Estate Planning - The Bradley Law Firm Germantown, TN Southaven, MS

Estate Planning

Attorney J. Anthony Bradley has more than twenty years’ experience in assisting individuals and families with their estate planning and wealth planning. Every adult in America needs some type of estate planning, whether in the form of a simple will or a document with more complex tax planning provisions. An experienced attorney can help you protect your interests and your family through solid estate planning.

At The Bradley Law Firm, we don’t try to oversell our services or create generic documents. Rather, we will custom-tailor a solution specific to your needs. In addition, we strive to remain readily accessible and responsive to every client.

You probably have questions about the following topics. We can help you find the answers that are right for you.

 

  • Wills and Trusts – through the use of a Living Trust or Last Will and Testament, you may plan for the future and enjoy peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be carried out according to your design

  • Durable Powers of Attorney – you can authorize another individual to make financial or medical decisions if you become too ill to make those decisions on your own behalf

  • Tax Planning – estate, inheritance, and gift tax planning can help you ensure that your wishes are complied with and that your loved ones are provided for

  • Family Limited Partnership (FLP) – a limited partnership created to manage and control jointly-owned family property

  • Charitable Giving

  • QTIP – a Qualified Terminable Interest Property trust that instructs how your spouse will distribute your remaining assets after your death

  • QDOT – a Qualified Domestic Trust permits a non-citizen spouse to qualify for the marital deduction

  • Planning for Pets – ensure that your beloved animals are properly cared for

  • Elder Law – plan for Medicare eligibility and preserve your personal assets

  • Planning for Minors/Guardianships – establishing a guardianship authorizes a designated adult to make decisions on behalf of a minor or incompetent person

With extensive estate planning experience, attorney J. Anthony Bradley has the background and knowledge to ensure your estate plan is done correctly.

Contact The Bradley Law Firm, PLLC to discuss your Estate Planning and Probate needs and please feel free to fill out our Estate Planning Questionnaire.

Trust & Estate Administration

Executors are responsible for:

Gathering the Estate

The Executor must identify and locate all of the decedent’s assets, such as Bank Accounts, CDs, Stocks, Bonds, Real Estate, Pensions, Life Insurance Policies, Death Benefits and Safe Deposit Boxes (these must be opened and inventoried).

Valuation of Assets

Property such as Cash, Stocks, Bonds, Life Insurance, Real Estate, and interest in a closely held Corporation or Partnership must be valued.

Payments of Debts and Administration Expenses

It is the Executor’s responsibility to pay expenses such as Taxes, Medical Bills, Funeral Costs and other debts of the Decedent.

Distribution of Assets

The Executor will distribute the Estate in accordance with the Will, and if none, then in accordance with the laws of New York State.

Payment of Individual Income Taxes

The Executor must ascertain whether the Decedent is required to file Federal and New York State Income Tax Returns.​

Payment of Estate Taxes

The Executor may have to file Federal and New York State Estate Tax Returns and arrange for payment.

Payment of Estate Income Taxes

The Executor may have to file Federal and New York State Fiduciary Income Tax Returns and arrange for payment.​

Estate Taxes

Tax Rates

The maximum Federal Estate Tax rate in 2016 is 40%. New York has its own Estate Tax.

Exclusion Amount

Each individual is entitled to a Federal and New York State Estate Tax exclusion amount. The Federal Estate Tax exclusion is $5,450,000 in 2016. The New York State Estate Tax exclusion will rise from $3,125,000 in 2016 to match the Federal amount by 2017.

Unlimited Marital Deduction

An unlimited amount of property may be left to a surviving spouse without incurring any Federal or New York State

Estate and Gift Taxes.

Our Law Firm Will:

Inform the Executor about the estate administration process

Advise the Executor about his/her duties and prepare and file appropriate court documents

Prepare and file appropriate tax returns and insure that tax payments are made on a timely basis

Minimize taxes and insure the proper disposition of estate assets

Resolve family disputes

Analyze the interrelation of Estate, Individual Income and Fiduciary Income Taxes

Implement estate planning for beneficiaries, such as a surviving spouse

Trust and Estate Litigation

Unfortunately, there is an increasing need to litigate matters in the world of trusts and estates so that a “just result” can be achieved. The trust and estate laws can be complex and there a myriad of laws, requirements and obligations involving family addressing estate matters.​

Last Wills and Testaments

The first area to consider are Will Contests in the context of a probate proceeding. When a loved one changes his or her Will (especially near in time to the decedent’s demise), one may call into question what were the true intentions of one’s loved one. Issues can arise when a family member has been removed as a beneficiary of the Will (or limited provisions have been made for said beneficiary).

A Last Will and Testament can be voided due to undue influence, lack of capacity or the improper execution of the Will. In such a situation, the disinherited beneficiary may be able to have the court void the Will and enforce a prior Will or have the estate pass by intestacy which can be to the disinherited beneficiary’s benefit.

Will provisions may be challenged due to a lack of clarity by a reformation proceeding which can make sure the wishes of the decedent are carried out as intended.​

Sometimes, there is an issue regarding the Executor who fails to do his job properly. A removal proceeding can be brought to have the Executor removed and replaced. There are situations when the nominated Executor should not be appointed in the first place and his or her appointment can be challenged.​

Other times, a beneficiary may be left out in the dark by the Executor during the estate administration. In such case, one can seek an accounting from the Executor as to the collection of the estate assets and income and the payment of estate expenses and distributions to the beneficiaries. The Executor has a duty to properly manage and invest the estate assets and a duty to file estate and income tax returns, when required by law.​

Other times, an estate may have been reduced or eliminated by gifting prior to death or by retitling assets and/or beneficiary designations. Such actions, especially when undertaken by an agent under a Durable Power of Attorney or on one’s death bed, may thwart the testator’s real intentions as to who should benefit from his or her estate and in what manner. A turn over proceeding can be commenced to have the assets returned to the estate.

Trusts​

Similar to the issues addressed under Wills, Trusts present similar issues and are subject to the same scrutiny. A trust may be challenged if not properly executed or executed under undue influence or at a time when one lacks capacity.

Trustees are charged with the carrying out of the trust provisions. Beneficiaries have a right to receive the trust assets as provided for in the trust. Trustees are fiduciaries and have a responsibility to the beneficiary for the proper administration of the Trust which includes proper management and investment of the trust assets.​

When issues arise regarding the Trustee’s actions, beneficiaries can seek the services of an experienced trust and estate litigator to seek redress in the court.

Legal Services​

At our law firm, we have represented individuals to ensure that their testamentary desires via a Will or Trust are carried out. We represent Executors and Trustees in the administration process which includes advising them of his or her responsibilities and defending said Executors and Trustees when claims are made against them by beneficiaries and family members. Lastly, we represent beneficiaries and family members who have issues regarding the implementation of a Will or Trust and the administrative process.​

Before litigation, there are a number of avenues that can be taken to resolve problems in the most effective and cost efficient manner. At our law firm, we explore all options and strategies with our clients before commencing litigation. Litigation can be emotionally draining, time consuming and costly. Unfortunately, sometimes litigation is required in order to obtain justice.

Powers of Attorney

Durable Power of Attorney (Financial)

For most people, the durable power of attorney is the most important estate planning instrument available — even more useful than a will. A power of attorney allows a person you appoint — your “attorney-in-fact” or “agent” — to act in place of you – the “principal” — for financial purposes when and if you ever become incapacitated.

In that case, the person you choose will be able to step in and take care of your financial affairs. Without a durable power of attorney, no one can represent you unless a court appoints a conservator or guardian. That court process takes time, costs money, and the judge may not choose the person you would prefer. In addition, under a guardianship or conservatorship, your representative may have to seek court permission to take planning steps that she could implement immediately under a simple durable power of attorney.

A power of attorney may be limited or general. A limited power of attorney may give someone the right to sign a deed to property on a day when you are out of town. Or it may allow someone to sign checks for you. A general power is comprehensive and gives your attorney-in-fact all the powers and rights that you have yourself.

A power of attorney may also be either current or “springing.” Most powers of attorney take effect immediately upon their execution, even if the understanding is that they will not be used until and unless the grantor becomes incapacitated. However, the document can also be written so that it does not become effective until such incapacity occurs. In such cases, it is very important that the standard for determining incapacity and triggering the power of attorney be clearly laid out in the document itself.

However, attorneys report that their clients are experiencing increasing difficulty in getting banks or other financial institutions to recognize the authority of an agent under a durable power of attorney. A certain amount of caution on the part of financial institutions is understandable: When someone steps forward claiming to represent the account holder, the financial institution wants to verify that the attorney-in-fact indeed has the authority to act for the principal. Still, some institutions go overboard, for example requiring that the attorney-in-fact indemnify them against any loss. Many banks or other financial institutions have their own standard power of attorney forms. To avoid problems, you may want to execute such forms offered by the institutions with which you have accounts. In addition, many attorneys counsel their clients to create living trusts in part to avoid this sort of problem with powers of attorney.

While you should seriously consider executing a durable power of attorney, if you do not have someone you trust to appoint it may be more appropriate to have the probate court looking over the shoulder of the person who is handling your affairs through a guardianship or conservatorship. In that case, you may execute a limited durable power of attorney simply nominating the person you want to serve as your conservator or guardian. Most states require the court to respect your nomination “except for good cause or disqualification.”

Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney/Healthcare Proxy

A durable power of attorney and a health care proxy are two very important estate planning documents. Both allow other people to make decisions for you in the event you are incapacitated. Because the individuals chosen will have to coordinate your care, it is important to pick two people who will get along.

A power of attorney allows a person you appoint — your agent or “attorney-in-fact” — to act in your place for financial purposes when and if you ever become incapacitated. A health care proxy is a document that gives an agent the authority to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to communicate such decisions.

While the health care proxy is the one who makes the health care decisions, the person who holds the power of attorney is the one who needs to pay for the health care. If the two agents disagree, it can spell trouble. For example, suppose your healthcare agent decides that you need 24-hour care at home, but your power of attorney thinks a nursing home is the best option and refuses to pay for the at-home care. Any disagreements would have to be settled by a court, which will take time and drain your resources in the process.

The easiest way to avoid conflicts is to choose the same person to do both jobs. But this may not always be feasible — for example, perhaps the person you would choose as health care proxy is not good with finances. If you pick different people for both roles, then you should think about picking two people who can get along and work together. You should also talk to both agents about your wishes for medical care so that they both understand what you want.

If you have questions about whom to name for these roles, or you haven’t yet executed these all-important documents, contact The Bradley Law Firm for thoughtful guidance.

Guardianships & Conservatorships

Guardianships & Conservatorships

Establishing a Guardianship (for a minor) or Conservatorship (for an incapacitated adult) with the court ensures that a loved one’s legal affairs — whether they be financial or health-related — will be taken care of in a time of need by a friend or family member.

A Guardianship or Conservatorship is a case to adjudicate someone incompetent to manage their own affairs, either because of age or by mental and/or physical incapacity.

The Court will require medical evidence substantiating the claims. Based upon the evidence, the Court may appoint different individuals as Guardian or Conservator over the person and the person’s assets.

Through the use of Durable Power of Attorney, a Conservatorship can be avoided. Through a Durable Power of Attorney, an “attorney in fact” is appointed to manage the affairs of the person.

To learn more about Conservatorships and Guardianships, contact The Bradley Law Firm, PLLC.

Advanced Estate Planning

Attorney J. Anthony Bradley has more than twenty years’ experience in assisting individuals and families with their estate planning and wealth planning. Every adult in America needs some type of estate planning, whether in the form of a simple will or a document with more complex tax planning provisions. An experienced attorney can help you protect your interests and your family through solid estate planning.

At The Bradley Law Firm, we don’t try to oversell our services or create generic documents. Rather, we will custom-tailor a solution specific to your needs. In addition, we strive to remain readily accessible and responsive to every client.

You probably have questions about the following topics. We can help you find the answers that are right for you.

  • Wills and Trusts – through the use of a Living Trust or Last Will and Testament, you may plan for the future and enjoy peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be carried out according to your design

  • Durable Powers of Attorney – you can authorize another individual to make financial or medical decisions if you become too ill to make those decisions on your own behalf

  • Tax Planning – estate, inheritance, and gift tax planning can help you ensure that your wishes are complied with and that your loved ones are provided for

  • Family Limited Partnership (FLP) – a limited partnership created to manage and control jointly-owned family property

  • Charitable Giving

  • QTIP – a Qualified Terminable Interest Property trust that instructs how your spouse will distribute your remaining assets after your death

  • QDOT – a Qualified Domestic Trust permits a non-citizen spouse to qualify for the marital deduction

  • Planning for Pets – ensure that your beloved animals are properly cared for

  • Elder Law – plan for Medicare eligibility and preserve your personal assets

  • Planning for Minors/Guardianships – establishing a guardianship authorizes a designated adult to make decisions on behalf of a minor or incompetent person

With extensive estate planning experience, attorney J. Anthony Bradley has the background and knowledge to ensure your estate plan is done correctly.

Contact The Bradley Law Firm, PLLC to discuss your Estate Planning and Probate needs and please feel free to fill out our Estate Planning Questionnaire.

Testimonials

I have known Anthony for 17 years. I trust him to handle my own legal work, so I never hesitate to refer others to him. He has assisted many of my clients and friends with new business formations, business purchases and will and trust preparation. He and his staff do excellent work, and they are

J. Wayne Vanderford

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