The Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors

The Blair Law Firm is proud to provide a copy of the Tennessee Bar Association’s 2014 edition of The Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors. These days it seems we all fall into at least one of three categories: 1) a senior, 2) someone caring for a senior, or 3) someone preparing to care for a senior.  This handbook provides valuable information no matter which category you find yourself. As a member of the Tennessee Bar Association and its House of Delegates, Rebecca Blair is proud of the Senior Handbook effort and has committed to providing a copy of this resource to clients and friends.

Section one of the handbook, Financial Assistance-Securing Your Future, addresses topics including social security, pensions and retirement accounts and veterans’ benefits. Reverse mortgages and tax relief are also covered.

The health care section addresses Medicare, Medicaid, TennCare, the Affordable Care Act and Long-term care insurance. This section also addresses specific considerations related to Alzheimer’s and dementia. Not only is there information for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, but also for their caregivers and family members.

Section three of the handbook, Long-Term Care and Housing for Seniors, discusses nursing homes, assisted living facilities as well as adult daycare and other options. There are many housing options available and many factors to consider when deciding which option is best for you or a loved one.

Ever wondered what would happen if you died without a will? You’ll want to read section four of the handbook, Planning for the Future. This section tackles many issues related to estate planning including wills, revocable trusts and special needs trusts. Probate and estate administration is covered, including elective share of the surviving spouse. Planning for the Future also explains powers of attorney, living wills, conservatorship and guardianship. Divorce considerations for senior adults are also addressed, as well as real property transfers.

Section five addresses protection of legal rights. This discusses when you need a lawyer as well as things to consider when meeting with an attorney. Consumer protection is covered in this section including contracts, credit cards, collection agencies, mail order merchandise and telemarketers. It also includes information about discrimination based on age or disability, custody and visitation relating to grandchildren and personal safety and security. This includes helpful information about scams that so often target the senior community, including charitable giving, employment, and health care plan scams.

If you are looking for resources to help an abused adult, section six can help. Signs of elder abuse are discussed along with how to go about reporting elder abuse.

Finally, section seven provides additional resources including contact information for many helpful agencies.

The following Frequently Asked Questions are examples of helpful information that can be found in the handbook.

Estate Planning and Administration

  • What is an executor?
    • An executor is responsible for administering your estate, as designated in your will.
  • Who will be my executor if I die without a will?
    • If you do not have a will, the court will appoint an executor or administrator. This person will collect your assets and pay your debts and funeral expenses. Anything remaining will be distributed according to Tennessee law.
  • Who will be my beneficiaries if I don’t have a will?
    • Under Tennessee law if a person dies without a will, their estate will be divided among their spouse and children. If a person has a spouse and one child, they will receive equal shares. If a person has more than on child the spouse will receive 1/3 of the estate and the remaining 2/3 of the estate will be divided equally among the children.
  • What is a revocable trust?
    • A revocable trust, also known as a living will, is a document created to manage a person’s assets.
  • Can a revocable trust be changed?
    • Since the trust is revocable, the grantor (the individual who created the trust) can change the terms of the trust during life time, as long as they are competent to do so.
    • If the grantor become incapacitated or passes away, the trust become irrevocable and no changes can be made to the terms.
  • Why would I choose a revocable trust?
    • The terms of a revocable trust are not made public at a grantor’s death and so many people prefer this option. The assets held in the trust do not pass through probate either.
  • What are the responsibilities of the personal representative?
    • A personal representative’s duties include determining all assets and debts of the decedent.
    • A personal representative must provide a creditor notice either by published notice or actual notice, which is a direct mailing.
    • A release or waiver must be obtained from the Bureau of TennCare if the decedent is over the age of 55 at the time of death may be required before the estate can be closed.
    • The personal representative should file an inventory of the decedent’s assets within 60 days of being appointed. He or she should also keep detailed accounting of the estate documenting assets coming in and distributions made.
    • Tax obligations of the decedent must be handled by the personal representative. Multiple tax returns may be required.
    • For more information about duties of a personal representative and estate administration, please refer to section four of the 2014 edition of the TBA’s Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors.
  • What if the decedent’s debts exceed their assets?
    • If the decedent’s debts exceed their assets the estate is insolvent. In this case a specialized proceeding must be instituted.

Probate

  • What is probate?
    • Probate is the process in which a decedent’s assets are collected and the debts, taxes and costs of administration are paid. Probate also includes distribution of the remaining balance to the beneficiaries.
  • What is the difference between an executor and an administrator?
    • Both an executor and administrator are personal representatives who are responsible for administering an estate. The term executor is used if the decedent nominated the person in their will. If a decedent did not nominate a personal representative, the person is titled administrator. Regardless of the title, a personal representative must act impartially and in good faith towards all beneficiaries.

Power of Attorney

  • What is a Power of Attorney?
    • “A Power of Attorney (“POA”) is a document that authorizes someone to make decisions on your behalf with respect to finances, property, and related matters.” (The Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors, 2014, p.207)
    • The principal of the POA is the person executing the POA.
    • The attorney-in-fact is the person named in the POA to act on behalf of the principal.
  • What does a Power of Attorney authorize the attorney-in-fact to do?
    • A POA authorizes the attorney-in-fact to deal with taxes, insurance, banks, and numerous other acts.
  • What is the benefit of a durable Power of Attorney?
    • A POA should include language to make it durable so that it survives the incapacity of the principal, otherwise the POA becomes ineffective.
  • What is a Health Care Power of Attorney?
    • A Health Care Power of Attorney authorizes the attorney-in-fact to make decisions regarding the principal’s health care treatment and handling of the body of the principal after death.

Living Will

  • What is a living will?
    • “The execution of a Living will signifies that it is the person’s intent that his or her life shall not be artificially prolonged if a physician has determined that there is no reasonable medical expectation of recover irrespective of the use of discontinuance of medical treatment implemented for the purpose of sustaining life.” (The Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors, 2014, p.209-210)
    • A person can also specify if they want artificially provided food and water to be withheld so that he or she may pass more quickly.
    • Organ donation preferences may also be stated in a living will.
    • If a person wishes to be cremated, this can also be stated in the living will.

Conservatorship

  • What is a conservator?
    • A conservator is someone who is legally able to care for a person and/or their property.
  • When does someone need a conservator?
    • A person may need a conservator is they are unable to care for and protect themselves or physically and financially.
    • A person may need a conservator if the person he/she chose to provide care is not acting in his/her best interests
  • What if I know someone needs a conservator but I am unable or unwilling to be the conservator?
    • A person may petition the court to appoint someone other than themselves as conservator
  • Does the person for whom the conservatorship is sought have any rights?
    • Yes, the person for whom the conservatorship is being sought may request a hearing to determine if a conservatorship is needed.
    • The person for whom the conservatorship is being sought may be appointed a guardian ad litem to look out for their best interests during the court proceedings.

Please click the link below to download a copy of this amazing handbook. Feel free to print, save, and forward to friends and family.

The Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors, 2014 Edition

The Blair Law Firm provides civil litigation services to families and businesses throughout Middle Tennessee.   Our experience includes personal injury, estate, probate and trust, conservatorship and elder law, business litigation, divorce and family law.  If you have any further questions, or feel you need legal assistance, please contact Rebecca Blair at The Blair Law Firm.