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Family Settlement Agreements

Nashville Attorneys Knowledgeable in Estate Planning Matters

Following the death of a loved one, many questions may arise regarding the distribution of his or her assets. Whether an individual passes away with or without a will, unforeseen issues may arise that require family members and other beneficiaries to reach a resolution. The Nashville estate planning lawyers at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC help families facing these issues find a path in line with a loved one’s intended legacy. Our firm understands how to facilitate a fair agreement among family members so that everyone can move on accordingly.

Devising a Family Settlement Agreement

Individuals, courts, and attorneys alike would rather find a solution without resorting to lengthy and often costly legal proceedings if they are unnecessary. Family Settlement Agreements, or FSAs, are legally binding contracts among a deceased person’s heirs or beneficiaries that deal with the logistics of distributing his or her estate. FSAs are used in situations in which an individual has died intestate, or without a will, as well as when a will exists but is either incomplete or raises questions as to its validity. In will contest cases, it is ideal to reach an agreement before formally filing a contest action, especially when a will contains a forfeiture clause that would bar a beneficiary from receiving his or her inheritance if that action proves unsuccessful.

As legal instruments, FSAs are restricted in some respects. For example, they are unenforceable against parties without the legal capacity to enter into a contract, such as minors or incompetent individuals. In the event that a minor is affected by an FSA, his or her legal guardian may be appointed to serve as a representative of the minor’s interests. Such appointments of representation may also be necessary to preserve the interests of any unborn or yet to be determined beneficiaries.

To be legally binding, all FSAs must also comply with contractual requirements and be executed in writing with the signatures of all interested parties. FSAs do not bind any additional parties not privy to the contract, so an unnamed beneficiary or heir may object to the settlement unless it provides an express benefit to that party. Certain parties, however, do not have standing to object to an FSA. These individuals include the executor of the will, who would not have any proprietary interest in the will, as well as any of the decedent’s creditors, as long as the agreement does not affect the payment of their debts. Consulting an experienced wills and trusts attorney can help you determine your legal rights and options as an heir.

Explore Your Options with an Estate Planning Lawyer in Nashville

An agreement among the various parties involved is a helpful tool in ensuring that a recently departed loved one’s assets are distributed in the proper manner. The Nashville estate planning attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard PLLC can assist you in navigating what may be delicate or emotional discussions among surviving family members. Our firm represents people in Franklin, Hillsboro Village, Cool Springs, and other communities throughout Williamson and Davidson Counties. If you need advice from an estate planning or probate attorney, call us at 615-800-7096 or contact us online to set up a free appointment.