Add Estate Planning To Your List of Resolutions This Year, Says Marietta Wills Lawyer

Dreamstime_17212044 Resolving to get your legal affairs in order is one of the most important things you can do to make sure your family, wishes and assets are protected if something unexpectedly happens to you this year. 


Marietta, Georgia-   While many people focus on getting out of debt or getting organized for the New Year, estate planning is an equally important personal finance goal that should make every adult’s to-do list.

That’s because according to Marietta estate planning lawyer, Steve Worrall, far too many area residents are without plans to protect their family, wishes and assets should something unexpectedly happen to them.  A recent survey further reveals that only 35% of adults have a basic will or other estate planning documents in place should death or incapacity occur.

“Contrary to popular belief, estate planning isn’t just for the rich,” says Worrall.  “At a bare minimum, every adult needs a basic will, power of attorney and health care directives in place to avoid a legal and financial nightmare if something unexpectedly happens to them,” he  adds.

So what are these documents and how do they help you in a time of emergency?  Worrall explains the following:

  • Will- A will is a document that specifies what should happen to your assets if you pass away.  A will may also contain guardian nominations to dictate who will care for your minor children if something unexpectedly happens to you.
  • Trust- A trust is a legal entity that can hold title to property. With your assets securely placed in a trust, you can minimize your financial exposure to lawsuits, divorce and bankruptcy while alive.  Upon death, a trust will keep your affairs private and out of the probate court.  It also allows a great deal of control for people who do not want their inheritance going outright to their heirs if something unexpectedly happens.
  •  Power of Attorney- A power of attorney or POA gives explicit permission for someone to access your personal accounts, pay your bills and handle all other financial and legal affairs if you are incapacitated in an accident but do not die.   Under the current privacy laws, even a spouse may have a hard time accessing personal information without such documentation in place.
  • Advanced Health Care Directive- Also known as a living will, this document specifies your healthcare wishes if you are incapacitated in an accident and unable to speak for yourself.  Such wishes may range from whether you want certain medications administered to when (if at all) to start life support in critical situations.   This document also allows you to appoint the person best suited to carry out such wishes should incapacity occur.

“Accidents and serious illness happen every day without warning,” says Worrall.  “That’s why it’s so important for any adult who has not tackled their estate planning to add it to their resolutions this year.  It will save their family from years of headaches and thousands of dollars in unexpected costs should the unthinkable happen”.

About Steve Worrall

Stephen M. Worrall is an experienced family law and wills, trusts and estate planning attorney in Marietta and Atlanta, Georgia. He concentrates his practice in all areas of family estate planning, including including wills, trusts, guardians for minor children and incapacitated adults, probate and trust administration, and all areas of family law, including divorce, adoption and prenuptial agreements. He also helps families plan to protect their assets and their children in the event of their death or incapacity, and to transfer their whole wealth – their financial, intellectual, and spiritual assets – to their loved ones.

A gift to help with your New Year’s resolution


If one of your New Year’s resolutions this year includes getting your financial and legal affairs in order should something unexpectedly happen to you, I have a gift I think you’ll enjoy.

To be specific, I just put the finishing touches on a free report I wrote entitled, “What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt Your Family: 5 Easy Ways to Make Sure Your Children, Wishes and Assets Stay Protected Should Something Happen to You”.

In this report you’ll learn 5 easy ways to get your legal and financial affairs in order, just in time for the New Year.  You won’t even need the help of an attorney for some of these important steps; simply follow my instructions in the guide and cross each item off of your “to-do” list as you go.

You’ll also discover:

  • How to legally name guardians for your minor children in a way that will hold up in a court of law
  • The difference between a will and a trust, and which tool you really need to make sure your family, wishes and assets stay protected upon your passing.
  • The details about simple document you can use to give someone legal permission to act on your behalf if you were incapacitated in an accident but did not die (…and without this document, no one will be able to help you under the current HIPPA laws!)
  • How to amass your “entire family wealth” and leave a true legacy to your children (hint: you don’t have to be wealthy and it’s easier than you think!)
  • And so much more!

To grab a copy of this report, simply visit

I’d also like to encourage you to forward this to any of your family or friends who really need to get their affairs in order just in time for the New Year.  I would especially encourage you to reach out to anyone who has minor children, owns their own home, cares for aging parents or is approaching retirement age themselves.

Again, you can get a copy of this free report now by going to 

All my best,


“Family Wealth Legacy” Stories

As I have posted before, estate planning should be about more than just passing on financial wealth; it should also capture those intangible and uniquely personal, spiritual and intellectual assets such as a person’s values, experiences, and thoughts about the loved ones he or she is leaving behind. In our office, we help our clients capture and preserve those family wealth assets, using a tool we call  "Priceless Conversations." The following article, by Kathy Hansen and posted on her blog, A Storied Career, discusses the importance and methods of capturing those stories:

I so wish I had captured more of my family’s stories, especially those of my dad and his five brothers and sisters who are now all gone but one. In her article in the Christian Science Monitor, Marilyn Gardner writes about senior citizens who are ensuring their stories will live on.

Gardner cites Hedrick Ellis, who hired a personal historian to interview his parents.

“You hear these stories over the years, but nobody ever really gets around to writing them down,” says Mr. Ellis of Arling­ton, Mass. “This seemed like an easy and practical way of capturing them.”

Gardner quotes Paula Stahel, president of the Association of Personal Historians, who niotes “an increase in the number of elders who want to be sure their stories are handed down.” Another personal historian, David O’Neil, is quoted as observing that “it’s always a baby boomer who has children and aging parents. They look at their parents and their children and wonder, ‘What are my children going to remember about my own parents, and how do I capture and preserve their life stories?’ As the World War II generation is passing away, there are a lot of efforts to record their stories.”

Gardner writes that “many people don’t think they have stories to tell,” but most find they have much more to relate than they imagined.


Gardner cites Project Storykeeper, the mission of which “is to preserve our families’ heritage. We believe that by capturing the life stories of our oldest and wisest citizens future generations can benefit from a wealth of experience and wisdom.” The project provides certified audio-biography training, support and audio tools to StoryKeepers “to preserve the past, enrich the present and strengthen the future — one story at a time.” StoryKeepers are people who record life stories and connect the family to hear them.

Dennis Stack, founder of Project Storykeeper, offers tips in the extended portion iof this entry for interviewing folks about their stories.

The “Family Wealth Legacy” of this entry’s title comes from a blog entry in Family Wealth Secrets Online Magazine.

“It’s about capturing the assets that are most often lost when someone dies … the intellectual, spiritual and human assets that make up a great majority of our family’s wealth and passing them on as well,” writes blogger and attorney Alexis Neely. She urges a “Family Wealth Legacy Interview process” at the end of planning an estate with a loved near the end of his or her life to “help you capture the most valuable family wealth you have and pass that on for successive generations by building a legacy library that will be far more valuable than any dollars you could ever leave behind.”


Dennis Stack’s Tips for Interviewing people about Their Stories:

  • Keep the process simple. The best stories come out when people are comfortable.
  • Know your equipment. Regardless of the type of device you use, know how it works. If you aren’t fumbling with the equipment, storytellers will forget they are being recorded and just be themselves.
  • Not everyone wants to be on camera. Many storytellers feel uncomfortable in front of a camera.
  • Really good stories cannot be told to a wall. Storytellers need to see, hear, and feel the reaction to their stories.
  • When recording stories, keep it one on one. Too many people in the room can cramp the storyteller’s style and can make recording difficult because of “cross-talk” and “overtalk,” which end up as garble on the recording.
  • Keep interview segments to 30 to 45 minutes. It’s much better to have several short sessions than a couple marathons. The time between the interviews (one or two days at most) is important to the process, allowing the storyteller to reminisce more deeply. Each successive session becomes more engaging.
  • Don’t ask the deep-meaning questions too soon. If you let the stories develop and unfold, the storyteller’s ability to explain nuanced values and wisdom will come naturally.
  • Keep the stories short. It’s easier to manage smaller audio files, so be ready to stop and start the recorder to mark each segment. Stories can even have chapters, which reduces the time of each recording. Try to keep stories under five minutes each.

What Every Mom Needs to Know…to Take Charge of Her Life, Her Children And Her Financial Future

Alexis Martin Neely, a mom and a lawyer, is hosting a free teleseminar for moms because 69% of you don’t have your financial house in order and haven’t even legally named guardians for your kids.

And, she is committed to doing something about the growing number of elderly women entering poverty in their 70s and 80s. The time for you to take action is now!

Here are 7 reasons why you should reserve your spot today…

    1. …You’ll learn how to make sure your children’s future is not left in the hands of a broken down court system and a Judge who doesn’t know you or your kids.

    2. …You’ll discover how to legally keep your family wealth in your pocket and out of the government’s.

    3. …You’ll hear the secrets that guarantee you won’t become one of the 20% of elderly women living in poverty … the time to secure your future is NOW!

    4. You’ll discover how to pass on your family’s WHOLE WEALTH not just your money…Make sure your children are raised with your values, stories, insights and experiences.

    5. …You’ll discover exactly how to take control of your finances if something should happen to your spouse.

    6. …You’ll discover why paying estate taxes is completely voluntary…you might think you aren’t subject to estate taxes, but you’re probably wrong,…discover why.

    7. … You’ll discover how you can protect your kids’ inheritance from a divorce or a lawsuit.

This FREE Mom’s Only Teleseminar will show you how to get your financial house in order, take control of your finances and secure your children’s future.

Here are the details.

Date: September 17, 2008
1:00 PM- 2:15 PM EDT

Register now to avoid missing this
important event for moms!

Alexis only has 200 lines available for this call and reservations
are made on a first come, first served basis.

If you can’t wait for the call, please fill in your email address in the box on the upper right, labeled "Sign Up For Our Email Newsletter," select "Moms Freedom Call MP3" from the available options on the next page you see and I will send you an MP3 of a prior call.

Don’t Wait to Create Your Own Last Lecture

Randy Pausch died on July 25, 2008.  You know Randy because, after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and being given a diagnosis of 3-6 months to live, he gave his “Last Lecture” to a packed classroom at Carnegie Mellon where he was a professor.

His Last Lecture went on to be translated into 7 languages, made into a book, over 10,000,000 people watched the video, the NY Times created a contest around it, and it even garnered him an appearance on Oprah.

Randy never intended so many people to receive this last lecture.  As he says, he wrote it for only three people, his sons.

What was it we loved so much about Randy Pausch’s brave attempt to cram a lifetime of lessons for his children into the limited time he knew he had left?

It has some connection to the recent global study conducted by HSBC Insurance, which indicated that 90% of people surveyed globally want to leave behind something far more valuable than their money.  They want to leave behind their perspective on life.

Interesting note:  In the US, the number of people wanting to primarily leave behind the almighty dollar was a little higher with 26 percent of pre-retirement folks and 39 percent of retirees wanting to focus on the money they’ll leave behind.

The vast majority of people said what they want to leave behind is what Randy Pausch so brilliantly left for his children.  It’s far more valuable than money.  But, unlike money, it can be difficult to capture and pass on.  And most of us will fail miserably because we won’t be given 3-6 months to live as Randy was, and so day by day, we’ll live our lives never thinking about the end.  And, then, it will be too late.

My dad certainly would have said that he wanted his heirs to inherit his perspective on life and, yet, what did he do to ensure that would happen?  Nothing.  He didn’t leave letters, video recordings, audio recordings or anything that would remind us of what he would do, think or say in any given situation.

Sure, we have our memories, but those become twisted over time by our own perceptions (or misperceptions) as they may be.  As a result, our children and their children will never have any real idea about who he was and what’s important to him.

All of that of course is water under the bridge.  Nothing can be done about it now.  But it’s not too late for you.

If you are part of the vast majority of people who say you want to leave behind something much greater than your money, what are you doing about it?  And when are you starting?

Your Personal Family Lawyer has a simple process he or she will use with you called a Priceless Conversation that in just 30 or so minutes will capture, record and document your own Last Lecture.  And over your lifetime, each year you can have a new Priceless Conversation and create a true Legacy Library for the people you love.

SOURCE: Family Wealth Matters

What are Priceless Conversations?

Dreamstime_2632627 One of the most unique and special parts of my estate planning practice are what are known as "Priceless Conversations." These were the creation of Scott Farnsworth of Sunbridge Legacy. The following is excerpted from an article written by Andrew Gluck, Editor at Large, Financial Advisor Magazine, about Scott and these fantastic tools for capturing and passing on our entire Family Wealth, those assets that are most often lost when someone dies … the intellectual, spiritual and human assets that make up a great majority of our family’s wealth.

When he was just eight years old, Scott Farnsworth’s mother died of cancer. “Just before she died, my mom gave my dad a letter and instructed him to give it to me when I turned 12,” says Farnsworth. “As you can imagine, that is one of the treasures in my life to this day.”

Farnsworth says the letter was written to a 12-year-old on the cusp of becoming a teenager. “She told me how to be a good person,” Farnsworth says. “She said that even though she couldn’t actually be there with me, that a part of her would be with me always.”

The letter helped shape Farnsworth not just personally but professionally: As an estate planner, Farnsworth has created SunBridge Legacy Builder Network, a service that trains advisors in a different style of estate planning. His mission is to allow people to experience what he did as a 12-year-old boy, to create estate plans that profoundly affect your heirs and reflect your values.      

Farnsworth, an attorney and certified financial planner licensee, says he started the service after a client questioned him sharply about how his trusts were connected to the life he had lived. “I couldn’t really answer him,” he admits. “So that has been my journey for the last 12 years.

“We all have a larger wealth that goes beyond money and property. It includes the wisdom we acquired, the insights that have allowed us to make better decisions as we get older, and our heritage. When you add that in with money and property, then you pass along real wealth.” . . .

Farnsworth has created a series called “Priceless Conversations” in which an advisor presents a client with questions that inspire deep conversation. The series focuses on a range of topics, including your wisdom, values, stories, the meaning of success, the meaning of money and your children. (The full list of topics is available at

My wife and I spent about 40 minutes on the phone with Farnsworth to go through the “kids” conversation. I had interviewed him a day earlier and my wife had never previously spoken with him. I told my wife, Mindy, almost nothing about what we were doing, just that it was about our estate plan. I just gave her the one-page sheet of 12 questions Farnsworth had e-mailed me and asked her to spend some time thinking about the answers.

Despite the fact that we were not engaging Farnsworth, did not know him and were doing this all over the phone instead of in person, his questions about what we wanted for our kids if we were to die today propelled my wife and I into an emotion-filled conversation about 15-year-old Alison and 14-year-old Jason. We articulated our views on topics that we had never before actually spoken about, like the role of religion in our lives, what we wanted the guardians of our children to know and how we might be able to support our two children’s differing needs.

Some of the questions included:

    • Please tell me a little about each of your children, especially the things you admire and appreciate about them and their talents and strengths. What makes you proud to be their parents?
    • What values, principles and life lessons would you most want to pass on to your children if you could? What makes those things important to you? How will those things make a difference in their future happiness?
    • In what religion or spiritual tradition have your children been raised? How important is your religion or spiritual tradition to you and your family? What are your wishes regarding their future participation in a religion or spiritual tradition?
    • Are there specific people you have not named as guardians but you want to ensure that your children will maintain a relationship with?

By the time the conversation was done, Mindy and I had thought about ways that we could support our children’s different needs. Alison, an adventurer, could be given a travel stipend annually. Jason, a doer, could be treated to semi-annual visits with successful friends of mine who could become professional coaches. Money could be earmarked to fund memberships at places of worship and for education of the next generation.

By promoting a discussion about what is important to Mindy and me—and not just focusing on the mechanics of protecting our estate from taxes—the estate plan we devise can be focused on supporting our values, making the plan far more meaningful to my wife, myself and our children.

Farnsworth cites many such stories. There’s the divorced entrepreneur with three sons, who set up an advisory board that would assist her children if they ever wanted to start their own businesses. A devout Catholic, she also drafted an estate plan that provided funding for her children to visit sites of religious significance…

Farnsworth sent Mindy and me a CD with the conversation we had about our children. We’ve put it in a safe place for the kids to listen to one day.

SOURCE: Financial Advsior Magazine and Sunbridge Legacy