planning attorneys in Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, Madison and Metro Jackson Area  have very specialized knowledge that can help families plan for their children’s future.  There are so many things to keep straight when it comes to raising your special needs child, and focusing on what will happen to him or her after your death is not something that is pleasant to contemplate.  Still, it is very important to take the time to meet with a special needs planning attorney in Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, Madison and Metro Jackson Area  in order to give your child the best opportunities.

An Important Tool

Special needs planning is a part of estate planning, and one of the most common things a Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, Madison and Metro Jackson Area  attorney is likely to advise will be a “special needs trust.”  The reason this trust is so important is because it allows you to set aside money for your child’s future without jeopardizing his or her eligibility for government benefits such as Social Security and Medicaid.  Unfortunately, leaving your child even a small inheritance can make it so he or she is no longer eligible for this kind of aid and can severely impact quality of life.

Trusts for Your Child

There are different types of trusts the attorney will go over with you.  Some are funded by the person with special needs, say through an award from a personal injury case or from an inheritance.  Others are specifically funded by a third party such as parents or other family members.  The second kind is the special needs trust, and if it’s the right choice for you, a qualified Mississippi special needs trust attorney will be able to help you understand your options with the trust.

People to Consider

In addition to helping you set up the trust, a special needs attorney will also be able to help you determine the appropriate trustee.  In some cases, this may be a family member or other caregiver.  In other cases, the lawyer or firm may take care of the administration of the trust.  An advocate may also be chosen.  This person will be familiar with both the beneficiary’s needs and the intentions and wishes of the person creating the special needs trust.

Using the Trust

When the trust is set up, the person creating it (called the “grantor”) has a say in how the funds are to be used.  For example, money can be dedicated to the daily needs of the beneficiary.  Dispersal schedules can be created, as well.  In this way, rather than giving someone a single lump sum, you can set up a situation where monthly allotments are made.  The advocate would understand this and work with the trustee to make sure the terms were being followed in the beneficiary’s best interest.  At the same time, the trustee is charged with managing the funds through investments or other means that keep the trust funded.

Of course, this is just an introduction to the possibilities of a trust.  For a much fuller understanding and to get the ball rolling, we invite you to contact our Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, Madison and Metro Jackson Area  special needs attorneys who are knowledgeable about the field, as well as how state laws come into play.  To schedule a free Legacy Planning Session simply call (601) 925-9797 and mention this article.