Fayetteville, AR Estate Planning Attorney

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Many people seem to discount estate planning as being the exclusive realm of the extremely wealthy. While wealthy individuals are certainly well served by estate planning, similar benefits can also be derived by people who consider themselves to be in the middle class. The truth is that estate planning isn’t just about money. Estate planning concerns people, relationships, and protecting your wishes and desires. The simple fact of life is that no person knows where he or she will be in five or ten years down the road. If you or your family member need legal assistance to create a thorough estate plan, you should consult with an experienced Fayetteville estate planning attorney.

At Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP, our dedicated attorneys are ready to help you make an estate plan for the benefit of your family. You simply cannot conclusively know the changes that may take place in your life and in your family. Expressing your wishes through estate planning is a way to ensure that your wishes are respected even in the face of significant change. To schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your estate planning options, contact Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP at (479) 439-9840, or contact us online.

Writing a Will as Part of Your Estate Plan in Fayetteville, AR

In certain circumstances, your estate planning goals may be accomplished solely through a will. In other situations, a will may only make up one aspect of your estate plan. Regardless of the circumstances, a will is an important estate planning tool. It is also the most traditional approach to estate planning in Fayetteville, AR.

A will is a legal document that allows the drafter, also known as the testator, to determine how they want to distribute their assets and personal property. Having a will is important because if you pass away without a will or other estate planning measures, you will be unable to ensure that your wishes are carried out regarding the disposition of your property.

Dying intestate (without a will) means that the testator would be unable to control who receives the testator’s property after the testator passes away. In Arkansas, if a person dies intestate, their property will be distributed to their closest living family members, like a spouse or children of the decedent. If the decedent was not married or did not have children, the property may be given to the decedent’s parents. This process would continue until a suitable person inherited the property.

Intestacy laws often do not consider the special needs of family members or other unique circumstances when distributing the property of a decedent. That is why it is important to ensure you have a will if you wish to convey the property to a certain member of your family.

To create a valid will in Arkansas, a testator must be at least 18 years old and must possess a sound mind. Generally, having a sound mind means that the testator is aware of the property they own and understand the terms of the will they created. Additionally, two witnesses must observe the testator when he or she signs the will. Under certain circumstances, the witnesses may also have to sign the will.

Oral wills are not valid in Arkansas. However, a testator may create a handwritten will, also referred to as a holographic will. Holographic wills must be written entirely in the testator’s handwriting and must be observed by three disinterested and credible witnesses.

A will is an estate planning tool that can be used for several purposes. If you wanted to donate an endowment to a university or charitable organization, you could accomplish this with a will. However, one downside to utilizing a will is that, in most cases, the estate must pass through probate. However, under certain circumstances, an estate may be exempt from probate.

To learn more about estate planning and creating a trust, you should continue reading and speak with an experienced Fayetteville estate planning lawyer.

Creating a Trust as Part of Your Estate Plan in Fayetteville, AR

Trusts are another legal tool that can be utilized as a part of an estate plan. While there are multiple types of trusts, many people opt to create a living trust. A living trust allows a person (grantor) to transfer their assets into the trust for the benefit of a third party beneficiary. A trustee then manages the assets in the trust. While the grantor can manage the trust personally, other close family members or even a legal entity could be named as a trustee.

Generally, a trust can be divided into two categories: revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts. A revocable trust allows the grantor to alter the trust after it is created. For example, the grantor can add or remove beneficiaries, and can also designate the terms for distribution of the trust funds. An irrevocable trust cannot be altered once the trust is created. However, they offer many other benefits like a shelter from estate taxes.

A trust can be particularly useful in certain situations. Furthermore, a trust can also provide additional privacy as property placed into the trust will not pass through probate and therefore, will not become part of the public record. Trusts can vary significantly in complexity but can make up an essential part of a comprehensive estate plan.

Fayetteville, AR Estate Planning Services Offered by Our Firm

As we age, medical events can quickly and irrevocably alter our life and our living situation. In some cases, a stroke, heart attack, or other medical condition may require a loved one to live in a nursing or assisted living home. Unfortunately, nursing home care can cost more than $9,000 a month, and individuals may believe that the only way that they can pay for it is by burning through their life savings. While many well-intentioned family members will give advice regarding how to qualify for Medicaid, this well-intentioned advice is often incorrect. It could place all that you have worked for in jeopardy. We can help you legally preserve your assets and qualify for Medicaid.

The Fayetteville AR estate planning lawyers of Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP, can help you protect what and who is important to you. We can utilize an array of strategies depending on your situation. Some of the legal aspects of your estate plan may include the following.

Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that grants a person discretion to make decisions for another person. An individual will typically execute a power of attorney if they are unable to manage their own affairs. For example, if a severe disability is preventing a person from managing their finances, a power of attorney may be a wise choice to alleviate the burden.

The person that executes a power of attorney is referred to as the “principal.” Alternatively, the individual acting on behalf of the principal is termed as the “attorney in fact” or “agent.” When drafting a power of attorney, the principal must set out how much discretion the agent will have to act for them. For example, a principal may only allow an agent to make financial decisions instead of healthcare decisions.

There are two types of powers of attorney that a principal can create: general power of attorney and limited power of attorney. General powers of attorney often allow a person to act for the principal in a broad range of issues, from financial matters to healthcare decisions. Limited powers of attorney typically focus on one matter the agent is permitted to manage.

Similar to a will, a principal must be at least 18 years old to create a power of attorney, and they also must be mentally competent. This means that the principal must understand the power they are bestowing upon their agent and how they can be affected by the conveyance of this power. It is important to note that a power of attorney does not take away the free will of the principal. The principal is still able to act on their own behalf.

Advanced Healthcare Directives

We can also assist with your living will or advanced healthcare directive. This document ensures that your medical wishes are carried out even if you are not able to express them. The document can account for your personal preferences or deeply held religious beliefs. Drafting a document of this type can take impossible decisions out of the hands of your loved ones during an incredibly stressful and trying time.

Advanced healthcare directives, also referred to as living wills, are instructions that a person may set out for their healthcare in the future when they are unable to make decisions on their own. Like a power of attorney, a person may select an agent to make decisions on their behalf. However, a person does not have to appoint an agent for an advanced healthcare directive. If a principal does not appoint an agent, a physician may appoint an agent if the principal becomes incapacitated.

An advanced healthcare directive can address a variety of healthcare issues. For example, quality of life instructions is often left by a principal to inform an agent of what to do when the principal is in a certain condition. Specifically, if a principal has gone into a coma with little chance of awakening, they may request that an agent not leave them on life support past a certain date. Other issues that a healthcare directive can cover include:

  • Resuscitation orders
  • Treatment of new conditions
  • Hospice care
  • Burial arrangements

HIPAA Authorization

A Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) authorization form is used to share a person’s medical information with another party that generally would not have access to those documents. The individual you appoint to view your medical records can be an attorney, doctor, healthcare provider, or another party. You can choose what information will be visible to a representative when executing a HIPAA authorization form.

When giving a HIPAA authorization, some may feel concerned about what information can be given to a representative. Fortunately, a HIPAA authorization will protect a person’s most sensitive information, like a social security number or an address. A HIPAA authorization will only provide a representative with the information that is necessary to manage a particular situation.

It is important to note that not all medical information is safeguarded by HIPAA laws. For example, if a federal agency requests information from a hospital concerning a patient, the hospital may be unable to refuse to request. For example, if you were exposed to a highly contagious disease, a hospital may be forced to disclose this information so the government can warn others you recently were in contact with.

There are many other estate planning tools not discussed above that our Fayetteville, AR estate planning firm would be happy to help you with. We understand that preparing your estate to pass on to your children or other family members can be a difficult discussion to have, and we are here for you.

Work with a Dedicated Estate Planning Attorney in Fayetteville, Arkansas

At Gunn Kieklak Dennis, LLP, we understand how important your wishes and beliefs are. Therefore, we work strategically and diligently to ensure that you have a customized estate plan that addresses all the wishes and concerns that you express. We are proud to offer this legal service to all residents of our northwest Arkansas community. To schedule a confidential consultation at our law offices, conveniently accessed from the Fullbright Expressway, call us at (479) 439-9840 today.