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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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.
Of course it makes sense that Cobb County wills and estates attorney would tell you to create a will, right? Our job is to help people plan for what will happen to their estates once they’re gone. But, having been involved in estate planning in Cobb County for such a long time, it’s clear that message of proper planning is something more people still need to hear.
That’s why I’ve put together a list of four brief reasons that explain why you need a will…and why it must be created sooner, rather than later. There are certainly many other aspects to consider, but these can have a great impact on the future of your estate:
Reason You Need a Will #1: It Saves Money
There are so many financial issues that come into play once an individual has passed away, and it really does take a trained lawyer to understand them and come up with a solid game plan. An estate planning attorney is able to help you take advantage of tax benefits that you might not have otherwise known were available, as well as help you save an incredible amount of money that can be passed on to your heirs.
Reason You Need a Will #2: It Protects Your Family
Not all adults have minor children, but those who do should have a will in place that names who they want to be their child(ren)’s legal guardian in case of death or incapacitation. If you and your wills lawyer in Cobb County have not formally and legally laid out this information, then it will be up to the courts to determine who will raise your children in your absence. Keeping your will updated also protects other family members, as you can determine what goes to whom, rather than having family members cause fights and drama over your estate.
Reason You Need a Will #3: It Keeps Real Estate Intact
Do you own a house or other property? If so, and you pass away without a will, the courts will likely pass co-ownership of that property to your heirs. What happens when some of your heirs want to keep the property and others want to sell it? What if you specifically want a certain heir to inherit your property? What if you don’t want your heirs inheriting the property and would rather leave it to someone outside the family instead? Without a will, the answers to all of these questions will be completely out of your control.
Reason You Need a Will #4: You Might Not Be Allowed to Do It Later
One of the requirements of a valid will is that the person creating it is of “sound body and mind.” If you become victim of an illness or injury that brings your ability to make sound judgments into question, you may be unable to put together a legally binding will later on. Anyone who does not agree with your decisions can simply contest the will, saying that you were not competent to make those choices; and the whole thing could end up in court.
Of course, there are many, many other reasons to meet with an Cobb County lawyer and have an estate plan designed that addresses your unique legal and financial needs. We’re happy to help you get started with the process, so if you have further questions about wills here in Cobb County or you’d like to move forward protecting the people and things you love, please give our office a call at 770.425.6060 and ask to schedule a free Georgia Family Treasures Planning Sessions with the mention of this article ($750 value).