Fairhope, AL Wills & Probate Attorneys
When family members lose a loved one, having to untangle the deceased’s finances can be an unnecessary challenge. You can spare your family from this trouble through the simple act of preparing a will and other estate planning documents ahead of time.
The wills and probate attorneys at Wilkins, Bankester, Biles & Wynne, P.A. will guide you through the process of ensuring your affairs are in order for your survivors. If you are faced with handling an estate in probate, our law firm can work with you to create a comprehensive plan to manage the process. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.
Estate Planning Guidance
All property, personal or real, that you own at the time of your death is considered part of your estate. Regardless of the dollar value of your estate, it is vital to have a well-drafted estate plan so that you can direct the distribution of that property. Depending on your situation, an estate plan might involve drafting a will, living will, and powers of attorney. It also might involve setting up various trust agreements.
Last Will and Testament
In Alabama, your will is the document that specifies how your personal and real property will be distributed upon your death. Without a will, your property will be distributed according to the rules of Alabama’s Probate Court, which may not align with your wishes and could cause conflict among your survivors. Your will also allows you to designate who you wish to act as a guardian for your minor children and create succession consideration for your business.
Power of Attorney
Our estate planning lawyers also recommend that you create a durable power of attorney. This document authorizes another person of your choice to act as your “agent” in writing in business, legal, or financial matters. Depending on how the document is worded, it becomes effective after you become incapacitated or can be effective regardless of capacity or disability.
Living Wills/Advanced Directives
Under Alabama law, a person can designate another party to make healthcare decisions on their behalf. This generally happens through a durable power of attorney for healthcare, which is also referred to as an advance directive for healthcare or a living will.
Through this document, you can specify certain healthcare directives that you would like followed, such as the provision of life-sustaining treatments or a do-not-resuscitate order. You can also designate a healthcare proxy as a trusted person to make medical decisions on your behalf should you no longer be able to do so.
Revocable Living Trusts
Many of our clients find that they can benefit from setting up a revocable living trust. By establishing a trust agreement, you identify various parties to the trust and then transfer assets into the trust.
Trusts can give you more privacy than a will, can reduce estate taxes, and provide for an immediate transfer of assets to your beneficiaries upon your death. Our estate planning lawyers would be happy to discuss the benefits of trusts with you and guide you through the process of establishing this valuable estate planning tool.
Probate is a necessary and complex part of dealing with an estate after the death of a loved one. Upon an individual’s death, some assets pass directly to beneficiaries, such as survivor interests in real property or other assets and life insurance benefits. But others must go through probate, and our probate administration attorneys can guide you through this process.
In Alabama, the Probate Court will open two basic types of cases: Testate and Intestate.
When the Deceased Had a Will
If the decedent left a will, a Testate Estate is opened. The probate lawyer will review the last will and testament to ensure it meets all state requirements and will file all necessary documents with the state probate court.
This initial filing only opens the probate process. All estates in Alabama must remain open for at least six months to allow for the notification of creditors, payment of taxes, preparation of inventory, and final accounting. In the final phase, your attorney will draft and file a petition to close the estate.
Once all expenses are paid, and the assets are distributed, the court will approve the petition.
If There Was No Will
If the deceased did not have a will, the probate process is called “Intestate,” and it is much more complex. While the phases are similar to administering a Testate estate, the probate court will also appoint an administrator to create an inventory of the estate for the court. The petitioner must also post a bond sufficient to cover 150% of the estimated value of the estate. Beyond these requirements, the distribution of assets to beneficiaries is based on a formula used by the state of Alabama, which is unlikely to match the desires of the deceased.
Wills and Probate Disputes
Will contests and other probate-related disputes after the death of a loved one are sure to make a tough time even worse. If there are matters of contention related to an estate, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced probate litigation attorney.
Our law firm has extensive experience litigating and resolving all types of estate issues, including allegations of incapacity, coercion, fraud, undue influence, breach of fiduciary, and mismanagement. We work to achieve a timely and fair resolution to the issues. When a settlement isn’t possible, we aggressively represent your interests at trial.
Speak With a Knowledgeable Fairhope Estate Planning Attorney
The attorneys at Wilkins, Bankester, Biles & Wynne, P.A., are committed to providing professional representation to our clients. For over 40 years, we have been helping clients create thoughtful and legal estate plans and have been guiding surviving loved ones through the probate process.
Whether you wish to establish your will and trust, make changes to an existing plan, or need help resolving an issue related to an estate in the Fairhope area, our law firm promises to deliver the legal service you deserve and expect. Please call us today at 251-928-1915 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.