Can You HANDLE the Truth? BLUNT QUESTIONS on Protecting Your Kids in Case Something Happens to You | Guardianship of Children
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Can You HANDLE the Truth? Marietta Estate Planning Lawyer Discusses Protecting Your Kids in Case Something Happen to You

Can You HANDLE the Truth? Marietta Estate Planning Lawyer Discusses Protecting Your Kids in Case Something Happen to You

I must warn you: these questions are blunt and to the point: if you are a parent of minor children, protecting your family and being the best parent you can be, means that you MUST have a comprehensive and up-to-date estate plan so they are prepared for a life without you!

One of my greatest passions as a Marietta estate planning lawyer is educating parents about how important it is to prepare for their untimely death; not a fun topic, I realize. But it just takes one sad circumstance of parents passing away and leaving the kids to deal with squabbling relatives to understand how critical this is for their well-being.

The possibility of leaving this world can be difficult to accept, and many people choose to not think about it. Unfortunately, this fear often prevents people from taking the proper precautions they need to take.

I speak at various groups around Marietta and Cobb County and usually deliver this message in an upbeat and cheerful way so people can see that preparing their estate plan for their family is a positive and joyful experience.  But, for today’s post, I’m going to give you the truth, the real deal about Marietta estate planning. Blunt, and to the point.

Essentially, it’s critical for everyone to understand the importance of estate planning for those we love – especially our children. As you can imagine, children are incredibly vulnerable if you die while they are still minors due to the simple fact that they are unable to take care of themselves.

Here are a few hard, cold facts about what could happen if you passed away suddenly without a will or trust in place.

  1. A judge that doesn’t know you or your children will decide who raises them.

If something happens to you, who is going to step up?  Is it the person that you want to raise your children?  If you don’t have an estate plan in place, will your relatives squabble over who is or isn’t responsible for raising them? Do you really want to put your children through that?

  1. The person who the judge picks to raise your kids will also be responsible for their financial well-being.

If something happens to you, all of your assets will be handed to the guardian (that you didn’t select) to be managed for them. The obvious fear is that this person could possibly use the funds for something other than the care of your children.  However, there are many other things to consider.  Does the person that the judge picked have the same financial values that you do?  For example, you may feel strongly that you would like your children to attend high-end sports clinics to help develop their athletic skills.  But, will the guardian see the value in this?  What if they think spending money on what you would have wanted is a total waste?  The potential for trouble is endless.

  1. All of the money left from your estate (assuming there IS any) may go to your child in a lump sum when he or she is 18 years old.

Think about this one.  What would you have done if you had been handed a bunch of money at that time in your life?  Scary thought, huh?  The hard truth is that most 18-year-olds are simply not mature enough to properly handle finances at that level.  I have heard story after story of kids who should have been fine financially but weren’t because they decided to buy cars and clothes instead of investing in their future by going to college. So sad!

So, there you have it – some cold, hard questions for you to ponder. My hope for those of you reading this is that you have already taken care of naming guardians for your children and put your estate plan in place and that you are keeping it up-to-date as the circumstances of your life change.  But, if you have not or are not, I would be happy to offer you a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, at no charge, to start you on the path.

Don’t worry if you aren’t sure who you would pick as guardian.  I’ll help you with that.

Don’t worry if you think you can’t afford planning.  I’ll work with you on that.

Don’t put this off because you don’t have the time.  Think about how your kids will spend their time if something happens to you and you haven’t made these decisions for them.

Call our Marietta Georgia estate planning office today at 770-425-6060 and make an appointment for a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, and you’ll experience a peace of mind that you didn’t even realize you were lacking.

Marietta Estate Planning Lawyer: Mental Health and Health Care Directives

Marietta Estate Planning Lawyer: Mental Health and Health Care Directives

Advance directives of healthcare, including components formerly called the Living Will, Health Care Agent Designation, and HIPAA Medical Release, are crucial elements of every estate plan in Marietta. One issue that does not come up very often when discussing health care directives, though, is mental health. Mental health falls into the realm of health care and, as such, is covered by health care directives.

Health care directives can be a great help to those suffering from mental health issues as it can allow a loved one to help make decisions about care, discuss treatments and medications with health care professionals, and fill out the documentation that’s sometimes necessary in order to receive needed health care services. Marietta GA estate planning attorneys advise that when making these types of decisions regarding who will advocate on your behalf in health care situations, especially when mental health issues are a concern, it is important to choose someone you trust to carry out your wishes.

However, it’s also worth noting that a standard health care directive may not be adequate when dealing with more extreme mental health issues, such as Alzheimer’s or schizophrenia. In these cases, it may be a good idea to consult with a Marietta estate planning lawyer regarding a “mental health care directive” that can be used for more extreme cases. Mental health care directives specifically cover items such as involuntary commitment, intensive therapy, and greater control over medications.

Of course, if a person is not cognitively capable of signing a legal document like a mental health care directive, this document will not end up doing anyone any good. In cases where a person’s mental state will not allow them to sign a legal document, a conservatorship or guardianship hearing must be held at the probate court in order to give a caregiver the authority to make mental and physical health decisions for their loved ones. This can be a long and difficult process, and it would be wise to consult with an experienced Marietta estate planning lawyer in order to determine what course of action would be best for your individual situation.

If you have questions about your health care directives, or if you’d like more information about how having health care directives can provide peace of mind when mental health issues are of a concern, please contact our Marietta estate planning law firm at 770-425-6060 or steve@georgiaestateplan.com to set up a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session at no charge.

A Helpful Look at the Differences Between Estate Planning and Asset Protection in Marietta

A Helpful Look at the Differences Between Estate Planning and Asset Protection in Marietta

Estate planning lawyers in Marietta are most often considered by folks who are wanting to put their end-of-life affairs in order. The lawyer helps them to draw up important documents such as powers of attorney and medical directives, as well as to develop a plan for how an individual’s property will be distributed upon his or her death. Wills, trusts, executors; these are all typical topics that a Marietta estate planning lawyer will discuss with clients.

There is also a need to protect one’s assets during his or her lifetime. Not only is this important to the quality of life, but it also helps ensure that there is property that can be left behind! Asset protection is about choosing the best strategies to minimize the potential negative consequences of liability. That includes protection from claims made against and individual, as well as claims against your assets. The former would include things such as property damage or physical harm to another that was caused by you. The latter would have to do with damage caused by something you own, such as a business or property.

Commonly, if a claim is made against an individual or their property, just about everything that person owns can be put at risk. For example, a judgment against you in a court of law can give creditors the ability to go after your assets in order to be compensated for damages. It can be an unpleasant eye-opening experience for a small business owner to discover that because someone was injured in their place of business, creditors may be able to take away personal assets that have nothing to do with the business itself. If someone slips and falls in your restaurant, as the owner, you could lose your home.

While estate planning focuses pretty heavily on wills and trusts to distribute assets after death, there are advantages to utilizing these tools during an individual’s lifetime, too. A trust can be especially helpful in keeping a person’s assets out of harm’s way, which is why working with a Marietta estate planning lawyers is such an important part of a solid asset protection strategy.

Using a trust for asset protection doesn’t come without its limitations, though.

  1. In order to shield the assets from creditors, an estate planning lawyer will likely include a “spendthrift provision” in your documents. However, a spendthrift provision cannot be used with a revocable living trust.
  2. The trust must be for the benefit of the beneficiaries, rather than the person setting it up.
  3. Beneficiaries cannot be involved in the management of the trust and cannot make any changes to its terms.

There are other advantages and limitations to using a trust for asset protection during life, and a good Marietta estate planning lawyer will be able to work with clients to determine whether it is a useful strategy based on each individual’s needs. Call us to discuss your needs at 770-425-6060.

Cobb County Will and Trust Lawyer Answers, “Will My Inheritance Be Taxed?”

Cobb County Will and Trust Lawyer Answers, “Will My Inheritance Be Taxed?”

When the subject of inheritance is being discussed, people almost always ask this question to their Will and Trust lawyer in Cobb County Here’s what you need to know about how you might be taxed on an inheritance.

Income Taxes

The IRS expects you to report every source of income. This leads many to believe that they will have to claim an inheritance when they file their annual returns. Good news! An inheritance is not counted as part of your income for tax purposes.

Capital Gains Tax

The capital gains tax kicks in any time a gain is achieved. So, if you buy a dilapidated house to renovate with plans to immediately sell it, the amount of money over the original purchase price would be subject to the capital gains tax.

Inherited assets that appreciated during the life of the benefactor would get a step-up basis. This means that the value of the inherited asset would be subject to capital gains tax from when you inherited them. Good news! You would not be responsible for the gains that took place during the life of the person who left them to you. The key here is to understand that if you do realize a gain in the future, you will be responsible for the capital gains tax from the moment you acquired the asset.

Death Taxes

A spouse can transfer unlimited assets to their spouse tax-free.  However, there is a federal estate tax that will be applicable to anyone else. Asset transfers that exceed $5.45 million are subject to the estate tax.

One positive I can report is that here in Georgia we do not have a state-specific tax.

So, there you go. You should now have a good idea about whether the money you plan to leave your loved ones will be taxed. The good news is that there are legal methods for reducing your tax burden if you are subject to them. We invite you to call our Cobb County Will and Trust attorneys at 770-425-6060 to schedule an appointment where we can help you create an estate tax plan that best meets your needs.

Do You Need an Estate Planning Attorney in Marietta? Probably.

Do You Need an Estate Planning Attorney in Marietta? Probably.

Contrary to what some believe, Marietta GA estate planning attorneys aren’t here just for the wealthiest members of our community. In fact, after years of experience we come to see how nearly every person in Marietta can benefit from putting together an estate plan, including a will. While you may not feel that you have a lot of assets to protect or believe that your family knows your wishes and will follow them, here are some points to ponder in determining if perhaps you really should hire a Marietta estate planning attorney after all.

Make Your Estate More Valuable

The idea of making an estate more valuable should actually be pretty important to those who don’t consider themselves to be “wealthy.” With the help of a good estate planning lawyer, you can work toward a more comfortable future, as well as to maximize the assets that you do have. With a retirement plan, life insurance, and other planning tools, things can start to look a lot different than you expected. Not only that, but you’ll also be able to leave an inheritance behind for your loved ones.

Protect Your Privacy (and Your Family’s)

When working with an estate planning attorney in Marietta, you will want to look at the possibility of setting up some sort of trust. Again, these types of legal tools are NOT just for the rich or well-to-do. There are many, many advantages to having a trust, but one of those that resonates with a lot of folks in Marietta is the fact that assets placed into a trust do not necessarily have to go through the very public probate process. This affords way more privacy regarding your estate, what you’ve left behind, and other details that you’d prefer to keep private.

Name Guardians for Your Children

No matter how much money you’ve got in the bank or elsewhere, if you have minor children, there is no question that you need to hire an estate planning attorney to draw up guardianship and other important documents. If you become incapacitated or pass away without these incredibly important papers legally filed, then you are basically giving the court system carte blanch to determine what happens to your children. They make these decisions based on certain legal precedents, and there is a dangerously high chance that the guardian chosen for your children under 18 will NOT be the person you would have chosen. This should be enough to send pretty much every parent in Marietta running to a good estate planning attorney!

Do It While You Can

It’s not uncommon for Marietta residents to want to put off estate planning until they absolutely have to think about it. The problem that they and their estate planning attorney run into, however, is that you can wait too long. When putting together a will or other estate planning documents, the court needs to be satisfied that you are of sound mind and body. If you’ve recently found out you’re gravely ill or are losing cognitive function, an estate plan can be rendered invalid on those grounds.

The bottom line is that nearly everyone in Marietta would end up in a better position by working with an estate planning attorney. From professional retirement planning to naming guardians to protecting your own privacy and more, if you haven’t yet started the process, now is definitely the time to call us at 770-425-6060.

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