When To Contact a Trust and Estates Lawyer In Atlanta

Trust and Estates Lawyer In Atlanta

There are times in life when it is obvious that people in the Atlanta area should start meeting with a trust and estates attorney.  For example, it’s more obvious that seniors need to get their estates in order than younger people do.  While some situations are more urgent than others, there are actually quite a few indicators that you’re ready to start estate planning with an attorney.

Age

Again, advancing age is often the thing that spurs clients to start thinking about their estate planning needs.  You’ve spent your life working to earn what you have, and with the approach of retirement and other reminders of aging, people start thinking about what will happen to their assets when they die.

Births and Adoptions

Welcoming a new child into your family brings so many “firsts” along with it.  For many people, this is the first time they realize the need to work with an estate planning attorney.  Not only are there issues such as planning for college or your child’s financial future without you, but there is the even more pressing matter of naming legal guardians in case you die or become incapacitated.  If you want to have a say in who cares for your children when you can’t, having an estate planning attorney draw up the proper documentation is a necessity.

Caregiving

More and more adults are caring for their aging parents these days.  Along with that responsibility often comes the realization that Mom and Dad haven’t done any estate planning, or that the documents they created 30 years ago are no longer sufficient.  Additionally, you will likely need to put some powers of attorney (for medical and financial reasons) in place, and that is also something that an Atlanta trust and estates attorney can assist you in doing.

Deployment

Military personnel are often put in situations of great personal and physical risk.  It goes without saying, then, that their families understand that there may be a time when tragedy follows.  Estate planning with an attorney can help to determine how parents, spouses, dependent children, and others will be cared for should the military member pay the ultimate price.

Illness

Another cue that it may be time to choose an estate planning attorney is when an individual is facing a major illness.  Estate planning isn’t just about figuring out what happens to your assets when you pass away, but also how your affairs will be handled if you are unable to care for yourself due to illness.  It makes sense to work with an attorney to set up a medical power of attorney, a living will, and other related documents that will be in place whether your illness is temporary or terminal.

These are certainly not the only life events that cause a need for estate planning, but they are among the most common changes that make us stop and realize that need.

If you are facing a life transition that now requires some level of estate planning to take place, we encourage you to contact our Atlanta law firm and ask to schedule a comprehensive Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session absolutely free with the mention of this article.

Image courtesy of wiangya at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Georgia Child Support Basics

Georgia Child Support Basics

child support attorney in cobb county

 

 

The following article appears at Divorcenet.com and was written by Susan Bishop. If you have a child support case in Cobb County or nearby metro Atlanta counties and need advice or assistance with your questions or case, please call us at 770-425-6060.

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In order to calculate child support, Georgia uses very specific guidelines based on an “Income Shares Model.” This model estimates the total amount that parents would spend on a child in an intact family unit, and then splits this amount proportionately according to the parents’ incomes. Parents can access the current guidelines through the Georgia Child Support Commission. The guidelines are quite complex and detailed; this article provides only a brief overview. If you’re having trouble navigating through all of the forms, or have specific questions, you should contact a lawyer.

Using Guidelines to Calculate Child Support

If you’re trying to estimate child support, you can use the worksheets and calculators provided by the Georgia Child Support Commission. The first step is to decide which parent is the “custodial” parent and which is the “noncustodial” parent. Generally, the custodial parent has the children more than half the time, while the noncustodial parent has the children less than half the time. If parenting time is equal, you may not be able to determine which parent is custodial and which is noncustodial before first working through the financial calculations. In this case, the noncustodial parent will be the parent with the higher child support obligation, which is usually—but not always—the parent who starts out with the higher income. Although the worksheets and calculators will give a support amount for both parents, only the noncustodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent. This is because courts assume that the custodial parent’s support amount is going directly to costs of supporting children.

Calculating Income and Deductions

To complete the financial calculations, add up each parent’s monthly gross income, which includes most types of income, whether earned or unearned. Common examples are wages, commissions, self-employment earnings, retirement account payments, disability payments, and investment income. If you’re self-employed, you can deduct necessary costs of doing business from your gross receipts to get your gross income, but be aware that the allowable deductions are very limited and do not include everything allowed by the IRS. The manual worksheets include a separate form for calculating self-employment income. Gross income doesn’t include child support received for children from other relationships or public assistance, but it does include significant work-related benefits that reduce personal living expenses—such as housing, meals, or a car.

You can deduct child support you paid in another case and half of any self-employment taxes you paid from your gross income. If you have natural or adopted children from another relationship living with you, and those children are not subject to a child support order, you may also be able to deduct an amount for their support. There is a separate worksheet for estimating this amount.

Basic Child Support Obligation

To find the basic child support obligation, add the parents’ adjusted gross incomes together and match the total with the column containing the applicable number of children in the Basic Child-Support Obligation Schedule. You can find the current version of the schedule at the very end of the guidelines available through the Georgia Child Support Commission. To find each parent’s percentage share of this basic amount, divide each parent’s income by the combined income. For example, if the parents’ combined adjusted gross income is $10,000, with the noncustodial parent earning $7,000 and the custodial parent earning $3,000, the noncustodial parent would be responsible for 70% of support and the custodial parent for 30%. The basic child support amount in the schedule for one child when the parents’ combined monthly income is $10,000 is $1,259, so in this example the noncustodial parent would pay the custodial parent 70% of $1,259 or $881.30.

Adjustments for Child Care or Health Insurance

The only expenses parents can automatically add to the basic support obligation are costs of children’s health insurance and any necessary work related child care. These expenses are normally pro-rated between the parents. In the example above, if the noncustodial parent pays $150 for health insurance and the custodial parent pays $350 for child care, 70% of the $500 total amount, or $350, would be the noncustodial parent’s responsibility and 30% of the $500 total, or $150, would be the custodial parent’s responsibility. The amount of $350 would be added to the noncustodial parent’s $881.30 support payment to get a new payment of $1,231.30. The noncustodial parent can subtract the $150 paid for health insurance, and the final support amount—called the “presumptive support amount” in the guidelines—will be $1,081.30. The noncustodial parent will pay this amount to the custodial parent.

Deviating from the Child Support Guidelines

If the presumptive support amount doesn’t accurately reflect the parents’ ability to pay or the best interests of the children, the court can deviate from the amount. Specific conditions that sometimes justify a deviation include extraordinary educational or medical expenses or other court-approved special expenses for a child, including such things as art or music lessons. These expenses are generally prorated between the parents. A court will consider making a deviation for extremely low income where a noncustodial parent’s gross income is $1,850 or less per month, but will also take into account the impact of a reduction on the custodial parent’s ability to provide the children with basic necessities. A deviation for extremely high income may be appropriate where the parents’ combined adjusted gross income exceeds $30,000 per month.

If you have joint physical custody, or any parenting arrangement where the noncustodial parent spends significantly more time with the children than the standard visitation schedule (alternate weekends plus some summer and holiday time), the noncustodial parent can request a deviation. There is no standard parenting time adjustment, but Georgia courts typically adjust the payment downward to account for a noncustodial parent’s increased direct expenses. A court that orders support in an amount that differs from the guidelines must specify the reasons for doing so in writing.

Imputing Income

If you are legitimately having difficulty finding work or have been laid off from a job, you can request a lower support payment. Unfortunately, there are some parents who will try to avoid paying support by refusing to look for work or by quitting a high paying position for a lower paying job. Courts don’t tolerate this kind of behavior and will sometimes order support based on the income that a parent could earn with reasonable effort, rather than just the income of the lower-paying job. If a parent is temporarily underemployed or unemployed for a reason that will eventually benefit the children—for example to obtain training for a higher-paying position—the court will take this reason into account.

Modification or Termination of Support

A parent that wants to modify (change) an existing support order must show some change in long-term conditions that materially affects either a parent’s income or a child’s needs. If the court has already modified an order, a parent must ordinarily wait two years before asking for another modification. The court will waive the waiting period in certain situations, including involuntary job loss, significant change in parenting time, or a noncustodial parent’s failure to exercise visitation.

If you have a support award that a court entered before 2007, and a revised calculation (based on post-2007 Georgia law) would result in an award that is at least 15% higher than what you’re receiving now, you can request a modification. Depending on the amount of the difference, the court may order the new amount phased in over a time period of up to two years.

Georgia child support generally ends when the child turns 18 unless the child is still attending high school full-time, in which case it continues until the child turns 20 or graduates from high school, whichever happens first. The obligation may continue longer if a child is disabled and not capable of self-support.

Enforcing Child Support

The Division of Child Support Services of the Georgia Department of Human Services (DCSS), is responsible for helping families obtain child support payment orders, locate absent parents, establish paternity if necessary, and secure compliance with child support court orders. If your child’s other parent has stopped making child support payments, or isn’t making full payments on time, you should contact a lawyer or the DCSS for assistance.

Source: Divorcenet.com by: 

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GeorgiaFamilyLaw : Worrall Law LLC assists clients with child support cases in Cobb County, Fulton County, Cherokee County and other metro Atlanta counties. If you have a child support case in Cobb County or nearby metro Atlanta counties and need advice or assistance with your questions or case, please call us at 770-425-6060.

Learning about Child Custody in Georgia

Learning about Child Custody in Georgia

cobb county child custody lawyer

Because of the intricacies of Georgia state law, whether you’re seeking sole custody of your child or you’ve agreed to share custody with your former partner, you should consider speaking with a Cobb County family law attorney prior to your child custody hearing.

What You Should Know:

  • Before arriving at your child custody hearing, you and your former partner should craft a parenting plan that outlines a number of details including:
    • a parenting time schedule, with an outline making clear who the child will spend time with for each day of the year
    • an agreement about how the child will spend holidays and vacations
    • a proposal for transportation arrangements and drop-off points when a child leaves one parent to visit the other
    • an agreement about how a parent may contact a child when that child is in the other parent’s care.
  • During the initial custody proceedings, the judge will act with your child’s best interests in mind, listening to the points made by both you and your former partner and considering carefully your child’s health, safety and comfort. After the judge awards custody, this decision cannot be amended unless there’s a significant change in family circumstance.
  • The judge may opt to grant either sole custody or joint custody. In the first of these custody types, the judge may approve visitation rights for the noncustodial parent, but otherwise, the noncustodial parent cannot exercise legal authority on the child’s behalf. In the second of these custody types, the parents may share in their child’s legal and physical custody, making decisions together about their child’s education, medical care and religious upbringing and each enjoying roughly equal parenting time.
  • When your child turns 14, she/he may choose who she/he wants to live with, and she/he may request a change in custody once every two years thereafter.
  • At least 30 days before a move, a custodial parent must write a letter to inform a noncustodial parent or other family member with visitation rights of a new address.
  • Once every two years the family law court may review and modify parent visitation rights, although custody rights may only be reviewed and modified if there’s a significant change in family circumstance.

FAQs:

At the moment I’m a noncustodial parent, but I’d like to get custody of my son. How do I do that?

You’ll need to visit the Superior Court in the custodial parent’s county of residence and fill out a petition for change of custody. At the hearing you’ll need to offer proof that you’ve recently noticed a material change in family circumstance that directly affects your son’s interest and well-being. Minor changes only in living condition will not persuade a judge to approve a new custody decision.

Will a judge award grandparents custody or visitation rights?

Although judges may award grandparents these rights, family law courts consider the rights of natural parents first. When either or both the mother and father are competent and willing to care for the child, the judge will grant custody preferentially to that natural parent.

I’m a military parent exercising joint custody of my daughter, and I’ve just found that I’ll be deployed. Before I leave, what do I need to do?

Within two weeks of learning of your deployment, you’ll need to send a written notice to your former partner explaining how your service will affect your parenting time. If you’ve received notice in less than two weeks before deployment, you must send that written notice immediately. Because state law permits temporary changes to parenting plans for military children, you should consult a lawyer to understand how you may modify your plan and who you can designate to care for your child.

Source: Official Code of Georgia. This information was prepared as a public service of the State of Georgia to provide general information, not to advise on any specific legal problem. It is not, and cannot be construed to be, legal advice.

Atlanta Wills and Trusts Lawyer Offers Ways to Approach “Tough Conversations” With Mom or Dad

Atlanta Wills and Trusts Lawyer Offers Ways to Approach “Tough Conversations” With Mom or Dad

estate plans for aging parentsWhen meeting with a wills and trusts lawyer in Atlanta for the first time, many adult children realize that they have no idea where their parents stand in terms of having the right plans in place to protect their assets and wishes if something happens to them.

Do their parents have a will or trust and, if so, where are these and other important documents located? Should assisted living or nursing home care become necessary, what plans are in place to cover the costs? Will mom or dad even have enough money after these costs to carry them through retirement?

These are some very important questions that need to be asked, and an experienced Atlanta GA wills and trusts lawyer can steer you in the right direction. That being said, no matter how good your relationship is with mom or dad, the subject can be a difficult one to approach.

Perhaps the best place to start is timing. Holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are known to be stressful times, so you might want to avoid these occasions. Current events often present the perfect opening, as there is always some Hollywood legend or financial mogul who dies leaving a fortune for the heirs to squabble over.

Or, the personal experience of a friend or relative can be worked into a dialogue. “So-and-So’s mother was admitted to the hospital recently and no one knew where to find her important papers.” For the adult child who is doing estate planning of their own, it would only be natural to want to discuss their parents’ plans with them during this time.

For some families, several conversations over a longer period of time might be a better approach. No one wants to feel like they are being told what to do, and money matters are often emotionally charged conversations to begin with.

Remember, advance preparations are in the best interests of the parents, so that their wishes can be carried out upon death.  Be sure to communicate this from the start to avoid your parents shutting down or getting defensive about the questions you are asking.

Finally, don’t forget to include the topic of long-term care in your conversations with mom or dad.   While no one likes to think about the possibility of becoming disabled or incapacitated by something like a stroke or Alzheimer’s disease, it does happen and it’s something that must be planned well in advance for.  If you start early enough, an Atlanta wills and trust lawyer can help you put the right plans in place to ensure mom or dad’s wishes during incapacity are honored and that they won’t be forced to sell or give away all of their assets in order to qualify for state or federal assistance.

Are you now ready to help your parents put a rock-solid plan in place that ensures their end-of-life wishes are honored to the fullest?  Then be sure to call our Atlanta wills and trusts lawyers for assistance.  With the mention of this article (“TOUGH CONVERSATIONS”), you may qualify for a Georgia Family Legacy Planning Session ($750 value), at no-charge.  Simply call 770-425-6060 to find out more.

Estate Planning Thoughts for Unmarried Couples | Trust Lawyers In Marietta

Estate Planning Thoughts for Unmarried Couples | Trust Lawyers In Marietta

trust lawyers in Marietta GA

 

Wills and trust lawyers in Marietta Georgia work with unmarried couples to help protect their assets and their partners’ interests should one of them pass away.  The way that federal and state laws are set up, it is customary for a spouse to receive assets of an estate through the Cobb County probate process.  Unfortunately, things are far less cut-and-dry when it comes to settling the estate of an unmarried partner.

For example, when one spouse dies, the home they share will typically pass to the surviving spouse.  In the case where an unmarried partner dies, there is no guarantee that the survivor will have this privilege.  Instead, the home could be awarded to the deceased’s children, parents, or siblings, even if the surviving partner has lived there for years.

One method that trust lawyers in Marietta GA recommend is to title your assets in both partners’ names.  In the case of a home, it may make sense to title the home in both partners’ names with both listed as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.  Of course, this means that both partners have legal ownership rights during their lifetimes, as well.

It is definitely a good idea to work with a Marietta attorney to understand all the implications of titling assets in both partners’ names.  In addition to the ownership rights, there are other outcomes that need to be considered.  There could be concerns over whether gift taxes will come into play.

Leaving the Assets to Someone Else

In many cases, the client may wish to leave the assets to a third party but still allow the surviving partner to benefit from them until he or she also passes away.  In cases like this, the deceased partner may wish for the survivor to be able to live in the home they shared but then have it pass to the first partner’s children when the second dies.

In these situations, a might recommend creating a life estate.  The surviving partner can remain in the home, but other beneficiaries will be named to receive the property later.  There are various kinds of trusts that can be used for this purpose, and your attorney will help to outline the pros and cons of using them.

Ready to get started creating a plan that ensures the protection of you and your life partner should the unthinkable happen? Call our Marietta wills, trusts and estate planning law firm at 770-425-6060 and ask to schedule a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session with the mention of this article  ($750 value).