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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.

How an East Cobb Estate Planning Lawyer Can Help Protect Your Assets

How an East Cobb Estate Planning Lawyer Can Help Protect Your Assets

There’s a fairly constant drive that East Cobb estate planning lawyers see in our society to continually acquire assets.  After all, that’s one of the ways we accumulate wealth, which we then ask the estate planning lawyer to help us pass on.  Simply gathering more and more assets isn’t always the best approach to building wealth, however. Those assets also need to be protected.  A good East Cobb estate planning lawyer will likely want to go over ways to do just that, which can include:

  1. Estate planning. Of course your estate planning lawyer is going to want to help you put together a long-term plan that can provide for your loved ones. Most people don’t necessarily understand all of the tax implications that go along with various aspects of estate planning, though.  For example, a fairly simple trust can help your heirs avoid a lot of taxes, which means the amount you leave to them will be larger. Certain types of trusts can also be used to shield your assets from the risks of life (both for you and your heirs), including lawsuits, divorce and bankruptcy. If you’ve always thought trusts were just for super-rich people, then this is definitely something to discuss with an East Cobb estate planning lawyer.  You will likely be amazed at the difference a trust can make.

  2. There are so many different types of insurance on the market, and the types that will most benefit you will differ from those of someone else. The important thing to note when it comes to protecting your assets is that having insurance provides a way to pay for the unexpected without depleting your own financial resources. Yes, it costs up front, but it usually works out to be so much less than not having insurance when you need it.

  3. Business structure. If you are a business owner, you may not have considered the structure of your business as a means for protecting it. In fact, the right business structure will protect more than just the business. For example, if a sole proprietor gets sued for a faulty product or workplace injury, his or her personal assets can be used to pay for damages. Operating under a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), on the other hand, can separate your business and personal assets so that one is not affected by the other.

These are just a couple of the myriad of ways that estate planning lawyers in East Cobb protect their clients’ assets. Every situation is different and has its own needs, of course, and your attorney should be willing to look at yours from every angle to advise you on the best route to take. Give us a call at 770-425-6060 and let’s get started for you.

Atlanta Asset Protection Lawyer : 5 Strategies to Protect Your Treasures

Atlanta Asset Protection Lawyer : 5 Strategies to Protect Your Treasures

It is an unfortunate fact of life that lawsuits are generally brought against those who have “deep pockets.” Litigators don’t want to go through the time and cost of a drawn-out trial if there is no money to be made; hence, large lawsuits are typically only filed against those individuals who have a significant amount of money out in the open. The following are five of the best strategies that Atlanta asset protection lawyers use to shield their clients from lawsuits.

Create an Asset Protection Trust

Atlanta asset protection attorneys often advise their clients about creating an asset protection trust as a means to shield their assets from divorce, bankruptcy, the government, and litigation. Transferring ownership of your assets to an irrevocable trust can protect you from many of these dangers, however asset protection trusts may actually cause you to have less control over your assets. We suggest speaking with an Atlanta asset protection attorney to determine whether an asset protection trust is viable in your situation.

Create an LLC or Corporation

Small business owners, landlords, and freelancers may often find themselves held personally liable if something goes wrong in their business. This is why Atlanta asset protection lawyers suggest setting up an LLC or Corporation to shield personal assets from any legal attacks on your business. By having one of these structures in place, a person suing you may only attack assets held within the business and not any that are held personally by you.

Set High Limits on Liability Insurance

If you are in line to receive an inheritance or windfall, you’ll want to consider increasing the limits on your personal liability insurance. Atlanta asset protection lawyers typically advise that your liability insurance limit match the amount of your net-worth, but it’s important to discuss the matter with an asset protection attorney in order to accurately determine the state of your current financial situation.

Keep Your Assets Separate

Atlanta asset protection lawyers ask you to consider the fact that when you put money into a joint account, the other person (or persons) named on the account will often automatically have ownership over equal amounts of that money. In addition, when you pass away, the funds held in the joint account may be passed directly to that person(s) outside of your will or trust. Please consider these facts when placing large amounts of money into joint accounts, and consult with an Atlanta asset protection lawyer if you have questions about the consequences of commingling accounts.

Plan Early

It is never too early to plan, but it is sometimes too late. This is especially true if you are being sued and you try to protect assets, as courts will often disallow transfers that reduce your financial liability during a financial crisis.  Atlanta asset protection lawyers also want you to keep in mind that in case you plan on applying for any type of government benefits, there are typically look back periods that may penalize asset protection transfers made within a certain timeframe.

If you have any questions about asset protection strategies, please contact us at 770.425.6060 to set up a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session at no charge.

Stop! Don’t Transfer Ownership of Your Home without Understanding These 6 Hazards

Stop! Don’t Transfer Ownership of Your Home without Understanding These 6 Hazards

Many people believe that it would be easier for their loved ones if they transferred ownership of their home before they need to. Bypassing probate in Cobb County, they believe, will be easiest for everyone. That could be true. However, there are several risks to consider that might harm you or your heirs.

Hazard #1 – You could create tax problems

If you transfer your principle residence you could be disqualified from part or all of the capital gains tax exclusion causing an unnecessary tax liability. This means that if you decide to sell after sharing ownership of your home with your children, they would have to pay capital gains taxes on the increased value of the home. This is really bad news if you’ve lived in your home for many years and the value of the property has significantly increased.

Hazard #2 – House value counts against you if you need Medicaid

If you transfer your house within 5 years of needing Medicaid assistance for a nursing home, you will probably be ineligible. Medicaid has a five year “look back” period where any monetary gifts or property transfers are considered which may take you above the income requirements.

Hazard #3 – Your loved one could get divorced

If you transfer an ownership interest of your home to your child, and then the child gets divorced, your ex-son/daughter-in-law might be entitled to part of the value.

Hazard #4 – Your child could file for bankruptcy

When you share ownership of a home with your child, you also share exposure to one another’s financial problems. If you are moving to an assisted living home and plan to use the equity in your home to pay the rent, you may have a bad surprise if the bankruptcy court demands some or all of the proceeds of the sale to pay your child’s creditors.

Hazard #5 – Something happens to your child

If something unexpected happens to your child and they become incapacitated or predecease you, you could run into real trouble. If, for example, your child becomes disabled and needs Medicaid coverage, he could be ineligible due to his share of the home.

Hazard #6 – Your child is a problem

After you transfer ownership of your home, you must all agree if you decide later to sell the home or even do renovations. If your child doesn’t agree with you, they can stop you. I know that it is hard to imagine your dear son or daughter in this light, but it happens more often than you can imagine.

The bottom line here is that you need to be very careful when considering transferring or sharing ownership of your home with your children. There are several other options but it is important that you work with a qualified estate planning and trust attorney in Marietta GA who knows how to utilize better (and safer) legal strategies to accomplish your goals.

Physicians Should Consider Asset Protection Planning with a Georgia Estate Planning Attorney

doctor and family

As medical malpractice claims continue to rise in the US, more physicians than ever are turning to asset protection strategies to help them avoid financial catastrophe in the face of a malpractice lawsuit.

While nearly every physician is at risk for a lawsuit, there are some doctors who experience legal claims more than most.  3 of the most at-risk medical professions for lawsuits include obstetrics, neurosurgery, and radiology.

The reasons for the high percentage of medical claims in these fields are varied and complicated, but it often boils down to the rate of risk associated with these areas, rather than with lack of skill or professionalism on the part of the physician.  Of course, there is case of frivolous lawsuits as well.

Whether a lawsuit against a physician is well-founded or not, it can still cost an incredible amount of time, effort, and money.  While it may help to reevaluate laws regarding malpractice litigation, there are more immediate things that doctors can do to protect themselves, and their personal assets, if a lawsuit is filed.

Traditionally, physicians have attempted to protect their assets by setting up living trusts and even placing their property in another person’s name. Now, however, physicians may find the asset protection vehicle they are looking for in a Family Limited Partnership.

Originally created in the early 20th century, the Family Limited Partnership was intended to protect family assets and even to provide tax benefits.  It has since evolved into a useful tool for use by physicians who may face lawsuits.

A qualified attorney who is well-versed in the Family Limited Partnership and how it applies here in Atlanta will assist and advise the medical professional on how to set up a structure similar to a family business.  Other individuals in the family can be included as general partners.  Once property is properly placed into this type of partnership, it generally will not be eligible for use to pay off a lawsuit.

It is necessary that the Family Limited Partnership be meticulously planned and worded, which is why it is especially important to work with an attorney who fully understands how to craft the partnership as it pertains to a physician’s family and unique risks.  Choosing an attorney who understands this approach to asset protection and how it affects physicians in Atlanta provides new options that many doctors have not been afforded before.

If you are a physician interested in protecting yourself and your personal assets from lawsuits, call our Atlanta asset protection lawyers at 770-425-6060 and ask to schedule a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session with the mention of this article.

A gift to help with your New Year’s resolution

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If one of your New Year’s resolutions this year includes getting your financial and legal affairs in order should something unexpectedly happen to you, I have a gift I think you’ll enjoy.

To be specific, I just put the finishing touches on a free report I wrote entitled, “What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt Your Family: 5 Easy Ways to Make Sure Your Children, Wishes and Assets Stay Protected Should Something Happen to You”.

In this report you’ll learn 5 easy ways to get your legal and financial affairs in order, just in time for the New Year.  You won’t even need the help of an attorney for some of these important steps; simply follow my instructions in the guide and cross each item off of your “to-do” list as you go.

You’ll also discover:

  • How to legally name guardians for your minor children in a way that will hold up in a court of law
  • The difference between a will and a trust, and which tool you really need to make sure your family, wishes and assets stay protected upon your passing.
  • The details about simple document you can use to give someone legal permission to act on your behalf if you were incapacitated in an accident but did not die (…and without this document, no one will be able to help you under the current HIPPA laws!)
  • How to amass your “entire family wealth” and leave a true legacy to your children (hint: you don’t have to be wealthy and it’s easier than you think!)
  • And so much more!

To grab a copy of this report, simply visit http://bit.ly/gNUxIJ.

I’d also like to encourage you to forward this to any of your family or friends who really need to get their affairs in order just in time for the New Year.  I would especially encourage you to reach out to anyone who has minor children, owns their own home, cares for aging parents or is approaching retirement age themselves.

Again, you can get a copy of this free report now by going to http://bit.ly/dGpJM1. 

All my best,

Steve

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