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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Contrary to popular belief, estate planning in metro Atlanta is not just about money or taxes. Far from it. Today, it’s more about protecting your assets for yourself and your loved ones, achieving your financial goals and safeguarding your health care. Money and taxes aside, here are 7 good reasons you need an estate plan:
1. Your Health care. Defining how your medical needs will be addressed in case you cannot make health care decisions for yourself is a primary objective of having an estate plan. You also need to consider how you will meet the costs of long-term care. You need to name someone to make decisions for you and tell them how you want them made. This must be legally documented or the person you want caring for you, cannot.
2. Probate. Probate in metro Atlanta is an unnecessary, public and often expensive court process that takes control out of your family’s hands and puts that control in the hands of a Judge who doesn’t know you or what’s important to you. A main focus of metro Atlanta estate planning is keeping your family out of court. Period.
3. Family feuds. Family fights over how assets are divided and distributed are common when there is no estate plan and/or trusted advisor to guide family members. Sadly enough, these fights happen even when amounts of money are small OR even when there is no money at stake. Some of the biggest fights we’ve seen happen in storage units over sentimental items with no monetary value at all. If you don’t want your family to fight, you plan your estate.
4. Beneficiary forms. You likely have several assets that cannot be passed along in a will alone. These include IRAs, life insurance, retirement plans and annuities, all of which are governed by beneficiary forms that specify who is to receive the assets upon the death of an account holder. Completing these forms properly is estate planning
5. Kids and parents. If you are currently responsible for the care of minor children, elderly parents or a person who has special needs you need a plan for the continuation of that care after you are gone.
6. Managing assets. Is your spouse or other family member capable of managing all your assets? If not, you will need to name someone who is capable of doing this now so your assets will be managed wisely for the benefit of your family in the future.
7. Business succession. If you own a business in metro Atlanta, you will need a succession plan to govern what happens to your ownership shares if something should happen to you.
If you would like to have a talk about guiding your loved ones through estate planning, 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 this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at our metro Atlanta estate planning law firm no charge. Call us today at 770-425-6060 and mention this article.
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Very frequently, we get a call from someone who is ready to make an appointment for a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, but wants to know “How Much Will “It” Cost?” “It” here refers to a will or trust or other legal planning document; i.e., “How Much Does a Will Cost” or “How Much is a Living Trust”? Let’s imagine you have that question. Here is what I would tell you.
Before we talk about fees, it’s important for you to understand how our firm is different than traditional law firms. First of all, we don’t bill anything on an hourly basis, so you never have to worry about any surprises when it comes to what something will cost. Everything is flat fee and discussed up front, so you will never get a surprise bill in the mail. With a traditional law firm, you might expect to pay $500-$3,000 for a typical set of estate planning documents. In many cases, in our experience, those estate planning documents won’t work when your family needs them because they will become stale the minute you walk out the door of your lawyers office – you’ll put the documents away and never look at them again. Your life will change, your assets will change, and the law will change, but those documents are going to be sitting there – staying the same. You are unlikely to ever hear from your lawyer again and won’t update your plan and if you do, you’ll very likely have to pay hourly to take care of any updates with uncertainty about how much that will cost on an ongoing basis. And, if your lawyer goes out of business or dies, you’ll have to start everything over with a new lawyer and pay all those initial fees again. And, this is sad to say, your assets are very unlikely to be owned in the right name at the time of your death, making all the planning you did irrelevant.
At GeorgiaFamilyLaw, we don’t believe that traditional model of estate planning really serves you and your family. Instead, we focus on developing a lifetime relationship with you, giving you affordable access to a lawyer who will help you make the right legal decisions throughout life and then being there for your family when you can’t be.
We do this in a number of ways, including throwing out the time clocks – which means everything we do is billed on a flat fee basis, agreed to in advance, so there are no surprises. It means we have a whole team in place to ensure that every part of your planning is done right, including that your assets are titled in the right name and that your planning continues to work throughout your lifetime. We do that by reviewing your planning at least every three years at no additional charge and if you want to make unlimited changes to your plan on an ongoing basis and be able to consult with us about all of your legal and financial questions that come up during life without paying hourly fees, we have a membership program you can join to ensure your planning works when your family needs it. And last, we don’t focus only on passing on your financial wealth, but we also have a unique process for capturing the assets that are most often lost when someone dies because they are intangible – the intellectual, spiritual and human assets – or who you are and what’s important to you.
All of that’s getting a little ahead of the game though because we can’t get to any of that until you complete a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment and have a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session to determine whether your family is a good fit for our services. Normally, that Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session is $750, but if you found us through this blog post on our website, we will waive that fee for you.
We only have a limited number of these free sessions we can offer each month, so if you want to have your session for no charge you should go ahead, call our Marietta estate planning lawyer’s office at 770.425.6060 and get on our calendar now.
If you’ve already met with your Atlanta estate planning attorney to put together your wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and other long-term plans, then congratulations! You’ve taken a really important step toward being prepared for the future and making things easier on your family and friends should you pass away or become unable to make decisions for yourself.
In order to ensure that your estate plans still fit your needs, you should review them at the beginning of every year. There are certain life changes that can have a huge overall effect on your estate planning, so taking the time to accommodate those changes now will save a significant amount of difficulty later. Have you experienced any of the following in the last year (or longer, if you haven’t updated your plans in a while)? If so, you’ll want to set up a time to chat with your Atlanta wills and trusts attorney right away.
1. Did you experience a change in marital status? If you were married, divorced, or widowed in the previous year, then you will need to update your estate plans to reflect this. It may be necessary to change beneficiaries. Most people who go through a divorce will want to change their wills, trusts, and other important documents to remove the former spouse’s name. In the case of a new marriage, the new spouse will likely be added. If you have been widowed, this may change how your inheritance will be dispersed.
2. Did you become a parent? Whether you gave birth to a child, adopted, or became a step parent in the last year, it makes sense to change your estate plans to reflect this change. Remember that you may want to change the beneficiaries listed on insurance policies and bank accounts, as well as to name guardians and possibly set up trusts to care for your child’s future should you be unable to do so personally.
3. Have you changed jobs or retired? Your retirement plans and 401Ks may be affected by the change in employment status. Your Atlanta estate planning attorney can offer you advice on whether to roll over an existing plan or to start a new one, as well as how to deal with dispersal if it is time for your to start drawing on your retirement or pension plan.
4. Have you sold or purchased property? There are specific laws that pertain to the inheritance of property, as well as the taxes involved. Adding or removing property from your existing estate plan can help to avoid unnecessary taxes and to protect your heirs’ interests in the property.
There are a number of changes which can impact your estate plan. By working with a qualified Atlanta attorney, you can help to clarify what needs to be done to keep yourself on track and on target for your estate planning goals.
I find as an Atlanta GA trusts and estate planning lawyer that many people don’t realize the privacy issues that will face their family should they die without a living trust. That’s simply because upon your death, everything you are leaving behind to your loved ones automatically becomes a matter of public record—even if you have a will or other estate planning documents in place!
While this may feel like a huge violation from a privacy perspective, it also presents a safety issue to those inheriting your estate. There are a lot of unscrupulous people who prey on widows and other beneficiaries and try to separate them from their inheritance.
So why does the County make this information available to the public?
The lack of privacy is understandable if you know the true purpose of probate. One of the primary purposes of probate is to make sure the creditors of the deceased person have an easy way to collect any debts they are owed from their estate. For that reason alone, the probate process must be open and public.
This information is also made public so the creditors of your beneficiaries have notice that they are inheriting an estate. Under this scenario, the creditors could bring an immediate claim against your beneficiary, which may ultimately result in your beneficiary never receiving the inheritance you wanted to leave them.
However, to be clear, I am in no way advocating that debts go unpaid. In fact, you should instruct your executor to pay your debts. But, wouldn’t you rather direct how this process goes rather than leaving it to the courts?
One way to do that while simultaneously stopping the violation of privacy and loss of control of your estate is to create a living trust.
Unlike a will, a living trust is a private document that will not become a matter of public record because it does not have to be filed with the probate court. Therefore, you can name beneficiaries and provide gifts while still attaining privacy since only the trustees and those involved in trust administration will know the contents of a living trust. This means that no creditor of yours or your beneficiaries, no disgruntled relative, no scam artist, and no nosey neighbor will ever know the details of your financial history.
Remember, there are people out there who make a living preying on young or vulnerable people that have just inherited something from an estate. They troll these public records daily looking for victims of their next heist or scam. Fortunately, with a bit of planning, you can protect your family from such privacy violations that accompany the probate process. I recommend talking to your Atlanta or Marietta trusts lawyer about living trusts and how they can help your family if something unexpectedly happens to you.
Fortunately, we’ve made that process easier than ever by making 5 free Georgia Family Treasures Planning Sessions available this month to readers of our blog. Simply call 770-425-6060 and mention this article to reserve your spot. Your family will thank you for it.