We’ve pretty much all heard about “bucket lists,” but that term can take on a little bit of a different meaning when you’re a Marietta estate planning lawyer. We deal with the reality every day that life is fleeting, and it’s our goal to help clients to maximize what they are able to leave behind. For that reason, here are some items that we think everyone should consider putting on their “estate planning bucket list.”
- Inventory – Creating an inventory of everything you own, especially anything worth more than $100, is a great way to have a thorough accounting of just what it is that you will leave behind when you pass away. In addition to the physical items that you possess, you’ll also want to include assets such as retirement accounts, stocks, insurance policies, etc.
- Debts – We live in a time where debt is more common than not, and your estate planning lawyer will encourage you to create a separate list of what you (and your estate) owe. This list should include mortgages and HELOCs, credit card accounts, auto loans and everything else you can think of. This is the perfect time to order a free credit report to see what items are listed on it.
- Memberships – Another list that you should create would include all of the organizations to which you are a member. Everything from AAA to the alumni association at your alma mater would belong on this list. If you’re a supporter of one or more charities, you should also have them on your membership list.
- Review Your Accounts – Now that you have a list of your assets, it will be easier to locate any accounts that include beneficiary designations. Retirement accounts and bank accounts are just two of these. Make sure that the beneficiary you have listed is still correct, because when you pass away, despite what is written in your will, this designation is that one that will be used. It’s not all that unusual for a Marietta estate planning attorney’s client to discover they still have an ex-spouse listed as a beneficiary on an account! You may find that some of these accounts have an option to make them “transferrable on death,” which means that they can be passed on without going through the probate process, but only if you are using this feature.
- Review Your Insurance Policies – Just like with your accounts above, your insurance policies will have one or more beneficiaries listed. You’ll want to make sure that these are up-to-date, and you may also want to review your coverage with your insurance provider to make sure that it is at the appropriate level for your current stage of life.
- Choose Your Executor – It’s up to you to determine who you want to administer your estate for you. This person will distribute your assets and take on other responsibilities for fulfilling the legal obligations of an estate. Your Marietta estate planning lawyer can offer advice on how to choose the right person for the job, whether it’s a friend, a family member, or a professional executor.
- Write Your Will – Without your legal, written instructions to follow, the courts will distribute your estate as they see fit. Avoid this and have a say in what becomes of your assets by working with an experienced estate planning lawyer to create a legal will. During this time, you and your attorney may determine that you also want to create one or more trusts in order to ensure your estate is used to your specifications and/or to minimize the taxes that will be owed upon your death.
- Get the Information to the Right People – Make sure, for example, that your executor has a signed, witnessed, notarized copy of your will, along with the lists you have created. This will make their job much easier and will streamline the process later. You’ll also want to make sure that your estate planning lawyer files any appropriate paperwork for safekeeping in the Cobb County Probate Court. Finally, it’s a good idea to keep extra copies of these documents in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box or a fireproof, waterproof safe at home.
Taking the time now to mark these things off your estate planning bucket list means that you can save a lot of hassle and even money for those you leave behind. If you are ready to get started, call us at 770-425-6060.
Do single people need a will or trust attorney? Yes!
Really, “yes” is the only answer that’s really needed, but we’ll go ahead and create a whole blog post to offer some insight as to why estate planning is important for singles and not just for families.
One of the most important reasons for a single person to work with a will and trust attorney in Canton GA is best understood when you think about the consequences of not planning. Should you have a medical emergency or pass away, what becomes of you and your estate will be entirely up to the state of Georgia. This means that if you are unable to communicate your wishes, the state will step in and impose its own plan on your body and your assets.
Imagine that for a moment. If you were to have a medical emergency and be unable to speak up, who would be able to tell the doctors what you would want? Hopefully, that person would be one of your parents or siblings, because it’s pretty likely that they are who the courts would appoint on your behalf. If the best choice would really be a good friend, other family member, or possibly a significant other to whom you’re not legally married, the courts won’t care. They will stick to the predetermined law, and that law will look at bloodline relatives first.
This is also the case with your finances. If you are unable to take care of your own finances for any reason, the courts will likely appoint the closest blood relative to step in. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want your family in your private financial affairs or not. They will have access to your money and will be put in charge of managing it, paying your bills, etc. Think about how your oldest sibling manages his or her money. Would you be comfortable with that person being in responsible for yours?
Along the same lines, should you pass away without an estate plan, your assets will automatically go through the Cherokee County probate process. Again, the courts will step in and determine who is to inherit your property and money; and you will have absolutely no say in the matter. How excited would you be for Mom and Dad to inherit your laptop or for your siblings to be given the jewelry which, by all accounts, should go to your best friend?
None of these scenarios is even a little bit exaggerated. This is exactly what happens when a single person in Canton GA chooses not to work with an estate planning attorney. Remember, it’s not just about having a lot of assets to leave behind; it’s about making your own decisions regarding your medical care, your possessions, and your finances. Having a small estate now simply means that the planning process will be less complicated! Call us at 770-425-6060 to get started!
The decision of who to appoint as your executor or trustee is a huge one, and we’ve talked about it a bit in the past. Still, it’s important to make sure that you have the information you need to make the right choice with your Woodstock GA estate planning lawyer. This person will hold incredible responsibility for overseeing what becomes of your estate, and you want your choice to reflect this.
It’s not unusual to name your spouse as the executor or trustee, but there are certainly other options. You may determine that one of your adult children is a good choice or prefer to have a family friend in charge. In some cases, you may even place an attorney in the role. No matter who you choose, you’ll want to also list an alternate in case there is some reason your first choice is unable to take care of the duties required.
Some things to consider when choosing your executor or successor trustee:
- The process of closing an estate can take a very long time, so you want to choose someone who will be committed to following through.
- The person chosen will have access to your finances, and there are opportunities to abuse the trust placed in him or her. For this reason, among others, you want to choose a representative in whom you have complete trust.
- There are many details and conflicting interests that will need to be managed during the process, so you want to choose someone who is organized and able to juggle these responsibilities.
- Dealing with the estate requires working with a wide range of people and institutions. The person you choose to represent you must be able to clearly communicate with all of them.
- Because there are a lot of financial considerations to be made, it’s also best to choose someone who is responsible with money and has a decent grasp of how to manage it.
- The person chosen will likely need to spend time in your home or business, going to court, meeting with attorneys, etc. For this reason, estate lawyers in Woodstock GA will often recommend you choose a representative who is physically available, possibly even someone living in the area.
Finally, you want to ensure that the person you name to handle your estate is willing to take on the job. It’s best to discuss the responsibilities and expectations with him or her to make sure it’s something the person feels up to taking on. Spouses or children may feel like they would be unable to do the job in the midst of their grief, others may just not want the responsibility. By discussing it with them before having your Woodstock GA estate lawyer name them in your documents, you won’t be adding an extra burden to someone who isn’t able to accept it.