Estate Planning can be a very difficult process. Although the law says an individual is entitled to handle their estate planning themselves, it is always a good idea to hire an attorney. Estate Planning on your own takes the form of a holographic will. This is a handwritten will that you write out and sign. Other documents, like Powers of Attorney, can be much more difficult to complete on your own. Some of the most troubling cases in Probate courts result from an individual who has attempted to complete these documents themselves. The Tennessee state legislature is very specific on what is required for a valid Will, Trust, or Power of Attorney document. These rules are not discounted simply because an individual without a law degree chooses to complete their estate plan without proper counsel. If the rules aren’t followed, the documents will not be considered valid. This places an incredibly high burden on the individual to make sure that their document is not confusing, is witnessed, contains affidavits, an appropriate signature, and that no essential clauses are left out. Often times, an individual attempting to comply with these particular requirements can cause more trouble than it is worth. For these reasons, it is usually better to contact an attorney.
A good attorney will discuss your needs, the functionality of different legal documents, and will send the client home with a list of documents and information to gather. Some things to start gathering to prepare for an Estate Planning meeting includes: a list of assets (cars, land, vacation homes, etc.) and the deeds or titles for those assets; descriptions of accounts (IRAs, 401Ks, mutual funds, savings accounts). It does not matter what assets someone has, it just matters that an accurate list is collected so that those items can be left to the appropriate person. Another good idea is to do an inventory around your house for specific, special items that you want to ensure go to someone (ex: wedding ring or wedding dress to be passed down). With these things in mind, individuals can be better prepared to create their proper Estate Plan.