There are times in life when it is obvious that people in the Atlanta area should start meeting with a trust and estates attorney. For example, it’s more obvious that seniors need to get their estates in order than younger people do. While some situations are more urgent than others, there are actually quite a few indicators that you’re ready to start estate planning with an attorney.
Again, advancing age is often the thing that spurs clients to start thinking about their estate planning needs. You’ve spent your life working to earn what you have, and with the approach of retirement and other reminders of aging, people start thinking about what will happen to their assets when they die.
Births and Adoptions
Welcoming a new child into your family brings so many “firsts” along with it. For many people, this is the first time they realize the need to work with an estate planning attorney. Not only are there issues such as planning for college or your child’s financial future without you, but there is the even more pressing matter of naming legal guardians in case you die or become incapacitated. If you want to have a say in who cares for your children when you can’t, having an estate planning attorney draw up the proper documentation is a necessity.
More and more adults are caring for their aging parents these days. Along with that responsibility often comes the realization that Mom and Dad haven’t done any estate planning, or that the documents they created 30 years ago are no longer sufficient. Additionally, you will likely need to put some powers of attorney (for medical and financial reasons) in place, and that is also something that an Atlanta trust and estates attorney can assist you in doing.
Military personnel are often put in situations of great personal and physical risk. It goes without saying, then, that their families understand that there may be a time when tragedy follows. Estate planning with an attorney can help to determine how parents, spouses, dependent children, and others will be cared for should the military member pay the ultimate price.
Another cue that it may be time to choose an estate planning attorney is when an individual is facing a major illness. Estate planning isn’t just about figuring out what happens to your assets when you pass away, but also how your affairs will be handled if you are unable to care for yourself due to illness. It makes sense to work with an attorney to set up a medical power of attorney, a living will, and other related documents that will be in place whether your illness is temporary or terminal.
These are certainly not the only life events that cause a need for estate planning, but they are among the most common changes that make us stop and realize that need.
If you are facing a life transition that now requires some level of estate planning to take place, we encourage you to contact our Atlanta law firm and ask to schedule a comprehensive Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session absolutely free with the mention of this article.
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When meeting with a wills and trusts lawyer in Atlanta for the first time, many adult children realize that they have no idea where their parents stand in terms of having the right plans in place to protect their assets and wishes if something happens to them.
Do their parents have a will or trust and, if so, where are these and other important documents located? Should assisted living or nursing home care become necessary, what plans are in place to cover the costs? Will mom or dad even have enough money after these costs to carry them through retirement?
These are some very important questions that need to be asked, and an experienced Atlanta GA wills and trusts lawyer can steer you in the right direction. That being said, no matter how good your relationship is with mom or dad, the subject can be a difficult one to approach.
Perhaps the best place to start is timing. Holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are known to be stressful times, so you might want to avoid these occasions. Current events often present the perfect opening, as there is always some Hollywood legend or financial mogul who dies leaving a fortune for the heirs to squabble over.
Or, the personal experience of a friend or relative can be worked into a dialogue. “So-and-So’s mother was admitted to the hospital recently and no one knew where to find her important papers.” For the adult child who is doing estate planning of their own, it would only be natural to want to discuss their parents’ plans with them during this time.
For some families, several conversations over a longer period of time might be a better approach. No one wants to feel like they are being told what to do, and money matters are often emotionally charged conversations to begin with.
Remember, advance preparations are in the best interests of the parents, so that their wishes can be carried out upon death. Be sure to communicate this from the start to avoid your parents shutting down or getting defensive about the questions you are asking.
Finally, don’t forget to include the topic of long-term care in your conversations with mom or dad. While no one likes to think about the possibility of becoming disabled or incapacitated by something like a stroke or Alzheimer’s disease, it does happen and it’s something that must be planned well in advance for. If you start early enough, an Atlanta wills and trust lawyer can help you put the right plans in place to ensure mom or dad’s wishes during incapacity are honored and that they won’t be forced to sell or give away all of their assets in order to qualify for state or federal assistance.
Are you now ready to help your parents put a rock-solid plan in place that ensures their end-of-life wishes are honored to the fullest? Then be sure to call our Atlanta wills and trusts lawyers for assistance. With the mention of this article (“TOUGH CONVERSATIONS”), you may qualify for a Georgia Family Legacy Planning Session ($750 value), at no-charge. Simply call 770-425-6060 to find out more.
Below is a fictional letter that my friend and colleague in Colorado, Martha Hartney, Esq., recently posted on her blog. The paragraphs at the bottom are from me. Martha agreed to let me post it here for everyone who reads my updates, so a BIG THANK YOU! goes out to Martha! Martha says, “I drafted it to anyone’s former partner because I know only too well what can happen when estate planning is not done properly. I hope you enjoy this outreach to an ex-spouse or partner and consider taking steps to do everything this letter suggests for yourself. You can even send the link to your ex!”
Though we’re not married (cohabitating, procreating) anymore, there are a few things I’d like to say about how you set up your affairs for our kids. You’re about to go on vacation—and I know you worry about being away from them and having an emergency or tragedy happen. I don’t have ANY say in how you set up your estate plan. But there are things that I’d like you to consider about the well-being and care of our beautiful children.
- Make sure your life insurance is up to date and your beneficiaries are listed properly. Don’t name our kids as direct beneficiaries! That will put them straight into a conservatorship (guardianship) where a judge will supervise their financial lives until 18, then they’ll get the assets outright in one fell swoop.
- Instead, leave your assets to them in trust, which will sidestep probate, keep the management of your assets private and in your control, and prevent loss of those assets to our kids’ future creditors and predators and reduce the estate taxes that can take valuable resources away from our kids.
- Name a trustee that I can work with, someone you trust with your life, because your trustee will have to deal with me. If I were the only parent left, I would be legally responsible for ensuring the assets left to our children are properly managed. I would be looking at the annual accountings. I would be the one asking for court intervention if they are mismanaged or embezzled.
- Don’t leave your assets to our kids outright and don’t leave too much. There is nothing more damaging to a kid’s life purpose than having too much money at their fingertips. There’s a saying, “Leave them with enough to do something, but not enough to do nothing.” If you have lots of assets, consider giving some to your favorite charity instead of the kids.
- Don’t cheap out on an estate plan. Whitney Houston did that. She bought a schlocky will that didn’t protect her assets from her daughter’s creditors, estate taxes, and probate. Spend the money to get it done right. It’s really not that much in the scheme of things.
- Plan for a very long life. I know you want to leave our kids your accumulated wealth, but think of yourself first. We’re all living longer lives and, even though we’re not “in love” anymore, I do care about you and your welfare. Create a wealth-plan that will give you lifelong, passive income.
- Make sure you have disability insurance. Your ability to earn is your greatest asset. Nothing will diminish your wealth, and put you in poverty quicker than not being able to earn money anymore. Even if you didn’t need care, if you couldn’t work, you would run through savings quickly and may have to cheap out on things like your lifestyle, vacations, then even necessities like good, wholesome food, the roof over your head. Please don’t let that happen to our kids or to you.
- Get long-term care insurance. The person who is going to live to 150 is believed to have already been born! People will routinely live to be over 100 and that could be you. Long-term care is EXPENSIVE and it’s only going to get more so. Since you’re over 50 and in good health, consider buying a LTC policy on you, or a rider on your life insurance policy.
- Name a guardian for our kids—and ask me who I named. We might be able to agree still on that. Of course, I’ve taken care of my guardianship nomination but if I didn’t, our kids would be subject to a guardianship proceeding—and you and I both know that would be bad because our families would duke it out. You can even do that for FREE online at www.kidsprotectionplan.com. [In Georgia, go to georgia.kidsprotectionplan.com] With that resource, there’s really no reason not to do that at the very least.
- When you decide to remarry, get great guidance from an attorney in advance because remarriage can cause complications to your planning. I’m sure you’ve heard of assets going to a spouse instead of to kids—and while you may eventually want that—don’t let that happen by accident or oversight.
- Make sure you have your own healthcare documents in place naming your agent for medical decision-making. Don’t name the kids as your agents until they are legally capable—over 18, and emotionally able to handle the job.
- Check with your attorney and your retirement account custodian to see if I need to sign any waiver to your retirement accounts. In some cases, if you haven’t remarried, as your previous spouse, I may retain some rights in a 401(k) or similar account that you may have had when we were married. I know that’s not what you want, and that’s okay.
- Most importantly, shoot a video of yourself telling the kids your life story. Tell them about how we met and what you liked about me. Tell them that it’s not their fault that we didn’t work out but that we did have some awesome times together. Tell them about your biggest life lessons, your values, your setbacks and victories. Tell them what a terrific businessperson you are and how you learned to be that. Tell them about your favorite hobbies and what you’re good at. Tell them what you love about them and how much blessed you are that we brought them into the world. [We are now offering Family Treasures Legacy interviews to our clients – call to set yours up today!]
So, dear Ex, I do want the best for our kids and I hope you consider my wishes so that if something did happen to you, they’d be okay. Because I promise that if something did, I would do everything in my power to make sure they’re able to heal, to thrive, to honor you every day of their lives.
If you haven’t gotten around to doing these things yourself, we can help. If you’d like to learn more about anything you read here, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, but because of the importance of divorced parent planning, I’ve made space for the next five people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.
I’m also happy to send you a FREE digital copy of the best-selling book “Wear Clean Underwear—a Fun, Fast, Friendly—and Essential Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents” so you can get even more education on your family’s legal needs. Just call my office at 770.425.6060 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for the book. We’ll email it to you right away!
Most of us who have a pet consider them to be a part of the family; unfortunately, the plans we may have so carefully put together to protect our loved ones do not take our pets into consideration.
According to the ASPCA, only about 17% of dog and cat owners have taken the necessary legal steps to ensure their pets are cared for after they die. Most of us assume that because our close family members know how much our pets mean to us, someone in the family will take responsibility for our pets after we are gone. However, many pets that outlive their owners wind up in shelters because no formal provisions have been made for them.
Almost every state, including Georgia, has laws that allow pet owners to create a trust for the care of their pets. You can create a Georgia pet trust that would go into effect upon your death or if you become incapacitated and unable to care for your pet. To ensure there are proper checks and balances, you may want to consider naming one person to serve as trustee to handle the money, and another person as your pet’s caregiver, who would be responsible for the day-to-day care of your pet.
In your trust, you can detail exactly how your pet is to be treated – how many vet and groomer visits per year, what the pet should be fed, and any special medical needs that will require special attention. You will need to fund your pet trust sufficiently to cover your pet’s anticipated life span, including a cushion if your pet lives longer and needs additional medical care.
Don’t make the mistake of providing for your pet in your will since probate could tie it up for months in court, but you could make mention of the existence of your pet trust in your will.
If you would like more information about protecting your loved ones – including your pets — call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. You can begin by calling our office today at 770-425-6060 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. Our Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session is worth $750 but is offered to readers of this blog for free. It is a two hour in-depth consultation with an attorney who concentrates his practice in estate planning for families with minor children. Call us today and mention this “PET CARE” article.
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