Recent events have prompted many people to consider the “what ifs” of serious illness.  What if you’re too ill to handle your business affairs?  What if you become unconscious and cannot communicate with your doctors?  What if you become so ill that you die?

None of us can predict the future, so we cannot know if or when we will become seriously ill or when we will die.  We can, however, do our best to prepare for those unfortunate events by doing things like crafting our estate plans.

Unfortunately, however, only about one third of Americans have any estate planning documents at all.  In a survey conducted by, 23.9% of respondents had wills, and only 6.2% had advanced health care directives.

So, although most people recognize that there are lots of good reasons to have a will and a health care directive, they put off the task of creating those documents.

If you are one of those people who has been delaying the task of creating your estate plan, let us help eliminate some roadblocks for you:

  • COVID-19 Safety. COVID-19 may have you feeling the urgent need to get your estate plan put together, but you’re likely also nervous to venture out in public.  Fortunately, our attorneys can safely discuss your estate plan with you via telephone and videoconference.  Alabama is also currently allowing remote witnessing and notarization of documents, so right now it is possible to complete your estate plan without even leaving your house.
  • Expense. At Lewis, Lewis & Falkner we pride ourselves on making our rates affordable so that estate planning can be accessible to anyone.  We believe that every family deserves the peace of mind that comes from having a complete estate plan, so we keep our fees as low as possible.
  • Time. While some people have found themselves with lots of extra free time during the pandemic, many others have struggled with a lack of childcare and feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.  Because we can arrange virtual meetings, we eliminate our clients’ drive time to our office. Technology also allows us to be flexible and adjust meeting times as our clients’ schedules change throughout the day, even conducting “meetings” outside of usual office hours. Draft documents can be emailed securely to clients for review. In other words, we work on our clients’ schedules to make the estate planning process as hassle-free as possible.

If you would like to give yourself some peace of mind by creating your estate plan – or by adding to or updating your current plan – please call our office today at 205-553-5353 to see how we can safely and conveniently help.  Basic estate planning documents are more affordable than you might think, and in some cases can be ready for your signature within hours.

An advance directive, also called a “living will,” is a document you can use to describe ahead of time the kind of medical care you would or would not want in certain situations.

You may wonder whether an advance directive is something you really need, especially if you are young and in good health.  Here are the top three reasons to talk to an attorney about an advance directive, regardless of your age or your health:

Creating an advance directive will prompt you to thoughtfully consider your end-of-life care.

End-of-life care is not something most of us think about very often. When people do think about those issues, though, they often realize that they have very strong opinions about what kind of care they would want in certain situations. Creating an advance directive forces you to give careful consideration to your wishes for your end-of-life care, something you may not otherwise do.

Creating an advance directive gives you an opportunity to discuss your wishes with your loved ones, caregivers, and doctors.

It’s hard to think about dying, and it can be even tougher to talk about it with the ones you love. Preparing an advance directive gives you a good opportunity to explain your end-of-life wishes to your family.

Talking to your family about the choices you make on your advance directive can make things easier for everyone later. When you explain your choices to your family while you’re still healthy you give everyone a chance to understand and accept your decisions without the added tension and pressure that may arise when you become ill.

Additionally, when you use an advance directive to make your wishes clear, you can avoid disagreements among your loved ones, or between your loved ones and your doctors. People are less likely to argue about your care later on if you have already had an open and frank discussion with them about the choices you have made on your directive.

Creating an advance directive gives you more say over how much treatment you will get should you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious.

This is the most obvious and biggest benefit to having an advance directive. If you become incapacitated and you do not have an advance directive, then Alabama law dictates who will make medical care decisions for you. The responsible person may not be who you would have chosen, or even worse that person may disagree with you about your healthcare choices.

In other words, creating an advance directive gives you the best possible chance of having your end-of-life healthcare wishes followed.

Working With an Attorney to Prepare your Advance Directive Is Easy and Inexpensive.

Advance Directives have lots of options and can be confusing (follow this link to learn more about Alabama advance directives). While you can sign an advance directive on your own it’s a good idea to have an attorney guide you through the process to be sure that your wishes are accurately stated. An advance directive is affordable and, just like any part of your estate plan, will give you valuable peace of mind.

Call our Tuscaloosa, Alabama office at 205-553-5353 today to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys to discuss your options.

Do you think  you aren’t “rich” enough for a will?  Think again!

Many people have the misconception that wills are only for the wealthy.  However, just about anyone can benefit from having an estate plan, including a last will and testament.

Here are some important reasons to have a will, even if you don’t have a lot of assets:

Less Stress For Your Heirs.

Even if your estate is very small your heirs usually will be better served if you leave a will.   If you don’t leave a will and your estate has a value above the minimal limits qualifying it for the special procedures of a “small estate,” then your estate will need to be probated.  This means that your heirs will have to prove your death and their relationship to you in order to take possession of your assets.  In most situations someone will have to file a petition with the probate court to administer your estate, which can cost a fair amount of time, money, and trouble.  Whoever petitions to be appointed as administrator of your estate will most likely have to post a probate bond to protect your heirs in case of the administrator’s fraud or misconduct.  This is an expense that can be waived by a valid Last Will and Testament.

Ability to Nominate Guardians For Your Children.

If you have minor children a will allows you to name your top choice for their guardian after you die.  While a court will have final say as to who gets appointed, your nomination will receive strong consideration.

Control Over Who Inherits From You.

When you die without a will you leave it up to Alabama’s “intestacy statute” to determine how your property is divided.  While the intestacy laws do a pretty good job of following what the average person wants to do with his property upon his death, they may not align with your wishes.  What if you have a committed partner whom you are not married to?  Under Alabama law if you die without a will your partner will not receive any part of your estate.  What if you are a blended family and die leaving a spouse and children from a previous relationship? Absent a will, your spouse and children will share equally in your estate, and that may not be what you want or what’s best for your children.  What if your only living relative is a brother whom  you haven’t spoken to in thirty years?  Alabama’s intestacy statute says that he gets your entire estate even though you are estranged. The only way you can have a say in how  your property is divided by using a Will to state your wishes.

Control Over Your Property.

While you may feel like you don’t have enough cash to care what happens to your estate you shouldn’t forget about your non-cash assets, like your personal possessions with sentimental value.  If you want your family heirlooms to go to specific people then you should record those wishes in a Last Will and Testament.

Your Financial Situation May Change.

Your estate may become more valuable overnight if, for example, you win the lottery, receive a large inheritance, or get a large raise or  bonus at work.   You may not care who inherits your property when it’s worth $5,000, but you probably would care if it suddenly ballooned in value to $500,000.00!  A will can help you plan for these possibilities, however remote they may seem.

An Estate Planning Attorney Can Help

The best way to know whether you need a will is to discuss your situation with a lawyer.   Get peace of mind by talking to our experienced estate planning attorneys today.  Call us at 205-553-5353 or come by our Tuscaloosa office to find out what we can do to protect your property and your family.

When Should I Review My Estate Plan?

If you have a will, chances are you haven’t read it or thought about it much since the day you signed it.

But what if it’s outdated and no longer fits your needs?

The best way to make sure that your estate plan still works for you is to review it regularly.

Most financial planning experts recommend reviewing your will at least annually, and definitely after you have any major life change, such as:

  • marriage or divorce (yours or a loved one/heir);
  • death, illness, or incapacity of a spouse, child, other relative, or close friend (someone you may have given property to in your will or named as a trustee, executor, or guardian);
  • if you become seriously ill and/or need long-term care;
  •  a change in your financial situation or investments;
  • if you acquire new property or assets or sell property or assets;
  • if you start a new business or close a business;
  •  if you move to a different state;
  •  the birth or adoption of a child;
  •  when your child reaches the age of majority;
  •  if there is a change in tax laws.

When you review your will you should also review your other estate planning documents, such as powers of attorney and advance directives for health care.

After you review your will you can speak with an estate planning attorney about how to make any changes that may be necessary.

What if you read through your will and aren’t sure whether it needs to be changed? An attorney can review it and help you figure out whether it still works for you.

If you’re ready to update your estate plan call our Tuscaloosa estate planning attorneys today at 205-553-5353 or visit our office.

Who Makes My Health Care Decisions If I’m Too Sick to Speak for Myself?

Adults in Alabama have the right to make decisions about their own medical care.  But what if you’re too sick to talk or to make choices for yourself?

An advance directive, also called a “living will,” is a document you can use to describe ahead of time the kind of care you would or would not want in certain situations.

For example, you can use an advance directive to let your doctors and family know that you do or do not want to be put on a feeding tube if you ever become permanently unconscious.   Under Alabama law, nurses, doctors, and hospitals must follow your wishes as stated in your advance directive or transfer you to a facility that will follow your wishes.

If you do not have an advance directive then members of your family will have to make decisions about your care for you.

You may not want to burden them with that obligation, or you may be concerned that they would make different decisions about your medical care than you would choose for yourself.  For those reasons, it’s a good idea to have an advance directive.

You can also use an advance directive to appoint a health care “proxy” – a person who can make decisions and speak for you if you are too sick to speak for yourself.

You can state in your directive whether you want your proxy to be able to make decisions about things that are not covered in the form, or if you want to give your proxy the power to make final decisions about your health care, even if those decisions are different from what you chose in the advance directive.

Advance Directives have lots of options and can be confusing.

While you can sign an advance directive on your own it’s a good idea to have an experienced attorney guide you through the process to be sure that  your wishes are accurately stated.

An advance directive is an important part of your estate plan, and we want to help you with it. Call our Tuscaloosa office at 205-553-5353 today and set up an appointment to discuss your options.

What happens to a minor child when both of his parents die?

As with most estate planning issues, this is something that is unpleasant to think about but very important.

If one parent dies then generally the surviving parent will have custody of the child.

But what if both parents die while the child is still a minor?

In that case the court will need to determine who should become the child’s guardian. Any of your friends or family members can nominate themselves to be appointed as guardian, and then it is up to the court to decide what is best for your child.

But, of course, you and the court may have different ideas about what’s best for your child.

That’s why it’s a good idea to have a will.

In a will you can nominate someone to be your child’s guardian after your death.  The court will still have final say, but in general a lot of weight is given to the parents’ wishes.

You can even nominate an alternate or successor guardian in case your first choice is unwilling or unable to serve.

You should discuss your wishes with your child’s other parent and if possible reach an agreement as to whom you will both nominate as your child’s guardian.  If you and your child’s other parent each nominate different people in your wills and then you both die the court will ultimately determine which of your nominees should be appointed.

An experienced estate planning attorney can help you protect your family by drafting a will that nominates a guardian for your children.  Call us today at 205-553-5353 or come by our Tuscaloosa office to see how we can assist you.

You may be asking yourself, “do I really need a will?”

A better question is “Do I want to have control over what happens to my property when I die?” If your answer to this question is “yes” then you need a will.

There are lots of reasons why you might want a will, but the most obvious one is that a will allows you to have a say in how your assets are distributed after your death.

Alabama law has an intestacy statute that determines what happens to your property if you die “intestate,” meaning if you die without leaving a will. The intestacy statute was drafted to distribute property in a way that closely represents how  the average person would have designed his estate plan had he signed a will.

Of course, what the average person might have chosen for his estate plan is not necessarily what YOU would want for yours.

The only way to make sure that your property is distributed the way you want after your death is to execute a valid last will and testament

Another reason to have a will?  It saves your loved ones money.  Your will can be written in a way that minimizes taxes and avoids added costs to your family like probate bonds, inventories, and reports to the court.  Having a will also streamlines the probate process so that it is as quick and painless for your family as possible.

The best way to make sure that your estate plan works for you is to hire a lawyer.   Get peace of mind by talking to our experienced estate planning attorneys today.  Call us at 205-553-5353 or come by our Tuscaloosa office to find out what we can do to protect your property and your family.