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.
Many people approach estate planning attorneys in order to determine how their assets will be divided among survivors after their death. Unfortunately, a huge number of them don’t take the high likelihood of long-term care into consideration. Elder law attorneys in Atlanta see this situation come up time and again, and it is important to educate clients on the options they have available.
First of all, long-term care is a very likely scenario. People are now living longer than they ever have before. This can be a great thing, but it also means that the period of time in which we cannot fully care for ourselves may be longer, too. More and more people find that they truly need some form of long-term care. In some cases, this can be handled through an in-home healthcare worker rather than in a nursing home, but even that is expensive.
Nursing homes are a common solution when it comes to long-term care, and a good elder law attorney should help you plan for how to make this possibility happen. It’s common for people to think that the government will simply pay for their needs or that a nursing home isn’t any more expensive than renting an apartment. Both ideas are usually untrue.
So, how does one pay for long-term care? Atlanta elder law attorneys typically see four approaches:
- Private Pay – Any care that is needed, from nursing homes to prescriptions drugs (including co-payments or full costs) are covered out of pocket. Elder care services tend to be very expensive, and the costs associated with them are incredibly high. It’s not unusual for assisted-living placements to cost upwards of $8,000 a month. That means that “simple” basics that are required for day-to-day living come out to $96,000 a year.
- Medicare – Medicare is a health insurance program administered through the government. Elder law attorneys work with this program a lot because one of the basic requirements is that you must be over 65 to receive benefits. Many people are surprised to learn that Medicare does not typically cover long-term care. So, even if you qualify for this program, it cannot be used to cover nursing home care or in-home healthcare professionals for more than about 100 days.
- Medicaid – Medicaid is used by those with great financial need, and you must apply and qualify for the benefits. Many people are shocked when their elder law attorney explains that Medicaid is not actually available to everyone, and if you have much by way of assets (even a modest home or a few thousand dollars in the bank), you may not qualify at all. If you hope to qualify for Medicaid, you must prepare several years in advance to protect your assets.
- Long-Term Care Insurance – This type of insurance can help to cover or offset the costs associated with long-term care, such as an in-home healthcare worker or nursing home care. Policies can be somewhat confusing and expensive, so it’s highly recommended to work with an impartial elder law attorney when reviewing potential policies to ensure you understand them and are getting what you expect.
There are many issues to take into consideration when planning for your future, and long-term care is undoubtedly one of the most important. Working with an elder care attorney in Atlanta means that you will understand the options that are available to you and how they apply according to state and federal law. Call us at 770-425-6060 and we can help you examine the approaches that will work best for you and your family.
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.