When working with families dealing with probate on a loved one’s estate, Marietta probate lawyers often find themselves answering a variety of questions about how to avoid probate in the future. There are a whole lot of tools at the disposal of a Marietta probate attorney when it comes to protecting an estate, and each has its pros and cons.
One method that older individuals sometimes consider to keep some assets out of probate is to have their adult children added as “joint owners” of their bank accounts. Essentially, this means that the account, and its contents, becomes the property of not only the parent, but also anyone else named as a joint owner. The intention is that once the parent passes away, the or children can immediately access the money without it ever having to go through probate.
This approach can work, and it’s possible that a Marietta probate lawyer will recommend it as a viable option for passing on assets. On the other hand, he or she might not because adding others to your accounts can lead to other problems. These don’t affect every individual, so you will definitely want to discuss it thoroughly with a probate lawyer in Marietta. That said, some potential pitfalls should be considered.
For one thing, every joint owner will have full access to the account. Even while the parent is alive, the adult child or children could choose to spend however he or she wishes with no legal repercussions. Sadly, many parents have lost their entire income or savings when their children have taken advantage of the situation. To take it a step further, unless every single child/heir is listed as a joint owner on the account, whomever has been named could theoretically keep all of the money without splitting it with siblings.
Another very real concern is that both the parent and the child could also suffer should one of them be in debt. Creditors could demand money from anyone with their name on the account, regardless of who put the money in there. So, if the parent’s Social Security check was deposited but the child (who was a joint owner on the account) owes back taxes, it’s possible that the Social Security money could be seized to pay the debt.
Again, these are just matters to take into consideration. It’s up to you and a good Marietta probate lawyer to determine what will work best for your particular circumstance and situation.
In order to ensure proper use of funds, lawyers for special needs planning in Georgia help their clients choose a trustee. This person is put in charge of the special needs trust, and instead of providing money directly to the beneficiary (the child with special needs), the trustee will usually pay directly from the trust to service providers, housing officials, etc. Some trusts are set up with the parents and the special needs planning lawyer in a way that provides payment to the trustee for taking on these responsibilities.
Sometimes, there is no mention of a fee in the trust paperwork, but the trustee is still entitled to payment, if desired. There are several factors that should go into determining an suitable fee, whether it is stipulated in advance by those creating the trust or it is later determined that one is needed. The complexity of the trust is certainly one of those considerations. If there are numerous investments that need to be managed, for example, it would be appropriate to pay the trustee for the time and expertise involved.
The types of services the trustee provides also play into determining the fee. More complex tasks, like the investment management mentioned above, would likely be paid at a higher rate than less complicated ones, such as paying monthly bills. The trustee would be responsible for tracking his or her time, along with the service, in order to determine a fair fee.
Occasionally, a trustee will pay for a good or service from personal money. When that happens, the trustee can expect to be reimbursed out of the special needs trust by providing a receipt for money spent on the beneficiary’s behalf. This type of payment is separate from the trustee’s fee and would not be treated the same. That’s because the trustee’s fee is taxed as income. On the trust’s end of things, the fee is a tax deduction.
Special needs planning lawyers in Georgia are continually looking for the best ways to serve their clients and provide for the future. Having a trustee in place is one method to ensure that funds are being used appropriately, and paying that trustee can be one way to ensure the job gets done right.
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide in a matter of days, or even hours, whether the Constitution requires states to allow same-sex marriage. While many same-sex couples have been awaiting a decision, waiting may not be the best strategy. To gain control of life decisions and estate planning, same-sex couples should put their wishes in writing now without waiting for the Supreme Court decision.
A little background: The top court has heard arguments on cases brought by 15 same-sex couples in four states and is expected to issue their decision this month. If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, all states will have to recognize same-sex marriages. (Currently, 36 states do so.)
But don’t expect a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage to clear the muddy marital waters. When it comes to estate planning matters, the hodgepodge of rules that apply state-by-state to married couples, whether same-sex or opposite sex, will continue. Estate planning for same sex couples in Georgia should be something done sooner, rather than later.
Regardless of the Court’s decision, when it comes to same-sex estate planning matters, couples should be taking steps now to make their plan bullet-proof. By “bullet-proof” I mean designing an estate plan that addresses their specific wants and needs and keeps them in control. A couple’s own plan is always better than someone else’s and without an estate plan of their own, a couple is subject to the default rules of their state – not an attractive option.
One option to carefully consider: a revocable trust, which can be useful in distributing assets to the beneficiaries and allow heirs to avoid the time and expense involved in the probate process. Additionally, a revocable trust offers flexibility, allowing the couple to modify and update the plan as their circumstances change.
Another important consideration for same-sex couples is how they want the courts to treat their children. The same-sex couple with children has to be treated as a blended family. The question of parental rights must also be addressed. For instance, what happens to the rights of the biological parent who is not part of the couple? A same-sex partner who is not a biological parent should consider adopting the child to establish his or her rights.
If same-sex couples are not proactively planning, the courts in each state will be making the decisions for them. Bottom line: the default rules in most states are woefully inadequate and no one – either opposite sex or same-sex couples – should ever have to rely on default rules.
Planning will be especially critical for same-sex couples if the Supreme Court allows states to continue to have their own rules on who can marry; however, even if the high court decides in favor of same sex marriage, proactive planning is still essential to maintaining control of one’s life and assets.
You may not need an Atlanta GA estate planning lawyer to make a will (although that isn’t a wise decision), but what if you have no will at all? No one wants to think about their future demise, but death will be coming for all of us eventually. Without a will, what will become of your assets, your liabilities, and who will be the executor? Will any of your loved ones be left out in the cold?
Every state has its own specific set of laws, but by and large the basic rules are the same from state to state. A qualified Georgia estate planning lawyer is the best resource for uncovering what the laws are here. For someone to inherit intestate, or when there is no will, he or she must be a legal relative. Generally speaking a spouse (or civil partner in some states) inherits it all if there are no children. If there are children, the spouse may receive as little as 1/3 of the estate, and the rest is divided among the children.
The specifics concerning separated spouses, stepchildren, etc. can make things even more complicated, but there is one constant: no one can profit from a death they caused. If there are allegations or proof of abuse or murder, that person may be prohibited from inheriting at all. This makes sense; not only is abuse wrong, but the government wants to make sure that no one is rewarded for murder.
In cases where there are minor children and the other parent is still living, an estate planning lawyer will tell you that what is left behind usually goes solely to the spouse, with the understanding that he or she will use it for the benefit and welfare of him or herself and the children. If there are considerable assets, a will and trust lawyer in Atlanta can then help the surviving spouse to create living trusts for the children.
Sometimes, there is no surviving spouse or children. In these cases, distant relatives may be eligible to inherit some or all of the assets left behind. In no case, however, are friends and people not related to the deceased allowed to inherit. These people can only inherit based on the specifics of a will, and with no will, they have no claim.
Some assets aren’t passed along via a will, and so these items may also have clear beneficiaries listed on the specific documents.
- Life insurance policy proceeds
- Real estate, bank accounts, and other property held in joint tenancy or community property
- IRA funds, or other retirement plans that name a beneficiary
- Any funds held in a living trust
Perhaps the strangest thing that probate lawyers in Atlanta see is when there are no living family members and no will. When this happens, the assets are given to the state. If you want to make sure that your property is passed along to a friend or charity, be sure to make a will, because otherwise it goes to Uncle Sam.
Estate planning is very important, and your best bet is to hire an estate planning lawyer who has specific knowledge in this area of law. Each state has laws that change when and how people can inherit if you leave your estate intestate. So, do your loved ones a favor and leave a will. This way you can make sure that your estate is divided as you want it to be, without it going back to the government.
When a celebrity passes away, Georgia will and trust lawyers often watch for news of their affairs, hoping that the celebrity in question had a great estate plan in place. With the recent loss of comedian Joan Rivers, it was reassuring to see that she had planned well for her loved ones, including her pets.
At the time of her death, Rivers’ estate was worth approximately $150 million, and she clearly knew that estate planning was no joking matter. Most of her assets were left to her daughter Melissa and her grandson Cooper. However, the celebrity also took the additional step of setting up a pet trust for her four dogs.
How Pet Trusts Work
Pet trusts have become somewhat popular these days, which is great news for companion animals who have been left behind. Not only will the person creating the trust designate a guardian for the pets, he or she will also set aside funds for the animals’ upkeep. There is also a trustee named who is in charge of the financial aspects of the trust. In some cases, the guardian or caretaker is also the trustee, but in others a separate person is designated. The trustee disperses funds to the guardian, lessening the likelihood of the guardian misusing the money for his or her own benefit. An additional safeguard is to photograph or microchip your pets so that fraud cannot be committed later.
Better Than a Will
While your Georgia pet trust lawyer may still encourage you to have a will in order to disperse your estate, those wanting to provide for their pets are probably better off creating an additional pet trust. Animals are not allowed to own property, so leaving anything to a pet via your will is unlikely to work. Instead, a pet trust is set up specifically for the animal’s benefit while having the oversight and management of actual humans.
The terms of trusts are not typically made public (one of the reasons Georgia will and trust lawyers like them so much), so it’s not really known how much Joan Rivers provided in her pet trust. What is known is that her long-time assistant Jocelyn Pickett will be the dogs’ caretaker. Many organizations are excited about the fact that such a high-profile celebrity has created a pet trust, hoping that it brings awareness to the possibility and improves the lives of animals whose owners pass away.
Will and estate lawyers in metro Atlanta are charged with a number of tasks when it comes to wealth management, retirement planning, and setting up wills and trusts. For the most part, clients are concerned with their money and other assets, which makes sense. After all, no one really wants to pay more taxes than are necessary, and it’s important to pass on family money and heirlooms.
All of these tasks are essential, but there are other ways in which you may want to utilize your Atlanta will and estate lawyer’s expertise. Many people are now choosing to add “intangible assets” to their estate plans. These are items that may not have any monetary value but that can help to truly build a legacy.
Intangible assets such as personal letters you’ve written to loved ones, a recorded family history, or other types of messages can become a part of your estate’s trust, with the lawyer delivering them at the appropriate times. This idea can be especially interesting to someone facing a terminal illness earlier in life. A young mother, for example, could create a video of herself giving her children advice and then have those videos delivered after her death when her children meet certain milestones in their own lives such as graduation, marriage, or becoming parents themselves.
While there is no dollar amount attached to intangible assets, they can become some of the most treasured parts of your estate. Just because you can’t be there for a grandchild’s big day doesn’t mean you can’t offer your love and support, to share your pride and happiness, to offer advice and guidance.
Here are some of the things that Atlanta will and estate lawyers have seen left as intangible assets:
- Annual birthday cards or recorded greetings
- Congratulations on life events
- Stories from the deceased’s life (oral or written)
- The deceased reading bed-time stories to kids or grandkids
- Handwritten cards or letters
- Life lessons that should be passed down
- Video instructions of how to do something (make a favorite recipe, for example)
You may also be interested in creating a video will. Your Atlanta estate planning lawyer will want to make sure you have everything written down according to state and other laws, but there is no reason that you cannot make a recording of yourself reading the will, perhaps even adding in the reasons for your decisions or the hopes you have for your beneficiaries.
A video will serves another purpose, too, as it can be used to show that you were competent when you made your will. Estate planning lawyers do have to occasionally deal with family members and others challenging a will, so your video reading could be an important way to ensure that your wishes really are followed. Whether you are looking to develop intangible assets or to create a video will, your Atlanta will and estate lawyer is a great resource in how to get it done properly.
Elder law attorneys in Atlanta Georgia very often find themselves advising adult children of the elderly on the intricacies of managing their parents’ finances. While it may seem straightforward at first, there are a lot of details and difficulties that can get in the way. There are so many things to coordinate, and often the parent is less than helpful in the process. Being somewhat prepared and having access to an experienced elder law or estate lawyer in Atlanta are two of the ways you can help avoid some of the more common pitfalls, such as:
- Memory Loss – Memory loss is prevalent among the elderly, and it’s actually one of the big reasons that adult children are called in to take over finances. Unfortunately, it also makes the job that much more difficult because the parent isn’t able to answer important questions such as “How much do you owe?” or “When is this bill due?”
- Role Reversal – For the majority of the adult child’s life, the parent has been in charge. Taking over and being firm with the parent can be more than a little uncomfortable. On top of that, it can be frustrating and cause resentment to see the person who taught you so much no longer following their own advice.
- Lack of Information – Your parent may have chosen to be forthcoming about finances with an elder law lawyer here in Atlanta, but that doesn’t mean that they want to let their children in on all the financial details of their life. Previous generations found it improper to discuss money, resulting in an air of secrecy that can be difficult to break through.
So, how should you deal with these obstacles?
As with so many other aspects of life, the best way to deal with problems is to avoid them altogether. The earlier you and your parent start meeting with an Atlanta elder law attorney that you trust, the more likely you are to get the information you need. As an added bonus, your parent will have the ability to make his or her wishes known in order to offer guidance on how to handle their affairs if and when all of the responsibility is passed on to you.
No matter what stage the parent is at, the subject needs to be approached. Again, earlier is better, as the parent is more likely to understand the importance of what is happening. You may choose to start the conversation by relating it to your own estate planning or by bringing up a situation you heard about recently, such as the death of a celebrity. A good elder lawyer in Atlanta GA can offer suggestions on how to bring up the subject, as well as how to help steer the conversation in the right direction.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Cobb County probate lawyers have a pretty complex job to do, and it can be even more difficult because of the fact that many people don’t really even know what the probate process is. This isn’t all that surprising, as by the time a person needs probate, it’s because he or she has passed away. That means that someone else needs to be in charge.
Probate is the court process that happens when a deceased person’s estate is administered. There are a lot of steps to the process, which is just one of the reasons that those left behind find it so helpful to work with an experienced probate lawyer in Cobb County. He or she can help to make sure that these steps are being followed in accordance with the law and to their client’s best advantage.
Different states generally have different probate laws, which is one of the reasons it’s so important for Georgia residents to work with an attorney from our state. If the decedent held property in other states, it’s quite likely that an additional probate lawyer from that area will need to be consulted, as well.
A lot of people would prefer to avoid probate altogether, and they may have worked with an estate planning lawyer to try and make this happen. Why would they go to that trouble?
- It can take a very long time for an estate to make it all the way through the probate process.
- Everything revealed in probate becomes public knowledge.
- Probate costs can eat away at the value of an estate.
A good Cobb County probate lawyer will do his or her best to expedite the process, minimize discomfort, and protect assets as much as possible. Perhaps one of his or her most important jobs is simply to talk individuals through this unfamiliar landscape and to help set reasonable expectations for those who haven’t dealt with the process before.
During probate, the courts will name a representative for the decedent and will then charge that person with compiling an inventory of assets. The probate lawyer will be very helpful in figuring out how to do this. Based on current law, the courts will determine how assets are to be distributed, including to pay off debts. If there is a will, this will be taken into consideration. Many folks don’t realized that even if they have a will, the estate will still go through probate.
There are other alternatives in estate planning, however, that can keep an estate out of the process. For those who need it, though, an experienced Cobb County probate lawyer can make a huge difference in the outcome.
Because of the intricacies of state law, whether you’re seeking sole custody of your child or you’ve agreed to share child custody in Georgia with your former partner, you should consider speaking with a 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.
Q: At the moment I’m a noncustodial parent, but I’d like to get custody of my son. How do I do that?
A: 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.
Q: Will a judge award grandparents custody or visitation rights?
A: 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.
Q: 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?
A: 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 Georgia child custody law permits temporary changes to parenting plans for military children, you should consult a child custody lawyer to understand how you may modify your plan and who you can designate to care for your child.
Help for un-represented low and moderate-income Georgians who need help with the state’s mandated Child Support Worksheets is now available. The Family Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia has launched its Child Support Worksheet Helpline, a free service to provide one-time assistance for producing Child Support Worksheets for filing in the state’s superior and juvenile courts.
Georgia’s Child Support Worksheets provide the framework for determining the appropriate amount of child support under Georgia law. The child support calculator is used to enter the financial information of both parents to calculate the appropriate amount of child support according to Georgia’s statutory Child Support Guidelines.
Volunteer lawyers from the State Bar of Georgia Family Law Section will assist callers with the calculator and preparing the required Child Support Worksheets. Un-represented litigants needing help with the child support calculator can call (404) 526-8609. A volunteer lawyer will then work with the caller to prepare Child Support Worksheets for his or her case. The Child Support Worksheets will be emailed or mailed to the caller.
The Family Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia has over 1500 members and seeks to educate its members through continuing education and monitoring and reporting on legislation. The Child Support Helpline is an opportunity for the Section members to give back to Georgians in need of legal services who cannot afford it.
Georgia Legal Services Program, which serves 154 mostly rural counties outside metro Atlanta, is partnering with the Section to launch the pilot project. GLSP receives many calls daily from people looking for legal help in connection with child support. The legal aid program will refer many of those callers to the new Child Support Helpline. “We’re very grateful to the Family Law Section for this innovative service. There’s a great demand for basic information about child support and for help with child support calculations,” says Mike Monahan, the director of the Pro Bono Project of the State Bar.
Rebecca Crumrine Rieder, the Chairman of the Family Law Section made a pro-bono project for the Section a priority of her tenure, “the Family Law Section is excited to be offering Georgians this service. There is a need for help with child support worksheets for un-represented litigants and we are glad to marshal the Section’s vast membership and provide a resource that will benefit not only the individuals who use it but also the courts and clerks who too often have to turn people away for not having the proper documents to complete their cases.”
The State Bar of Georgia, with offices in Atlanta, Savannah and Tifton, was established in 1964 by Georgia’s Supreme Court as the successor to the voluntary Georgia Bar Association, founded in 1884. All lawyers licensed to practice in Georgia belong to the State Bar. Its more than 47,000 members work together to strengthen the constitutional promise of justice for all, promote principles of duty and public service among Georgia’s lawyers, and administer a strict code of legal ethics.