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Estate Planning

The uncomfortable truth about Wills is that we need them as much at age 30 as we do at age 60. In fact, the closer to 60 we get, the more that a Trust might make more financial sense. The attorneys at Owens, Mixon, Heller & Smith, P.A. can help you decide the best way to protect your assets and provide for your family and loved ones if something happens to you.

A Will is a legal document which specifies what happens to your property upon your death. The Will has to be drafted correctly or a court will not recognize it as valid. The Will is submitted to the court after your death and, once accepted, becomes the instruction manual for how to distribute your property. This process is called Probate.

A Trust is a legal document which creates a fiduciary duty between a Trustee, designated by you, and any and all beneficiaries under the Trust document. You can provide as little or as much discretion to the Trustee as you see fit and can leave detailed instructions for exactly how your property and its income are to be used while you are living and after you are dead. A Trust can be revocable (changeable) or irrevocable (not changeable). Trusts can be useful for protecting or preserving assets or for avoiding Probate. There are many kinds of Trusts which serve many different purposes.

You buy insurance to plan for the worst and Estate Planning is no different. Without a Will, your property will go through Probate under rules of Intestate Succession. This means that the court will decide who gets what by following a table in a book.  Generally, the inheritance table goes something like this:



Children (subject to spousal share)


Spouse (limited if married < 3 years)


Surviving Parents


Siblings (or their descendents)


Grandparents, Uncles & Aunts (or their descendents)


Great Grandparents, Great Uncles & Great Aunts (or their descendents)


Remainder to Spouse (if married < 3 years)


If none of the above, to the County where you lived at your death

If you want anything done different to this, you have to have a Will or Trust or use other tricks of the trade. For example, without a Will, your life’s work could go to your Uncle you see once every few years and your stepchildren might get nothing. But with a Will, you can make sure your stepchildren are taken care of after you are gone.

Likewise, without a Trust, your life savings could go to your children. Maybe this is what you eventually wanted, but what if they are 19 years old when you die? Do you want a 19 year old to have immediate access to that kind of money in its entirety? A Trust can be drafted to provide income and/or support for your child until they reach an age you decide is best for them to receive the remainder.

There are other methods we can advise you on using, such as beneficiary designations on bank accounts, beneficiary deeds, and life estates. Each of these has pros and cons.

There are also other steps that can and should be taken by you to plan for the worst:

Durable Powers of Attorney are used to designate somebody you trust to act on your behalf if you are unable to act for yourself. If you do not have a Durable Power of Attorney and something happens, your loved ones may be required to hire an attorney to establish a Guardianship in order to see to your daily financial and health care needs.

A Living Will a.k.a. Health Care Proxy is a legal document which instructs doctors how you want to be treated if life saving steps are recommended by your doctor. If you do not have a Living Will/Health Care Proxy, the doctor will rely on your spouse to decide whether or not you would want to be on life support, a ventilator, or if you would want to be resuscitated if you are in cardiac arrest, and so forth. If you have a Living Will/Health Care Proxy, you make these decisions now and take the stress and heartache out of the equation.

If you have any questions about any of these concepts, please feel free to contact the attorneys at Owens, Mixon, Heller & Smith, P.A. We are prepared to answer any questions you may have and to assist you with planning, drafting, and executing anything necessary for you to plan for your future.

For help or questions with estate planning, including wills, trusts, or powers of attorney, contact Aaron Heller at or 1-870-336-6505.