DID YOU KNOW…
That if you were to pass away or become incapacitated while your child is at school, the authorities may not release your kids to those you listed on the school emergency card?
Because by law, the authorities can only leave your kids with their “legal guardian” or surviving parent if something happens to you.
If the surviving parent is unavailable or something happens to you both during school hours, your child will may possibly be placed into the care of social services until a judge (who doesn’t know you or your wishes!) should decide where they should go.
That is NOT a position you want to put your kids in—especially during a time of grief!
Fortunately, putting a plan in place to make sure your kids are protected if something happens to you is EASY!
Here’s a brief checklist to help you “get your ducks in a row” before the school year starts:
- Have I legally documented short and long-term guardians to care for my kids if something happens to me and/or my spouse during school hours?
- Do the people I listed on my child’s school emergency card match those I’ve legally named as guardians? (If not, your emergency contacts will only have permission to pick your kids up if they are sick – not care for them if something happens to you).
- Have I provided my chosen guardians with the documentation they need and instructions on what to do if called upon in an emergency situation?
- Have I prepped the babysitter who watches my child either before school or after school on what to do if something happens to me so child services are not called in?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, now is the perfect time to get a plan in place before the hustle and bustle of school season starts!
Just call me, Cobb County family lawyer, Steve Worrall. As a dad and a lawyer I am passionate about ensuring young families protect their children. Call 770-425-6060 and ask to schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session at no charge (up to $750 value) and get $250 off your plan (any one of our 3 levels of planning packages) with the mention of this “Back to School” Article.
Together we’ll legally document your choice of guardians and create a plan that ensures your kids are cared for by the people YOU want if the unthinkable happens.
Marietta GA Estate Planning Lawyer suggests the Ultimate Gift of Love for your family : an up-to-date estate plan!
With budgets tight and uncertainty in the air, this Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to give your loved one a priceless gift that never grows old — financial security.
Sure, you can’t stuff it in a box or wrap it with a pretty bow, but taking the time to get your financial and legal affairs in order this month is the ultimate way to show your loved ones just how much you care now, and for the future.
Think about what would happen if you were disabled, incapacitated or passed away suddenly this year. That expensive night out you spent with your “special someone” won’t do much to ensure he or she will continue to thrive in your absence. A less exciting, but meaningful gift of life insurance, for example, would have been a better expression of your love during hard times.
And, when is the last time you updated your will or trust? Are you certain that your wishes would be honored and your loved ones would be taken care of exactly as you want in an emergency? This includes minor children who, without legal guardians named for them by mom and dad, will be at the mercy of the courts.
Legal and financial planning is the ultimate way to demonstrate your love for your family where it counts the most. Make a commitment to not put it off any longer and use this Valentine’s Day to give your loved ones the long-term financial security and peace of mind they deserve.
Steve Worrall is the Family Estate Planning Lawyer for Georgia Estate Plan: Worrall Law LLC in Marietta and Atlanta. If you’d like to give your loved ones and yourself the gift of peace of mind, please call Steve at 770-425-6060 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy of cuteimage at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Below is a fictional letter that my friend and colleague in Colorado, Martha Hartney, Esq., recently posted on her blog. The paragraphs at the bottom are from me. Martha agreed to let me post it here for everyone who reads my updates, so a BIG THANK YOU! goes out to Martha! Martha says, “I drafted it to anyone’s former partner because I know only too well what can happen when estate planning is not done properly. I hope you enjoy this outreach to an ex-spouse or partner and consider taking steps to do everything this letter suggests for yourself. You can even send the link to your ex!”
Though we’re not married (cohabitating, procreating) anymore, there are a few things I’d like to say about how you set up your affairs for our kids. You’re about to go on vacation—and I know you worry about being away from them and having an emergency or tragedy happen. I don’t have ANY say in how you set up your estate plan. But there are things that I’d like you to consider about the well-being and care of our beautiful children.
- Make sure your life insurance is up to date and your beneficiaries are listed properly. Don’t name our kids as direct beneficiaries! That will put them straight into a conservatorship (guardianship) where a judge will supervise their financial lives until 18, then they’ll get the assets outright in one fell swoop.
- Instead, leave your assets to them in trust, which will sidestep probate, keep the management of your assets private and in your control, and prevent loss of those assets to our kids’ future creditors and predators and reduce the estate taxes that can take valuable resources away from our kids.
- Name a trustee that I can work with, someone you trust with your life, because your trustee will have to deal with me. If I were the only parent left, I would be legally responsible for ensuring the assets left to our children are properly managed. I would be looking at the annual accountings. I would be the one asking for court intervention if they are mismanaged or embezzled.
- Don’t leave your assets to our kids outright and don’t leave too much. There is nothing more damaging to a kid’s life purpose than having too much money at their fingertips. There’s a saying, “Leave them with enough to do something, but not enough to do nothing.” If you have lots of assets, consider giving some to your favorite charity instead of the kids.
- Don’t cheap out on an estate plan. Whitney Houston did that. She bought a schlocky will that didn’t protect her assets from her daughter’s creditors, estate taxes, and probate. Spend the money to get it done right. It’s really not that much in the scheme of things.
- Plan for a very long life. I know you want to leave our kids your accumulated wealth, but think of yourself first. We’re all living longer lives and, even though we’re not “in love” anymore, I do care about you and your welfare. Create a wealth-plan that will give you lifelong, passive income.
- Make sure you have disability insurance. Your ability to earn is your greatest asset. Nothing will diminish your wealth, and put you in poverty quicker than not being able to earn money anymore. Even if you didn’t need care, if you couldn’t work, you would run through savings quickly and may have to cheap out on things like your lifestyle, vacations, then even necessities like good, wholesome food, the roof over your head. Please don’t let that happen to our kids or to you.
- Get long-term care insurance. The person who is going to live to 150 is believed to have already been born! People will routinely live to be over 100 and that could be you. Long-term care is EXPENSIVE and it’s only going to get more so. Since you’re over 50 and in good health, consider buying a LTC policy on you, or a rider on your life insurance policy.
- Name a guardian for our kids—and ask me who I named. We might be able to agree still on that. Of course, I’ve taken care of my guardianship nomination but if I didn’t, our kids would be subject to a guardianship proceeding—and you and I both know that would be bad because our families would duke it out. You can even do that for FREE online at www.kidsprotectionplan.com. [In Georgia, go to georgia.kidsprotectionplan.com] With that resource, there’s really no reason not to do that at the very least.
- When you decide to remarry, get great guidance from an attorney in advance because remarriage can cause complications to your planning. I’m sure you’ve heard of assets going to a spouse instead of to kids—and while you may eventually want that—don’t let that happen by accident or oversight.
- Make sure you have your own healthcare documents in place naming your agent for medical decision-making. Don’t name the kids as your agents until they are legally capable—over 18, and emotionally able to handle the job.
- Check with your attorney and your retirement account custodian to see if I need to sign any waiver to your retirement accounts. In some cases, if you haven’t remarried, as your previous spouse, I may retain some rights in a 401(k) or similar account that you may have had when we were married. I know that’s not what you want, and that’s okay.
- Most importantly, shoot a video of yourself telling the kids your life story. Tell them about how we met and what you liked about me. Tell them that it’s not their fault that we didn’t work out but that we did have some awesome times together. Tell them about your biggest life lessons, your values, your setbacks and victories. Tell them what a terrific businessperson you are and how you learned to be that. Tell them about your favorite hobbies and what you’re good at. Tell them what you love about them and how much blessed you are that we brought them into the world. [We are now offering Family Treasures Legacy interviews to our clients – call to set yours up today!]
So, dear Ex, I do want the best for our kids and I hope you consider my wishes so that if something did happen to you, they’d be okay. Because I promise that if something did, I would do everything in my power to make sure they’re able to heal, to thrive, to honor you every day of their lives.
If you haven’t gotten around to doing these things yourself, we can help. If you’d like to learn more about anything you read here, 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 of the importance of divorced parent planning, I’ve made space for the next five people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.
I’m also happy to send you a FREE digital copy of the best-selling book “Wear Clean Underwear—a Fun, Fast, Friendly—and Essential Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents” so you can get even more education on your family’s legal needs. Just call my office at 770.425.6060 or email me at email@example.com and ask for the book. We’ll email it to you right away!
The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do Now to Feel Better About Yourself As a Parent – and Leave the World a Better Place – No Matter How Much Money You Have in the Bank
If you are like most of the parents I know, you feel guilty. It’s what parents do.
Whether your guilt is about not enough time with the kids, too much time with the kids, hovering incessantly, or being too laid back, you are worried you aren’t doing the right thing by your kids in some way.
Just the fact that you are worried about it tells me, you are an awesome parent. Bad parents don’t worry that they are being bad parents, they just are bad and don’t care.
And, at the same time, I know you’d appreciate a quick, effective and pain-free way to remove that guilt and start really feeling great about how much you do for your kids. Plus, make sure they know exactly how much you love them, no matter what.
I know that’s what matters most to me. I know that kids who feel loved as children grow up to be better people, better parents themselves, more successful, happier and contribute to the world more.
I’ve seen it again and again and been frequently surprised by how much the feeling of being loved can overcome any number of circumstances for a child.
Broken marriages, early death of parents, even being given up for adoption, each of these circumstances could lead to trauma, feelings of abandonment, persistent anxiety and fear. People who experience these challenges will have a harder time in life, be less able to maintain relationships and tend to do less well in their careers.
And, if a child feels loved through these exact same circumstances, truly and thoroughly loved and accepted, he doesn’t just survive them, he thrives. He takes the hard times and turns them into teachings. He is a joy to be around because he is so in service to life itself. He is loved by all because he knows the love of his parents.
It’s what makes life really matter, right? Knowing you’ve parented your kids well and left them well-prepared for the future — safe, secure and full of self-love.
Is there really anything more important than that?
But what have you done to prepare for the day you can’t be there for them? Will they feel your love then?
It’s not a pleasant topic, I know. It used to frighten me to paralysis when I used to think about it. Because I didn’t know what to do to make it okay. I love my children so much I couldn’t bear to think about them living on after me because I couldn’t envision who would care for them like I do.
And I knew that if I didn’t make decisions, a Judge would make them for me. I knew it wouldn’t have been what I wanted and my kids would be left wondering – why didn’t mom care enough to take care of the things that really matter?
Day after day the Courts process cases of families who have lost a loved one and now it’s left up to the overworked, underpaid, harried and hurried Judge to make the critical decisions you’ve struggled with yourself, and to do so with limited or no information.
Decisions such as who will be the guardian of the children left behind, who will make financial decisions for the family until all children have become adults and who will take care of ensuring it’s all done well are left up to a stranger who doesn’t know you, love you, or really even care about you.
When you make the decisions about these things (and document the decisions properly), you are doing the right thing by your children, letting them know they can feel secure, confident, and not grow up with the kind of issues that will keep them from having successful relationships, lives and careers.
Engaging in the process of making decisions for your kids care if something happens to you and getting clear on the kind of beliefs you want them to take into the world if you aren’t there to raise them makes you a better parent.
The best part is that even though you are planning for a long-time in the future or an eventuality that may never happen, it makes you a better parent immediately.
When you clarify the way you want your children raised and the beliefs you want them to carry into the world, you naturally begin to be more conscious about your relationship with your children now.
If you’d like to explore this process of Family Legacy Planning with a metro Atlanta family legacy planning attorney, come in for a visit with me and in just 90 minutes or so you’ll know exactly how you want your children raised, what beliefs and values you want them to take into the world and pass on to their kids, and who will be the best people to do that, if you can’t be.
Normally, a Georgia Family Legacy Planning Session is $750. It’s guaranteed to be a game-changer for you as a parent. You’ll be closer with your children. More relaxed. And more able to stay connected to yourself and what really matters through the parenting process.
The first three families to call us this month at 770.425.6060 and mention this blog post can schedule the Georgia Family Legacy Planning Session and we will waive the session fee. Be sure to mention the Blog and the code “ParentsLove” so you don’t get charged.
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
As a Marietta estate planning lawyer, I know one of the most important decisions a parent can make is determining who will care for their kids if something tragic happened to them. I also know it’s very easy for parents to get stuck during this critical decision making process. Do you choose this person for financial reasons? Religion? A certain parenting philosophy? Do you care if the couple you chose stays married or eventually gets a divorce? Then what?
While it’s great to put a lot of thought into who you would want to raise your kids, indecision and ultimately inaction is a very dangerous place to be, especially with young children at home. It’s important to remember that SOMEONE will determine what happens to your kids….so it might as well be you! The alternative is a judge who knows nothing about you, your family or what truly is in the best interest of your children.
So to avoid having a judge make life-changing decisions on your child’s behalf, I would like to share four easy steps that will help you finally take action and choose the right guardians for your kids:
1. Sit down and brainstorm all the people who could possibly raise your kids if you were killed or incapacitated in an accident. Don’t limit your choices to family either. Think outside the box and write down everyone who even remotely fits the bill.
2. Determine who you would NEVER want to raise your kids in your absence. You’ll need to tell the court who you DON’T want raising your kids so they can protect your family should that named individual (s) contest your wishes and seek custody of your kids following your death or incapacity. (This can be kept private and only revealed if the need arises)
3. Weigh your values. Make another column and write down what is important to you and/or your spouse. Do you value education? Religious or spiritual training? The ability to live in a certain community? Being raised in a two-parent family? Whatever your values may be, write them down, prioritize them and eventually rank the top three.
4. Match your top choices to your top values. This will give you a clear picture of who you can trust to raise your children with the values you hold near and dear to your heart.
And of course, the last (and arguably the most important step) is to legally document your choice of guardians so there’s no question as to who you want to raise your kids if something happens to you!
To ensure you legally get the documentation you need for naming guardians for your kids—or if you’d further like to create a comprehensive estate plan that will ensure your children, assets and wishes are protected something the unexpected happen to you, please give me, your friendly neighborhood Marietta estate planning lawyer a call at 770.425.6060 to schedule a no-charge Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session (normally $750 value) with the mention of this article.
It’s “Date Night” Friday…
The one night a week when you and your spouse spend time together…talk about the week…have a nice leisurely dinner…just the two of you.
You’ve lined up a babysitter…
You left money for the pizza delivery guy and a list of contact numbers on the refrigerator door…right under the magnet you bought in Yosemite last summer…
You’ve got everything taken care of…
Except what happens to your children if the unthinkable happens and you never make it back home.
If you have minor children and you’re severely injured or worse in an accident, the police may have no choice but to place your children with Child Protective Services if they don’t have information or documentation indicating who you would want to care for your children.
Once the immediate situation has passed, your children could then be at the mercy of the “system”. There is no way the State can know who would be the best choice as a guardian for your children.
So…what do you need to do?
First, Put Your Guardianship Wishes in Writing
Just telling your chosen guardian that you want them to take care of your children is not enough. What you “said” is not legally sufficient and you could be placing your children at the mercy of the foster care system for a long period of time. You need to have a plan in place, written instructions, and the proper legal documentation in order to ensure that your wishes are followed and that everyone knows what those wishes are.
Another misconception is that if you name a guardian in your Will, that’s all you have to do.
A guardianship provided for in a Will only takes effect after you die. If you become incapacitated but are still alive, it means nothing.
Proper Documentation for Guardianship
A good, solid guardianship plan will allow you to choose guardians either on a permanent or temporary basis and leave instructions for those guardians so they know exactly what you want them to do and under what circumstances.
You need to have at least these documents in place at all times if you have minor children:
1. Legal documentation naming a short term or temporary guardian in case you become incapacitated for a short period of time, or in the interim between your death and the time your permanent guardian can arrive. The best option for this guardianship is someone close by that can take immediate custody of your children and keep them out of the court system. Make sure that you talk to these individuals about your plans and that they are willing to serve as temporary guardians. Have their names at the top of a contact list that is available immediately in the event you are not able to communicate. And always make sure they have a copy of the documents naming them as temporary guardians.
2. Legal documents naming permanent guardians. The same information applies for this document as for temporary guardianship papers. Make sure you talk to the people you select and that they have copies of these documents to provide to the court.
3. Make sure you have written instructions for anyone taking care of your children so they know exactly what needs to be done if something happens to you. Make sure they know who to call. Even if you’re leaving your kids with the 16 year old kid next door to babysit on Friday night, make sure she or he knows what needs to be done if the worst happens. And always have written instructions in place for the person or persons you choose as a guardian to tell them how you want your children to be raised.
4. Always have a Medical Authorization and Power of Attorney for your children, especially if you’re sending them to Grandma’s on their own. These documents will allow the person taking care of your children in your absence to make medical decisions that could be a matter of life and death.
Really makes you think, doesn’t it?
He said/She said will not hold up in court, so if that is the only plan you’ve made for your children if the unthinkable happens, you could be placing them at the mercy of the foster care system without even realizing it.
If all this has made you realize you would like to get your documents in order to make sure that your children and your property are taken care of, call us to schedule your Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session today. We can identify what you need to do to plan for your family’s future and answer any questions you have about an effective estate plan. Our Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session is normally $750, but mention this article and you’ll have a complete planning session with me at no charge. Call 770-425-6060 today and mention this article.