If you’ve already met with your Atlanta estate planning attorney to put together your wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and other long-term plans, then congratulations! You’ve taken a really important step toward being prepared for the future and making things easier on your family and friends should you pass away or become unable to make decisions for yourself.
In order to ensure that your estate plans still fit your needs, you should review them at the beginning of every year. There are certain life changes that can have a huge overall effect on your estate planning, so taking the time to accommodate those changes now will save a significant amount of difficulty later. Have you experienced any of the following in the last year (or longer, if you haven’t updated your plans in a while)? If so, you’ll want to set up a time to chat with your Atlanta wills and trusts attorney right away.
1. Did you experience a change in marital status? If you were married, divorced, or widowed in the previous year, then you will need to update your estate plans to reflect this. It may be necessary to change beneficiaries. Most people who go through a divorce will want to change their wills, trusts, and other important documents to remove the former spouse’s name. In the case of a new marriage, the new spouse will likely be added. If you have been widowed, this may change how your inheritance will be dispersed.
2. Did you become a parent? Whether you gave birth to a child, adopted, or became a step parent in the last year, it makes sense to change your estate plans to reflect this change. Remember that you may want to change the beneficiaries listed on insurance policies and bank accounts, as well as to name guardians and possibly set up trusts to care for your child’s future should you be unable to do so personally.
3. Have you changed jobs or retired? Your retirement plans and 401Ks may be affected by the change in employment status. Your Atlanta estate planning attorney can offer you advice on whether to roll over an existing plan or to start a new one, as well as how to deal with dispersal if it is time for your to start drawing on your retirement or pension plan.
4. Have you sold or purchased property? There are specific laws that pertain to the inheritance of property, as well as the taxes involved. Adding or removing property from your existing estate plan can help to avoid unnecessary taxes and to protect your heirs’ interests in the property.
There are a number of changes which can impact your estate plan. By working with a qualified Atlanta attorney, you can help to clarify what needs to be done to keep yourself on track and on target for your estate planning goals.
The holidays are a traditional time for multiple generations to gather together, and are also a perfect opportunity for adult children to perform a reality check on how their aging parents are doing health-wise as well as assess financial and medical planning issues.
The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance provides these tips:
Check your elderly relatives’ home for potential fall hazards. If there is unopened mail and unpaid bills laying around, it may be a sign they are having difficulty coping with everyday living.
Check the pantry and refrigerator to ensure it is well stocked. If a parent has lost weight or there is spoiled food around, this is a sign that they may need some additional help around the house.
Make a list of all your parents’ medications and get the phone numbers of their primary care physicians.
Be sure you have the license numbers of all vehicles in case one is stolen or your parent goes missing.
Talk to your parents about advance health care directives. If they don’t have one, help them find a personal family lawyer (our Marietta family estate planning law firm can help you there) to talk to about creating these and other important estate planning documents.
If you’d like to learn more about wills, living wills, advance health care directives, power of attorney for health care designations or any other aspects of estate planning, 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 this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.
As a wills and trusts lawyer in Atlanta, it’s easy to see why so many people put off writing their will. After all, no one really wants to think about their own death, let alone prepare for it. In reality, though, preparing by creating a will is exactly what we should all be doing. There are plenty of reasons to consider, and any reputable wills and trusts lawyer will be able to go through the list with you to ensure that you are protecting your assets and the people you love.
Despite not wanting to think about death, the reality of it is inevitable. If you have not prepared by writing a will, then you are risking both your own wishes and the outcome for those you love. This may be especially important for parents.
If you haven’t put together your will, then your children’s future can be in serious jeopardy. For example, you may assume that your property would simply pass on to your kids, but the courts may have other ideas. Additionally, other family members (such as a new spouse) may step in and take things that you intended for your children.
The most extreme example, however, likely comes along with guardianship. In order to ensure that your children are raised in the fashion you deem appropriate, you need to specify their guardians. This is done through the will, and the best way to make sure your wishes are known is to work with a wills and trusts lawyer now, before the issue is completely out of your hands.
Some Atlanta residents feel that they don’t need a will simply because they are married. They assume that if they were to die, their assets, property, children, etc. would automatically pass to the spouse. In some rare cases, this may not be true, as others may have a legitimate claim to an inheritance when a will hasn’t been written. It is heartbreaking to know that your spouse may not be the beneficiary of those things you most want him or her to have.
Of course, there’s also the possibility of both spouses being killed at one time. In situations like that, there is no surviving spouse to speak up for the children or to have a say in the distribution of assets. Again, the courts will have a much bigger say in the outcome of your estate than you would probably like.
Creating a will doesn’t have to be an overly-complicated activity, although it makes sense to consult with a good wills and trusts lawyer to ensure you are covering the basics and fulfilling any legal requirements applicable to Atlanta residents. While it’s certainly not ideal to spend time imagining what would happen to your family and assets after your death, doing so now can make an incredible difference later.
One of the most important aspects of estate planning in Atlanta is the overall effect it will have on an individual or couple’s children. Whether these are minor children who will need a guardian or adult children who are already on their own, the need for financial planning exists. A good estate planning attorney in Atlanta can help you determine what needs there are and how best to go about meeting them. It’s possible that creating a revocable living trust will be the right path for you.
When working with an Atlanta estate planning attorney to determine if you should create a living trust for your children, you will need to determine the answers to several imperative questions. The first one most people ask is “how much?” How much money will you be leaving for your children? If you are leaving a considerable amount (say more than $100,000), or if you have very specific intentions for the money, then your Atlanta estate planning lawyer may advise you to put the money into a trust.
The trust itself can give you the opportunity to really outline how you want the money to be used. This can be helpful in ensuring that your children have the opportunities that you intend to provide. Money may be set aside for the purpose of a college education, with stipulations that it is not to be used for other purposes (like a new car or a wedding, for example). For minor children, this type of control may seem even more important, as the money in the trust can be designated for basic necessities such as food, medical care, and clothing. This discourages a guardian from mishandling the funds.
Another question to ask regarding a trust has to do with when you want the funds to be dispersed. Some people choose to defer the funds for a set number of years or until their child reach a specific age. This can be advantageous because very young people may not yet possess the maturity and life experience to handle a large sum of money well. Access to a trust at a young age can also impede the child’s drive to pursue his or her own pursuits. An estate planning attorney can offer guidance in how other parents have chosen to deal with these concerns.
There are a lot of considerations to be made during the Atlanta estate planning process. A good Atlanta estate planning lawyer will help to identify which issues are the most pertinent for your particular situation and will then offer suggestions and solutions to any obstacles or concerns you may be facing. Estate planning professionals understand the importance of using wills, trusts, and other tools in order to provide financial security for the next generation.
As a Marietta estate planning lawyer, I know one of the most important decisions a parent can make is determining who will care for their kids if something tragic happened to them. I also know it’s very easy for parents to get stuck during this critical decision making process. Do you choose this person for financial reasons? Religion? A certain parenting philosophy? Do you care if the couple you chose stays married or eventually gets a divorce? Then what?
While it’s great to put a lot of thought into who you would want to raise your kids, indecision and ultimately inaction is a very dangerous place to be, especially with young children at home. It’s important to remember that SOMEONE will determine what happens to your kids….so it might as well be you! The alternative is a judge who knows nothing about you, your family or what truly is in the best interest of your children.
So to avoid having a judge make life-changing decisions on your child’s behalf, I would like to share four easy steps that will help you finally take action and choose the right guardians for your kids:
1. Sit down and brainstorm all the people who could possibly raise your kids if you were killed or incapacitated in an accident. Don’t limit your choices to family either. Think outside the box and write down everyone who even remotely fits the bill.
2. Determine who you would NEVER want to raise your kids in your absence. You’ll need to tell the court who you DON’T want raising your kids so they can protect your family should that named individual (s) contest your wishes and seek custody of your kids following your death or incapacity. (This can be kept private and only revealed if the need arises)
3. Weigh your values. Make another column and write down what is important to you and/or your spouse. Do you value education? Religious or spiritual training? The ability to live in a certain community? Being raised in a two-parent family? Whatever your values may be, write them down, prioritize them and eventually rank the top three.
4. Match your top choices to your top values. This will give you a clear picture of who you can trust to raise your children with the values you hold near and dear to your heart.
And of course, the last (and arguably the most important step) is to legally document your choice of guardians so there’s no question as to who you want to raise your kids if something happens to you!
To ensure you legally get the documentation you need for naming guardians for your kids—or if you’d further like to create a comprehensive estate plan that will ensure your children, assets and wishes are protected something the unexpected happen to you, please give me, your friendly neighborhood Marietta estate planning lawyer a call at 770.425.6060 to schedule a no-charge Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session (normally $750 value) with the mention of this article.