Wills & Probate

Wills: Protect Your Family and Make Sure Your Decisions are Honored

About 55% of people do not create a Will. And only around 40% of people have a Living Will or Healthcare Power of Attorney that authorizes someone to make financial or medical decisions per their wishes when they are unable to make the decisions themselves.

35% of people say the only reason they do not have a Will is because of procrastination.  It’s better to have your Will in place now so you can have comfort knowing your family will be taken care of and protected.  Brenda will help you make sure your Will is legally sound and valid so your wishes and decisions will be honored and your family will be protected, no matter what happens.

Probate: Make sure you inherit what you are entitled to

Brenda also represents people who need help to make sure a will is followed and they receive what they’re entitled to receive.  People want what they inherit.  She understands you want to know your father’s or mother’s or other family member’s wishes are honored, that you received what you were supposed to receive, and that you were treated fairly.

Read below about how Brenda helped the family of Conway Twitty protect their father’s legacy and music!

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In Brenda’s Words: What you need to know about Wills & Probate

It’s important to have a will to make sure your family is protected no matter what happens, and it’s important to have someone you trust with power of attorney and designated medical agent documents to make financial and medical decisions according to your wishes if you aren’t able to make them yourself.

However it is also equally important to make sure these are all done correctly so they are legally sound and valid. If a will isn’t done correctly, it can cost your family a lot of money and anguish. Americans spend roughly $2 billion on Probate costs per year, mostly on attorney’s fees. When a will isn’t designed well or correctly, it means the Probate is going to cost more money and take more time, eating away at the estate and the money you or your family members are entitled to.

What is the process of creating a will like?

My goal is to give you a roadmap, so I talk to you about the roadmap and determining what all the assets are.  I work with you to gather information on all your assets and wishes.  We talk about the bequest (who gets what), about whether you need any kind of power of attorney for financial matters, and we discuss the healthcare agent forms so you can identify someone to make decisions according to your wishes in case you can’t.  I talk with you about not only having the will in a safe location with other essential items and on making the process easier for your family and loved ones so they don’t have to go on a mission to find out what were the assets and what business they need to take care of while they’re grieving.

I usually talk to you about my experience in drafting wills, my experience in litigating contested wills, and how important it is that I know how to best avoid the will contests which are so stressful for families, and can break families up. When someone passes away, sometimes the true character of their beneficiaries come out and grief takes over, and I try to help your family avoid the situation where it’s possible to fracture them.

How do you know if your will is legally sound and valid?

You need to speak with someone who is experienced in both creating clear, valid wills, who understands the law inside and out, and who has experience handling contested and uncontested probates.

When I draft or review a will, I look at it from the point of view of: is it solid, will it hold up, will what you want truly happen, and how can I protect the assets of the estate to make sure they go where they’re supposed to.  My wills are well drafted, clear, and unambiguous to the courts.  I have probated wills that are difficult to construe and that leave loose ends open.  Because I’ve handled so many will contests and disputes and contested estates, I understand how important the drafting of the will is, so it has clarity and is unambiguous, that’s the key.  And I know what the requirements are for properly executing it, to make sure it doesn’t get thrown out of court because of a technicality.

If a lawyer doesn’t have experience in will contests or in situations where heirs and beneficiaries disagree about how things should be done and divided and values of assets, it can cause problems and disputes.  I understand that because I’ve litigated all those issues, so I work to put in language that would prevent anyone from being able to come in and collaterally attack the will, and cause your wishes not to be honored.  It’s like when you draft a contract, unless you’ve tried cases involving breach of contract, you don’t always think about everything.  With wills the important thing is to make sure it stands up in court and is valid.  And having defended wills and litigated all those contested matters, I’ve got a better perspective of how to protect your wishes.

What is Probate?

Every estate after someone passes away goes into Probate, whether the person has a Will or not. When we probate an estate with a will, after the testator (person whose will it is) passes, we go into court and ask them to probate the will that was left by the decedent and I oversee making sure it is done appropriately, and all the rights of the testator are honored.

Uncontested or contested, if you have a will, you have to go to the court to open up an estate, and the judge accepts the will or rejects the will based on whether or not the will was legally created and is valid. Then an executor is appointed, and they go about collecting all the assets of the estate, open a bank account in the name of the estate, are responsible for getting all the property pulled into the estate, and then distribute the estate according to the wishes of the testator.

How do you know if you’re being taken advantage of in the Probate process?

Some people call me who are beneficiaries or heirs of law to a will, they don’t understand the process and feel like they’re being taken advantage of, they don’t trust the executor, or they feel like things aren’t being done properly. So I represent people who need help to make sure the will is followed and they receive what they’re entitled to receive. This causes a lot of stress, people call and say I’m supposed to inherit this but it’s not happening for whatever reason.

People want what they inherit. I understand you want to know your father’s or mother’s or other family member’s wishes are honored, that you received what you were supposed to receive, and that you were treated fairly.

In cases where wills become contested, I’m aggressive and my clients feel like they’re being protected because I have a good command of the law, a strong ability to develop the facts consistent with the law, and years of experiencing handling every type of matter and protecting my clients’ interests.

Do you need a will or an estate planner?

Estate planning is a pretty broad term, but generally the lawyers that do estate planning specialize in only doing this. Estate planning involves trusts, setting up living trusts or testamentary trust, or family partnerships and trusts because they have specific tax consequences. There are a lot of rules and laws specific to estate planning that are frequently changing; a lawyer who does this almost has to exclusively do that in order to have a high level of expertise. If you need more complicated estate planning services, but don’t know where to start, feel free to contact me for trusted referrals.

Case Study: Conway Twitty Contested Will

When Brenda left the Attorney General’s office, her neighbor Joni Twitty was in the middle of the disputed estate of her father Conway Twitty. After listening to Joni talk about what was happening, Brenda realized the case was really off track. So Brenda came on board to help their team and be responsible for saving their father’s legacy and his music.

Prior to the Twitty case, a dissenting spouse got a set share of an estate and the children got a set share, it wasn’t subject to how many years the person had been married. So it was unfair for a widow to get a large sum of the estate when perhaps they had only been married for a year and children from a prior marriage were receiving less than they should have.

This led to Brenda and Conway’s children advocating with the Tennessee legislature to amend the law to be more fair to the children of someone who passes away, and base the dissenting spouse’s share on the number of years of marriage.

Brenda was featured on ID Investigation Discovery channel’s episode of The Will: The Estate of Conway Twitty

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