Fort Smith, AR Estate Planning Attorney
Planning for what happens to your money and assets after your death is not a pleasant subject for anyone to think about. However, if you want to make sure that your assets are passed on according to your wishes, it is vital that you undertake estate planning. Such planning should be done by anyone, not just those who are extremely wealthy or of advanced age. You never know what tomorrow will bring.
At Gunn Kieklak Dennis LLP, our Fort Smith, AR estate planning attorneys have worked for years to help people ensure that their wishes and beliefs regarding the disposition of their property after they die are respected. We have experience helping people to write wills, create trusts, and set up advanced health care directives in case they become necessary. To set up a consultation with one of our estate planning lawyers, call us at (479) 439-9840 today.
Writing a Will in Fort Smith, AR
The first and most common step to take in estate planning is to create a will expressing your intentions for how your assets will be distributed after your pass away. A will, sometimes referred to as a “Last Will and Testament,” is a legal document that describes with particularity your wishes for your estate after you pass. A person who creates a will is known as a testator. In addition to the distribution of your assets, a will can also contain provisions relating to the caretaking of any minor children you may have.
If you do not have a will, you run the risk of dying “intestate.” If you die intestate, you risk your property and assets being divided up according to a formula created by the state of Arkansas rather than according to your wishes. Most of the time, your assets will go to your spouse or children under this formula. If you do not have a spouse or children, the assets will pass to your parents, siblings, and then on outward to more distant relatives from there. If you have no living relatives, your assets will “escheat” to the state, meaning they will go into the state’s general treasury fund.
In Arkansas, to create a valid will you must be 18 years of age or older and “of sound mind and body,” meaning you understand what you are doing in drafting the will. Two witnesses must be present to observe the creation of the will by the testator. Arkansas does not recognize oral wills, but it does recognize “holographic wills,” which are wills handwritten by the testator. A holographic will must be observed by three disinterested and credible witnesses.
Creating a written will with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney like those at Gunn Kieklak Dennis LLP is the most air-tight way to ensure that your assets go where you want them to after you die. Perhaps you have a certain relative who you want to receive more of your money, or you would like some of your money to go to a particular charity. We can draft a will that will ensure your wishes are respected and your money goes where you believe it should.
Creating a Trust in Fort Smith, AR
There are multiple types of trusts that can be created, but the most common one is a living trust. Unlike wills, property transferred thorough living trusts does not need to go through a court probate process. This can ensure a smoother and more private transfer of your wealth and assets. With a living trust, you will transfer whatever property you want to be safeguarded into the trust, which is managed by a trustee that you appoint. The trust will contain specific instructions about how the assets are to be doled out before your death, at your death, or after your death.
Creating a trust is a more complicated process than simply writing a will, and you will benefit from the guidance of an experienced trust attorney like those at Gunn Kieklak Dennis LLP. We understand all the legal nuances and complexities involved in trust creation and will ensure that the trust is established and managed according to your wishes.
Advanced Health Care Directives and Power of Attorney in Fort Smith, AR
Many people think of estate planning as planning for when you die. However, there are many situations where you may lose the capacity to properly handle your affairs without actually passing away. For example, you could have an accident and go into a coma, or you could develop a disease such as Alzheimer’s where you lose your ability to remember things. In case this happens, it is important that you have legal directives in place that ensure that your wishes regarding your assets and your health care treatment are respected.
An advanced health care directive can be used to express your wishes about what should happen in a situation where you are incapacitated and cannot make medical decisions. You can designate what type of treatment you do and do not want to receive, whether you want to be kept in a vegetative state with no or little chance of recovery, and who you want taking care of you and handling any health care decisions not covered by the directive. Similarly, by granting power of attorney, you can choose who you want to handle your assets, property, and businesses in the event that you are no longer able to do so yourself.
If You Need Help with Estate Planning, Contact Our Experienced Fort Smith Attorneys Today
Estate planning is an important part of life. Nobody wants to think about becoming incapacitated or dying, but the truth is it will happen to all of us at some point. It is vital that you engage in estate planning as early as possible to ensure that your assets and wealth will be distributed according to your wishes and not according to the wishes of the state. At Gunn Kieklak Dennis LLP, our knowledgeable Fort Smith, AR estate planning lawyers can advise you on whether a will or a trust, or both, are best suited to your needs. We can help craft advanced healthcare directives, power of attorney documents, and more. To speak with one of our lawyers, call us today at (479) 439-9840.