Atlanta Estate Planning Lawyer With Blunt Questions About Protecting Your Kids

Atlanta Estate Planning Lawyer With Blunt Questions About Protecting Your Kids

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 an Atlanta 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, Cobb County and in Atlanta 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 real-deal about Atlanta GA 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 cold-hard 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?

2.      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 probate court 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.

3.      All of the money left from your estate (assuming there IS any) may go to your child in a lump sum when he 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 are not, I would be happy to offer you a free Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session 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 Atlanta GA estate planning office today at 770-425-6060 and make an appointment for a free Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session (value of $600) and you’ll experience a peace of mind that you didn’t even realize you were lacking.

 

What Your Georgia Last Will and Testament Really Does

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You finally got around to making a will, so now you can rest easy.

You went online, found the forms, filled them out and you’re done.  If anything happens to you, your loved ones are taken care of. 

One less thing to worry about, right?

As an Atlanta and Marietta, GA wills and estate planning lawyer, I hate to cause you more sleepless nights, but just having a will is not the “be all and end all” of planning your estate.

Let’s clear up a few misconceptions about what your will actually does and doesn’t do:

This is What A Sound Georgia Will Actually Does

Your will distributes property that you own at the time of your death.  You can divide up your property any way you choose as long as your state doesn’t prevent you from disinheriting a spouse or children.  If you intend to do either of those things, you need to talk to a lawyer and make sure it’s even legal.  If you have property that would legally pass outside your estate (things like joint property, life insurance, or retirement plans), you will does not provide for how those assets are distributed unless you’ve made them payable to your estate.  Additional estate planning documents are required in order to do that.

Needless to say, there are various types of wills and they can be incredibly simple or terribly complex.  A very simple will is called exactly that – a simple will.  A will that establishes trusts is usually called a testamentary trust will.  If your will leaves assets to a trust created during your lifetime, it is called a pour-over will.  If you have either a testamentary trust will or a pour-over will, it should provide for property management and protection from creditors for your heirs and minimize their tax obligations on whatever property they inherit. 

Aside from creating trusts and distributing property, you can also designate a guardian for your minor children. If your will is properly written and you’ve set up the right kind of trust and chosen the right trustee to handle your minor child’s estate, the need for court supervision will be limited or even eliminated.  The same could hold true if you name an executor.  Check with an attorney to ensure that you’re taking full advantage of the laws in your state and that these designations are made in accordance with those laws.

What Your Georgia Will Does Not Do

If you have any nonprobate property, such as real estate that would pass to a surviving owner, or an IRA or insurance policy payable to a named beneficiary, your will does not determine how those assets are passed on.  These types of assets are governed by contract law.  Just because you list them in your will does not ensure that they will be handled as you’ve requested.  Always make sure that your beneficiary designations are up to date and in line with your intentions. 

Other types of nonprobate property you will want to account for are any jointly owned property, trusts, annuities, and retirement benefits and life insurance, to name a few. 

Makes filling out a form online and thinking you can sleep better at night a little less appealing, doesn’t it?  A simple piece of paper will not necessarily ensure that everyone gets what you want them to have and that Uncle Sam doesn’t take more of what you’ve worked for than your loved ones receive.

If you would like an expert opinion on exactly how effective your current will is, or advice on actually drafting a will, call us to schedule your Peace of Mind Planning Session today.  We can help ensure you take the right steps to take care of your loved ones if something happens to you. 

Also, as part of our estate planning process, we will interview you about your specific wishes and what you want your family to know.  We provide you with a copy of the interview so you can pass on the information you want your family to remember.  We understand that it’s not just about the paper you leave behind, but the voice you leave behind.  Our Family Wealth Planning Session is normally $750, but this month I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session with me at no charge.  Call today and mention this article. 

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