Written by: Bradley R. Coppedge, Esq. A prenuptial agreement, also known as an antenuptial agreement, is a written agreement or contract between parties prior to entering into a marriage. The underlying purpose is to define the rights that each spouse has in the income, property or assets of the other at various times, particularly: during the term of the marriage, in the event of the dissolution of the marriage, or upon the death of either party. If an agreement is entered into after marriage, it is termed a post-nuptial agreement. It is not just a domestic planning tool, not just an estate planning tool, and not just an asset protection tool. It is in fact all three. Pre- or Post- nuptial agreements generally limit the rights of one spouse in property and income of the other. The reason this is important is this: generally, income earned and property acquired during a…       Read More

By: Bradley R. Coppedge, Esq. When you hear the term “trust,” or hear someone talking about setting up a trust, or having a trust, or being a trust beneficiary, what thought comes to mind? That the person must be wealthy, right? While trusts are often a common tool in estate planning for the wealthy, they are much more common, and much more practical and useful, than you might ever think for the average person. This brief article will describe 7 common situations where trusts are frequently and regularly used by those who do not fall in to the category of “wealthy.” These trusts can be either inter-vivos trusts, which are created and funded while you are still alive for the benefit of someone else, or testamentary trusts, which are created through your Last Will and Testament and only come in to being upon your death. 1. Trusts for Special Needs…       Read More

Written by: Bradley R. Coppedge, Esq. Do you ever wonder:  Will my loved ones carry out my wishes regarding burial or cremation?  And if you have that concern, is there any way to ensure that your final wishes are carried out?  Think about it, there is probably a provision in your Will or your Advance Directive for Healthcare that states what you prefer.  But let’s be realistic, by the time your Will is pulled out after your death, you’ve already been buried or cremated!  The question is, can you absolutely control which happens to you after your death? Most often, a decedent’s burial or cremation transpire without a problem.  But not infrequently, issues do arise.  For example, questions may include: Who has the priority right to make the determination as between burial and cremation?  What happens if family members disagree about burial or cremation plans?  Does the spouse automatically have…       Read More

by: Bradley R. Coppedge, Esq. Any “basic” estate plan will (or should!) include a Last Will and Testament, along with a Power of Attorney, and an Advance Directive for Healthcare.  Let’s look briefly at these latter two ancillary documents, which allow you to designate who makes decisions for you if you become unable to act or speak for yourself. A. Financial Power of Attorney A Power of Attorney, also known as a Financial Power of Attorney, General Power of Attorney or Durable Power of Attorney, is an instrument by which you authorize another person or persons to act on your behalf. This person is known as your “agent” or your “attorney in fact.” This document allows your agent to make financial decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated, without the need to have the Probate Court appoint a guardian or conservator, which is a time-consuming and expensive process. A…       Read More

By: Bradley R. Coppedge, esq. “Basis” is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary (6th ed.) as “The value assigned to an asset for the purpose of determining gain (or loss) on the sale or transfer or in determining value in the hands of a donee”. Stated in layman’s terms, your basis in an asset is the threshold for determining if any tax is due when the asset is subsequently sold. The terms we will review to understand basis are Cost-Basis, Adjusted Basis, Carry-Over Basis and Stepped-Up Basis. A person’s basis in an asset is initially his “cost-basis” in a purchased asset, i.e., the amount that was paid for an asset. Assuming there has been no depreciation claimed on tax returns (which would reduce basis), nor any significant capital improvements to the asset (which would increase basis), a person’s cost basis will remain as the basis until the asset is sold. (On…       Read More

By: Bradley R. Coppedge Estate Planning, when done properly, can be much more than just a Will and a power of attorney. It can include trust planning, asset protection planning, and Medicaid planning. In fact, accomplishing traditional estate planning goals while also planning for Medicaid eligibility is becoming more of a concern as our baby boomers age and longevity continues to increase. A. Generally. Most people begin planning for Medicaid too late. A common client scenario I see on a monthly or more frequent basis is as follows: “Mother has suddenly taken ill or has fallen and is going to need help we can’t provide. We will be moving her to a nursing home in a couple of weeks/months, but she wants to go ahead and transfer her CDs and house to us kids.” The family is thinking that if mom makes these transfers it will avoid having to use…       Read More

Written by: Bradley R. Coppedge, Esq. Beneficiary designation forms seem easy, right? Fill out the form, send it in. These days it’s often easier still—a few keystrokes online and you’re done. In many cases, you accomplish exactly what you think you want. Unfortunately, these forms and how they are completed can have also have unintended, unanticipated, and unfortunate consequences. These risks are often exacerbated by the ease of making online changes, without having ever consulted with your estate planning attorney or financial adviser. Let’s start with a brief review. When a person dies, either with or without a Will, his or her estate must be administered. If property passes through the estate, it is generally termed “probate property”, and is disposed of in accordance with the terms of the Will if one exists, or otherwise by provisions of state law. If such property instead passes by operation of law or…       Read More

Written by: Bradley R. Coppedge, Esq. Special care must be given to planning for a special needs child.  “Special Needs”, for our purposes, means a child (whether an adult or minor) who at birth or subsequently thereafter is mentally, physically, emotionally or developmentally impaired or disabled to such degree as would enable the child to be eligible, or potentially eligible, for means-tested public or governmental benefits or assistance. I. Estate Planning for a parent of a disabled or special needs child. A parent who has a special needs or disabled child has basically three (3) planning options in implementing the parent’s estate plan: (1)        Effectively disinherit the child, and allow the child to rely solely on public benefits.  This is not as harsh as it may sound in that if the parent’s wealth is modest, the child’s needs great, and there are other children to provide for, this may be…       Read More

By: Bradley R. Coppedge, Esq. If you’ve read any materials on estate planning, you’ve likely heard of these trusts. For example, you see a lot on-line, in AARP magazine, and in The Wall Street Journal. There exists a significant amount of commentary and recommendations on using these trusts along with a very simple Will known as a “pour over” Will. While they are very common in many parts of the country, Revocable Living Trusts are not used as frequently in Georgia or Alabama. Most of the commentary on Revocable Living Trusts comes from articles and books written by financial planners or attorneys outside of the Southeast. The primary purpose of a Revocable Living Trust in most states is “to avoid probate”. However, probate is a relatively simple and inexpensive process in both Georgia and Alabama, and several other southeastern states, when you have a proper Will which names an executor, waives…       Read More