Residents of Georgia often find themselves procrastinating, even if they know the importance of meeting with a wills and trusts lawyer. The whole subject just seems so complicated, and there are certainly more enjoyable ways to spend one’s time then pondering death and taxes. The fact that things can be really confusing seems to give us all the encouragement we need to just tell ourselves that we’ll take care of the estate planning stuff “later.”
Of course, you know what I’m going to say next! You never know when “later” is going to make an appearance, and if you’re not set up in advance, all the legal advice about wills and trusts in the world won’t be of any help. Yes, this truly is something you need to do in advance. Perhaps demystifying some of the terms involved with wills and trusts will give you the confidence you need to take the next step.
Will vs. Living Will
Most people probably get that “will” and “living will” are two different things, but a whole lot of them couldn’t actually tell you what exactly makes them different. The term “will” is likely most familiar, as we’ve all seen them discussed on TV and in the movies. It’s that document that is used to tell the courts what should be done with a person’s assets after he or she dies.
In the movies, there’s usually a dramatic reading of the will with close-ups of shocked widows and angry siblings who have been unceremoniously cut out of the family fortune. While wills and trusts lawyers in Georgia do see their share of hurt feelings and miscommunications, things are rarely as dramatic as they are on the big (or small) screen.
While a will is used after death, a living will is not. It’s actually a document that includes a variety of instructions to be followed if you are alive but unable to speak for yourself for some reason. This is usually referred to as being “incapacitated.” You could be too ill to communicate, in a coma due to an accident, or some other variant that renders you unable to let doctors and others know what your wishes are regarding healthcare and other major decisions.
Trust vs. Living Trust
You may see a bit of a pattern here. A trust is generally used as a way to disperse assets after the owner has passed away. A trustee is put in charge of following very specific instructions that have been put in place to direct how the money and other assets in the trust are to be used.
A living trust, on the other hand, is used to protect many different kinds of assets during the owner’s lifetime. A Georgia wills and trusts lawyer may recommend a living trust for many different reasons. For example, this kind of trust can be used to allow the individual to stay in his or her home while transferring ownership.
Each of these types of wills and trusts is something that should be discussed with a knowledgeable attorney in the state where you reside, as laws will differ throughout the country.
We are here to answer your questions and to help you create a plan to make things easier on your loved ones if the unthinkable happens to you. Please call us at 770-425-6060 and we’ll give you a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, valued at $750, for NO CHARGE. This session will educate you so you can make the best decisions for your family.
One of the many documents a trust attorney in the Atlanta area will encourage clients to put together is a living will. These documents have been considered incredibly important in both the legal and medical fields for 40+ years. A living will provides you with the opportunity to make your medical wishes known should you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions at the time. A living will often considers things like whether or not you want to be on life support and how you feel about doctors taking “extraordinary” measures to prolong your life.
There are a lot of positives to a living will. For example, it can take some of the burden off of your loved ones who are likely already in a state of shock over your incapacitation. In addition to worrying about your health and grieving over your condition, the people closest to you may also be called upon to make incredibly difficult decisions regarding your health care. Choosing to end life support for a spouse or parent is a heart-wrenching decision, and if you can take that burden from your loved one, then why wouldn’t you?
A recent Wall Street Journal article takes a deeper look into the usefulness of living wills, and some of their findings are contrary to popular belief about these documents. You can take a look at the article, “A New Look at Living Wills,” but some of the basic points made include:
- Living wills may be too “black and white,” while actual medical emergencies often fall into a “gray area.”
- Doctors have a limited ability to predict a patient’s outcome, so it is difficult to use their best guesses as a measure against which to determine if life support should be withdrawn or not.
- In addition to doctors and patients, ethicists are weighing in on the usefulness of living wills, and many of them are leaning away from using them at all.
One of the biggest problems with a living will is that the wording can be rather vague. This can be especially true if you use a fill-in-the-blank document you find online, rather than working with a knowledgeable trust attorney in Atlanta. In order to make your living will as helpful to your loved ones and medical staff as possible, it may be a good idea to be very thorough and to define what you mean by things like “quality of life” and “reasonable chance.”
Many people are moving toward these more comprehensive living wills, although it is certainly difficult to anticipate every situation that can arise. According to the WSJ articles, some people are now foregoing the living will altogether and opting instead to have their estate planning attorney assist them in naming a health care agent with whom you discuss your views and values before leaving the decision-making responsibilities in his or her hands.
If this is something you would like to explore further in your particular situation, or you have further questions about creating a living will here in Atlanta, please feel free to give our Marietta estate planning and elder law firm a call at 770-425-6060 and ask to schedule a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session with the mention of this article.
Here in Atlanta, living will attorneys know full-well the ramifications of not planning ahead for an unexpected disability. Even those clients who understand the importance of estate planning tend to overlook what would happen if they should become unable to care for themselves. It’s not the happiest thought, but the reality of not having a living will can make the situation considerably worse for both you and your family.
A major disability can be devastating to an entire family, both emotionally and financially. Pre-planning for the possibility can reduce some of the heartache that often accompanies these situations.
You may assume that your spouse would simply make decisions for you if and when a major problem takes place. Ask yourself, if he or she really wants to be responsible for some of those decisions. For example, if you were in a coma, how would your spouse react to making the choice of whether or not to stop life support? Even if your loved ones know your wishes, simply having them in a formal document can remove a considerable burden and amount of potential guilt.
A living will attorney can help you to draw up these documents so that your family does not have to make these choices. The attorney can also assist by offering insight into situations you likely wouldn’t have considered. Are you opposed to a blood transfusion? Are you adamantly against ending life support? What needs to happen if you become mentally disabled? Who should be given power of attorney over your other health-related issues?
Having a major illness or injury is very expensive and can keep you from working during and after hospitalization. Your Atlanta GA living will attorney will also advise you on what needs to happen financially if you are unable to take care of your own needs. For example, you will likely set up a power of attorney, as well as to determine how long-term care will be paid for. Will you need to sell your house? Will you be eligible for disability insurance? These are all questions that the living will attorney will go over with you.
There are plenty of other considerations that need to be addressed by a Atlanta Georgia living will attorney. From what will happen to your children to where you might end up in nursing care, there are choices that need to be made. Planning in advance with your attorney in Atlanta will ensure that your wishes are being followed if the time should come.
If you are ready to get started in creating a plan that will protect you and your family should incapacity or disability occur, give our office a call at 770-425-6060 and ask to schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session. These sessions are normally $750, but you can come in free with the mention of this article. However, these sessions are limited to 10 per month so call today!
April 16th is National Health Care Decisions Day, which encourages local residents to have open conversations with their loved ones about their most personal wishes for health care, including thoughts on life support, feeding tubes, organ donation, long-term care and what is “qualify of life”.
ATLANTA, GEORGIA (03/30/2012)- April 16th is National Health Care Decisions Day, which encourages local residents to have tough conversations with their loved ones about their most personal wishes for medical care.
These conversations include wishes and preferences about life support, feeding tubes, organ donation and what you consider to be “quality of life” in the event of a long-term incapacity.
According Steve Worrall, an estate planning attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, these conversations may be hard to have, but it’s the only way to make sure your wishes are honored and that your loved one’s stay together in a medical emergency.
“I’ve seen many families torn apart trying to figure out what their loved one ‘would have wanted’ during a medical crisis,” says Worrall. “In some cases, families even spend years battling in court for control, much like Terri Shiavo’s family did,” he adds.
Worrall says strife over health care decisions can be avoided by letting someone know your wishes and clearly documenting them. He says that legal tools such as a Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive and HIPAA forms are easy ways to let doctors and family members know how to manage your care if the unthinkable happens.
“Medical crises can be emotional, and the only way to guarantee your wishes are honored and that your family stays together is to let everyone know exactly what you want and who you trust to make those decisions. It will make life easier for everyone in a true emergency,” says Worrall.
For more information on documenting your personal health care wishes or about National Health Care Decisions Day, please visit Worrall’s website (www.georgiafamilylaw.com) or the National Health Care Decisions Day website (http://www.nhdd.org/).
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 Lawyers.com 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.
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 http://bit.ly/gNUxIJ.
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 http://bit.ly/dGpJM1.
All my best,