Planning your estate can be overwhelming on an emotional as well as an intellectual level. If you are doing so for the first time, it is easy to become confused about terminology, subtle distinctions, and legal requirements. For this reason, it is essential to have an estate planning attorney who is not only knowledgeable and experienced but sensitive to your unique needs and happy to make sure all of your concerns are addressed.
At Palmer & Slay, we serve clients in the Brandon/Jackson area and throughout Mississippi and pride ourselves on taking the time to resolve any areas of ambiguity. We consider it a significant part of our mission to answer our clients’ questions with patience, respect, and clarity.
Steps Our TeamTakes to Make Certain You Are Making Informed Decisions
- We tell you the basics first, knowing that too much detail at once can be counterproductive.
- We ask you questions to make you think, but don’t probe needlessly.
- We listen carefully to understand which areas concern you most — for instance, are you especially worried about business succession? possible incapacity? protecting your special needs child?
- We explain what needs to be explained and never hurry you through complex concepts.
- We are happy to repeat information, well aware that no one learns everything at once.
- We don’t believe any question is foolish, only that it is foolish not to ask questions when so much is at stake.
Questions You May Have Forgotten to Ask During Our First Visit
Our clients almost always have questions about their estate plan after our initial consultation. There are several reasons for this, including:
- They forgot to provide us with a pertinent piece of information (e.g. they may come into a sizable inheritance; there is a lien against a particular piece of their property).
- They neglected to ask something because it was uncomfortable to relate in the presence of an accompanying party (e.g. spouse, parent, adult child, or grandchild), such as a matter involving the possibility of divorce or remarriage.
- They neglected to ask about something they don’t like to think about (e.g. death of a spouse, their own potential mental incapacity, someone they may want to exclude as a beneficiary).
- They thought the question would make them sound greedy
- They didn’t really want to know the answer, afraid that it might be troubling
Examples of Questions You Haven’t Asked
It is by no means uncommon for clients to come back to their estate planning attorneys to ask one or more of the following questions:
Why do I need a will if I have created trusts?
While trusts can present enormous advantages in terms of protecting assets and serving specific purposes, such as keeping a spendthrift relative from blowing through an inheritance, wills are still necessary to:
- Designate your beneficiaries
- Name an executor to see that your assets are distributed as you wish
- Name a guardian for any minor children
If you don’t create a legally binding will, the state will determine all the above according to legal stipulations, not according to your wishes.
Why didn’t I receive all my father’s assets when he died even though I was the only beneficiary mentioned in his will?
It is possible that your father designated a different beneficiary for a particular asset, such as an insurance policy or retirement account. It is also possible that your dad opened a joint bank account with another person, giving that person “rights of survivorship.” He may have wanted that person to help him manage his finances while he was living and then to share the remaining funds with you after his death.
Sadly, if he put his trust in the wrong person and the other account holder chose not to abide by his wishes, the rights of survivorship of the joint account superseded the stipulations of his will.
Estate planning is a serious business with enduring consequences. This is why it is imperative that you have an estate planning attorney who is well-informed and conscientious, one who is not afraid to answer hard questions.