When clients come to see an Atlanta estate planning lawyer, they generally have multiple goals in mind. Interestingly, they don’t always realize this fact, thinking that they “just” need to put together a will that stipulates who gets what after they have passed away. While this is obviously a very important part of what estate planning lawyers do, it’s not a comprehensive view.
Yes, estate planning lawyers assist in the creation of wills, but let’s take a deeper look at what clients are really looking for. In the vast majority of cases, clients are concerned about three things:
The taxes involved in estate planning are complex, and they don’t just come into play once an individual has passed. It’s possible that the estate tax (often called a “death tax”) is a pressing concern (although with the current estate tax exemption amount of over $5 Million, it doesn’t affect many of us), but the lawyer will also be able to advise on issues such as income tax and gift taxes. Both of these taxes can have a huge impact on how much of the estate will actually end up going toward the death tax. For example, giving assets away during one’s lifetime can invoke a gift tax, but it can lessen the value of the final estate, meaning that the eventual death tax will require a smaller payout.
Long-Term Care/ Medicaid
Every Atlanta estate planning lawyer knows the horror stories of individuals losing their entire life savings and more as a result of long-term care. Additionally, qualifying for Medicaid can require a pretty limited income and/or net worth for the individual in question. By working with an estate planning lawyer, the individual can develop strategies in advance for dealing with these potential difficulties later. From gifting assets to setting up trusts to purchasing long-term care insurance, there are many ways to reduce the impact of these types of expenses.
Many clients are worried that their family members will somehow interfere with their estate plans. Whether they fear someone will contest their wishes or that one or more family members will behave unscrupulously, Atlanta estate planning lawyers are keenly aware that their concerns have merit. Again, there are strategies that the lawyer will recommend to lessen the potential for family members to create problems during the individual’s lifetime, as well as after his or her death. Certain provisions can be added to a trust, for example, that strongly discourage beneficiaries from bringing lawsuits against the estate.
Each of these concerns brings with it a variety of options and considerations, and a knowledgeable Atlanta estate planning lawyer will be able to work with a client to understand the choices available. Also important is the fact that everyone has their own concerns. One client may be more worried about family interference while another is anxious about taxes. It’s the estate planning lawyer’s job to uncover what a client’s goals and concerns are and to pursue a strategy that considers both.
Let us help you calm your fears. Call us at 770-425-6060 and schedule a no-charge Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session (valued at $600 or more). We can FEAR-PROOF your Future.
Here at Georgia Estate Plan: Worrall Law LLC, our entire legal team is passionate about helping parents name legal guardians for their children. Guardianship lawyers know that It’s a critical step that allows parents to document the people they want and trust to raise their kids if they are incapacitated or unexpectedly pass away.
But, there is another area of planning for children that many parents overlook—and that deals with the issue of money and property. Who will be in charge of managing an inheritance, or keeping the child’s money safe from being lost or squandered if the parent(s) pass away?
In a lot of cases, estate planning for married couples is easy. You leave everything to your spouse. Then the surviving parent will take care of the children. But, what happens if something happens to both parents? Or if the parent is single? In many cases, the parents’ answer is that an inheritance simply “goes to the children” when they are gone.
Unfortunately, this answer is neither simple, or entirely possible, really. What vulnerable beneficiaries (minors or young adults) usually require is for someone else to be named to manage whatever they inherit because they are either too young (as in the case of a minor) or too immature to manage it themselves.
In some cases, parents will ask the people named as guardians to also be responsible for their children’s money and property – but not always. It is quite common for the responsibility for their welfare to be managed by a different person.
If this is the case and you don’t specifically name someone to manage finances for your children, the Cobb County Probate Court will do it for you by appointing someone to serve as the children’s property guardian. In this case, the property guardian selected by the court has to report frequently and has limited authority to make decisions. And, the judge may choose someone that is a complete stranger to the family, or someone you would never choose. That is what’s at risk if a parent does not properly document their wishes in the event they unexpectedly pass away.
In the case of children who are 18 or older, it’s important to differentiate that they will have complete control of the property and money that you leave them. This may sound reassuring and less complicated than leaving property to minor children… but take a moment and think back. Were you in a position to make sound financial decisions when you were 18? Probably not. So, you should consider raising the age at which your child gains financial responsibility if you do not want to take the risk that your child’s inheritance will be mismanaged, lost or squandered on things like fast cars, clothes and lavish trips.
Utilizing a living trust is the best way to put “speed bumps” and “checks and balances” around your children’s inheritance so that they do not receive a lump sum of money outright before they are mature enough to handle it. Again, you will be able raise the age or lay out key milestones in which the children receive their money and specify a trustee who will again oversee the distribution of funds for your children according to your wishes for their future and how their inheritance is to be spent (i.e. on a college education, first house, wedding).
Luckily, all of this is easy to do if you work with a qualified guardianship attorney here in Marietta. In our office, we have a unique system that walks parents step-by-step through the decision-making process so that they are able to choose the best people to serve as their child’s property manager and/or legal guardian.
Our guardianship lawyers in Marietta are here to serve you. Call us at 770.425.6060 and make an appointment right away so you can legally document who will serve in these two very important roles in your children’s life if the unthinkable happens.
As a Cobb County Elder Law Attorney, I can tell you that it is not only the eldest among us who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Getting a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s for those under age 65 can be difficult. Early-onset Alzheimer’s, which can even strike people in their 30s and 40s, affects less than 5% of all Alzheimer’s patients. Because doctors don’t usually suspect Alzheimer’s at such young ages, the symptoms are often attributed to other causes, such as depression, stress, and even (in women) menopause.
But it’s important that employees get the diagnosis as early as possible, in order to maximize benefits that are available to them. If you are fired before anyone knows what is going on, you won’t be able to take advantage of the benefits for which you qualify.
As soon as you have a diagnosis, tell your employer and ask for an accommodation before it becomes a problem. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not list specific medical conditions that are covered, but an employee with dementia will typically qualify. Work with your employer to determine steps that will allow you to work as long as possible, such as teaming up with another employee, having written instructions, setting short-term deadlines, ride-sharing and flex-time.
Next, contact your Human Resources to determine the benefits that are available to you and work out a timetable to make sure you take full advantage of them. These include:
- Short-term and long-term disability insurance. These will replace part of your income when you can no longer work.
- Paid leave. You may be eligible for 12 weeks of paid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Some employers are exempt from providing the leave, so be sure to ask about it.
- COBRA. When your health insurance discontinues, you will be offered the opportunity to buy continuing coverage. To continue coverage until Medicare begins (see below), you will need to provide the insurance company proof of disability. COBRA can be expensive, so you will want to compare costs and coverage to other plans in the marketplace.
- Social Security Disability. Early-onset Alzheimer’s is on the list of conditions that expedite access to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility. Social Security disability benefits begin five months after an employee develops a disability, with payment starting in the sixth month. Begin the application process when you go on short-term disability.
- Medicare. Coverage will start about two years after you have been on disability. When Medicare begins, Medigap coverage can be purchased to help pay for deductibles and co-pays that Medicare does not cover. There are also Medicare Advantage Plans that provide Medicare coverage along with prescription coverage.
Americans are getting older, and most want to stay in their homes and communities as they age. As a result, many homeowners are taking steps to modify their homes so they will be able to safely and comfortably remain in their homes for as long as possible. This is called “aging in place.”
With the average annual cost of assisted living at $43,200 and nursing home care at $80,300 you will likely save money over the long run by investing in aging-in-place home improvements. Also, if you have long-term care insurance, it may help cover some of the costs.
Here are some of the most popular home improvements to consider if aging in place is important for you or a parent. You’ll notice that many are designed to help prevent the risk of falls, which dramatically increases with age.
In the bathroom:
- Install a shower with a zero threshold entry (no curb) to minimize tripping and to make accessible for a wheelchair.
- Add a shower chair (for those not in a wheelchair) and a hand-held showerhead.
- A comfort-height toilet (17-19 inches off the ground) will make getting on and off easier. (You can also buy a toilet seat extender, which sits on top of the existing toilet seat.)
- Install grab bars near the toilet and in the shower.
In the kitchen:
- Create counters at multiple heights to have the option to sit or stand when preparing meals.
- Install an under-the-counter microwave instead of one overhead.
- Add pull-out shelves in cabinets.
Throughout the home:
- Install nonslip floors, such as textured stone or linoleum.
- Increase lighting.
- Install remote controls for lights and window coverings.
- Lower electrical switches and raise outlets.
- Change doorknobs to lever-style handles and cabinet knobs to handles.
- Move the master bedroom to the first floor and install a bathroom if necessary.
- Add a ramp to the entrance and widen hallways/doorways to accommodate a wheelchair.
Many of these options, and more, are thoughtfully being included in new construction for those who want to purchase aging-in-place-ready homes. Custom homes being built for some of our disabled veterans are filled with innovative ideas. You can also consult a design or home improvement specialist who has experience with aging-in-place features.