It is a common misconception that only wealthy people should create estate plans. Everyone, no matter the value of their assets, should have some type of plan in place. In Alabama, if you don’t create an estate plan, the state will step in and do this for you. Unfortunately, this will be a default plan that probably doesn’t reflect your wishes, and it will be filled with unwelcome delays and expenses for your loved ones.
Proper estate planning involves creating legal documents that express who will receive assets upon your death as well as who is authorized to make certain medical and financial decisions for you if you become mentally or physically incapacitated.
Whether you need a simple will, an extensive estate plan, or need help navigating Alabama’s probate process, The Cochran Firm can help. Our experienced probate and estate planning attorneys will evaluate your needs and help you make the right decisions for your future.
Planning for Your Future
By drafting estate planning documents that convey the unique wishes of our clients, we can assist with the protection of assets for future generations as well as secure a desired standard of living. Proper planning can help you protect those you love from having to make tough choices about what you would want.
Some estate planning documents that we can assist in drafting include:
Powers of attorney
Advance healthcare directives
Charitable giving strategies
Business succession planning
Wills and Estate Planning
Knowing that your loved ones will be cared for and your assets will be distributed according to your wishes can provide a great sense of stability. It is an unfortunate fact that many people in Alabama die without a will.
When a person dies without a will, there is a lengthy probate process in which assets are inventoried before being distributed to the next of kin. Proper estate planning can not only ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes but that there are minimal tax implications.
Developing an estate plan is a highly personal matter, because it must meet the unique needs of you and your family. Our qualified estate planning attorneys will listen to your objectives, suggest options, and develop an estate plan that will work for you.
The lawyers at The Cochran Firm can draft wills, trusts, living wills, powers of attorney, and any other necessary documents for proper legacy planning for small and large estates.
Conservatorships and Guardianships
When a loved one fails to create a proper estate plan and then becomes incapacitated, it is going to fall on you and the courts to take action. If there is no durable power of attorney in place, no one has the legal authority to make decisions on that person’s behalf. This is when a petition for guardianship and/or conservatorship will need to be filed with the probate court.
A guardianship gives a person the legal right to manage the health care, lifestyle, and personal welfare decisions of an incapacitated person or minor. A conservatorship gives a person the right to manage an incapacitated person’s estate; such as the payment of bills, investments, sale and purchase of assets, and the voting of stock.
The Alabama Probate Court can declare a person “incapacitated” due to dementia, mental infirmaries, or being a minor in the case of guardianships only. It can be difficult to know when it is the appropriate time to take action relative to these proceedings. Under Alabama law, the petitioner must provide proof that incapacitation exists, so this is not always a simple process.
If you have a loved one who may need a guardian or conservator in Alabama, or have questions about this process, the attorneys at The Cochran Law Firm can help.
Carrying Out Your Loved One’s Final Wishes
Whether there was a will in place or not, the state of Alabama may still require that certain assets go through the probate process, which can be complex. Our firm can serve as a personal representative for executors or family members in the probate and administration of an estate.
The Cochran Firm can apply its extensive knowledge of the state’s probate court to guide your family through this process. Some of the steps that we can assist with include:
Create a plan of action to quickly and fairly probate the estate
File the will with the Alabama probate court
Close and open bank accounts
Transfer assets from the deceased to the estate
Value the estate
Manage and liquidate assets as required
Pay taxes and other debts
Hire professionals and experts when necessary
Alabama Probate Litigation
While probate is typically an uncontested process, it is not uncommon for disputes to arise regarding some aspect of the estate. When there are allegations of an improperly prepared will, undue influence, or other matters that could impact the disposition of the estate, you need a skilled probate litigation attorney in your corner.
At The Cochran Firm, we represent individuals in will contests as well as allegations of breach of fiduciary duty and other estate plan disputes. Our goal is to protect your rights and ensure that the estate is handled properly.
Trusted and Reliable Birmingham Probate & Estate Planning Attorneys
When a will, trust, or other estate planning document has been properly executed, the probate process runs smoothly. Unfortunately, some aspects of the estate can become contested. The experienced estate planning and probate attorneys at The Cochran Firm will advocate for you and your family to ensure the estate is divided equitably and that your interests are recognized.
Our Alabama firm has counseled many families in these areas and offers peace of mind to our clients. We combine our vast experience with a commitment to close interaction with each client to ensure that you receive the probate and estate planning help you need.
We welcome the opportunity to review your estate planning needs or answer questions relative to a probate matter during an initial consultation. Please contact our Birmingham office at (205) 994-8555 or 1-800-THE-FIRM to schedule a meeting.