It will probably cost more initially to set up a well-drafted living trust than to have a will prepared by an Atlanta wills and trusts lawyer. A true cost comparison should include not only the expense to establish the will or trust, but also what it will cost should you become incapacitated and after you die.
The Key Takeaways:
A living trust document has more provisions than a will because it deals with issues while you are living and after you die, while a will only deals with issues that occur after your death.
A properly prepared and funded living trust will avoid court proceedings at incapacity and death. A will provides no such protection and can, in fact, ensure court intervention at both events, which can be very costly (in time, privacy and dollars) to your family.
Instructions at Death and Incapacity
Both a will and a living trust contain instructions for distributing your assets after you die. But a living trust also contains your instructions for managing your assets and your care should you become incapacitated.
A Living Trust Avoids the Costs of Court Interference at Incapacity and Death
A properly prepared and funded living trust (one that holds all of your assets) will avoid the need for a court guardianship and/or conservatorship if you become incapacitated. The person(s) you select will be able to manage your care and your assets privately, with no court interference.
A will can only go into effect at your death, so it can provide no instructions regarding incapacity. In that case, your family would almost certainly have to ask the court to establish a guardianship and/or conservatorship for your care and your assets—a process that is public, time consuming, expensive and difficult to end.
What You Need to Know. The same living trust document that can keep you out of a court guardianship at incapacity can also keep your family out of probate court when you die. But a will must go through probate. Depending on where you live, this can be costly and time consuming.
Costs to Transfer Assets…Pay Now or Later
There may be some minor costs to transfer assets into your living trust when you set it up, and then from your trust to your beneficiaries after you die. But these will be minimal if you and your successor trustee do much of the work yourselves. With a will, the probate court (with its costs and attorney fees) is the only way to transfer your assets to your heirs after you die. So you can pay now to set up your trust and transfer titles, or you can pay the courts and attorneys to do this for you after you die.
Actions to Consider
- Find out what probate costs are where you live. If your state has a fee schedule based on the value of probate assets, this will be fairly easy. If it has “reasonable” fees, ask an attorney to estimate what these fees would be if you die tomorrow and, if you are married, if your spouse dies the next day.
- Similarly, ask your Atlanta living trust attorney to estimate what the costs would be if you become incapacitated tomorrow and, if you are married, if your spouse becomes incapacitated the next day. (Practically speaking, this will be impossible to estimate because no one will be able to predict how long the incapacity will last or what complications might arise. The mere uncertainty of these costs should give you pause—and propel you to plan for incapacity.)
- Add these estimates to the cost of having a will prepared—and compare that to the cost of a living trust. When you make a true comparison, you may conclude that having a living trust actually costs less than a will.
If you’d like to find out whether a will or living trust is the best vehicle for your Atlanta Georgia estate plan, call us at 770.425.6060 and schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session with us.
Working with a will lawyer in Atlanta can bring up some uncomfortable feelings. Those of us in this area of law are very aware of the fact that many people avoid important planning for this very reason. After all, there aren’t a whole lot of people who want to contemplate their own demise, let alone the feelings of those left behind.
Writing your own obituary can actually be kind of a cathartic experience that helps with the estate planning process. It gives you an opportunity to reflect on your own life, as well as to help shape how you will be remembered. It also takes some of the burden off of those who are left behind that might not be up to writing such an intense piece in the middle of grieving. You can write your obituary and have your will lawyer in Atlanta keep it in your file so that it is ready to go when it is needed.
What to Include
You don’t necessarily have to write a full obituary if you don’t want, but it’s a good idea to at least make a list of some key points to make it easier on the person who does the actual writing later. The guidelines for obituaries vary depending on where they will be published. Many funeral homes will place them on their web sites free of charge, but newspapers will charge for including them. A will lawyer in Atlanta will be able to tell you what local outlets expect when it comes to length and cost.
Some of the things that you may want to include are:
- Date and place of birth
- Education and employment background
- Military service
- Achievements and awards
- Family information regarding children, grandchildren, spouses, and parents
- Hobbies and interests
- A photo you would like used
In addition, you may want to include your wishes regarding memorials. If you’d like flowers sent to the church or funeral home, for instance, you can include that. It’s common for people to request that donations be made to a favorite charity “in lieu of flowers,” too.
Again, you may prefer not to write the entire obituary yourself, rather you may choose to just include this information in your documents so that your family and friends have it to refer to when they create the obituary after your death. If you do choose to write your own, you may want to review it with your Atlanta will lawyer every once in a while to ensure that it is kept up to date and reflects any recent changes.
For more information and resources on how to write your own obituary, please see this article on YourTribute.com. If you would like to begin to write your own obituary we recommend that you download an obituary template and read these articles on writing obituaries for more helpful advice.
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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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Will and trust lawyers in the Atlanta, Georgia, area recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to estate plans. Every situation is different, and each person needs individualized attention. While there are services that offer cookie-cutter forms that will supposedly allow you to set up a decent plan, there is no comparison to working with an actual estate planning attorney who can work with human understanding to meet your real needs.
For example, the needs of women have been changing dramatically over the past several years. Gone are the days when a woman was expected to stay home and live on an “allowance” if her husband chose to give her one. Instead, so many women today have their own jobs, their own finances, and their own desire to protect their assets.
Older Women and Widows
In addition, women typically live longer than men. So, even if the husband was originally in charge of working with the will and trust lawyer, once he has passed away, the widow has an entirely new set of needs. She needs to make sure that her estate is able to support her as costs continue to rise, as well as to determine what she would like to have happen to her assets after her own death.
Not all estate planning lawyers in the Atlanta GA area are current with the times, either. There is still a tendency to create trusts that will “take care of them” without them actually having any say over the contents of the trust. Today’s women are often quite capable of managing their own finances and are better served by having flexibility to grow their funds rather than being restricted by the trust.
There are plenty of reasons that a younger woman should to meet with an Atlanta will and trust lawyer, too. In the case of a single mother, assigning a guardian is critical in case of the mother’s death or incapacitation. If a guardian is not legally named, the courts will step in and choose a guardian for the child without taking the mother’s wishes into consideration. An estate planning attorney may also advise younger mothers to consider setting up a trust for their child(ren) and maybe even to look into life insurance policies that could be used to fund the child(ren)’s future.
Whether married or not, many younger women have careers and would benefit from retirement planning in this earlier stage of life. By being proactive early on, a woman can set up her 401k and other accounts to make sure she realizes her long-term financial goals. Looking to retire young, to pay for your kids’ college, or to travel the world? A will and trust lawyer in metro Atlanta can help put things in motion now to make that a reality later.
If you have a significant other in your life, it makes sense for the two of you to work together with your Atlanta estate planning attorney to make sure that your goals align and that your plans are compatible. Your attorney can help you properly deal with “his, hers and ours” to ensure that your assets are titled properly and that your financial house together is built on a solid foundation.
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There are a lot of reasons to consider setting up trusts for your children, but trust and estates lawyers in Atlanta see far too many cases where this just isn’t done. One of the biggest reasons for not setting up a trust could be that you just don’t think you have enough assets to warrant one. We hear about “trust fund babies” and automatically think of the super wealthy, not regular folks like ourselves.
Really, though, even those in the middle class should be thinking about setting up trusts for their children. Even if you don’t have a lot of extra money lying around, you have other assets that can quickly add up in value. Add to that the payout from a life insurance policy, and you suddenly realize that you have quite a bit of financial worth that might be left behind to children who are not ready to handle it. Anything more than about $100,000 is reasonable to consider putting into a trust for children here in Atlanta
What Does the Trust Do?
When you set up a trust with your trust and estates lawyer in Atlanta, you will discover that there are many different ways to use this tool. One of the most important benefits of a trust is that it allows you to stipulate how your children will use the money you leave behind. If your intention is for your kids to use the money for college, but they want to use it to buy a sports car instead, what’s to stop them?
In your case, the trust is what can stop them. You can implement restrictions on how the money is spent. You can, for example, determine that the funds in the trust are designated for specific functions, such as paying for education or day-to-day expenses. In some cases, there is a designated adult to help keep things on track, although this person must be chosen wisely. In other cases, the parent sets age limits on the trust, assuring that the children don’t have access to the money until they have more time to mature.
Protecting the Trust
Another reason to consider a trust is to protect your children’s money from misuse by the adult in charge of the funds. In the case of a “custodial” account, the person in charge can have a lot more say in how the money is spent. This could translate into frivolous expenses, including paying himself or herself an unrealistic amount to “manage” the funds. With a trust, however, the person in charge (the “trustee”) is held more accountable and is required to follow your wishes.
If the trustee does manage the funds poorly, it is also possible that your child would have some legal recourse, as the trust is a legal contract.
Talk to an Atlanta Trust and Estates Lawyer
The best way to determine if a trust is right for you and family is to talk to an Atlanta trust and estates lawyer. Our attorneys are available to sit down with you at no-charge to review your estate plan and consider how a trust or other estate planning tools can best meet your needs. To schedule a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, simply call 770.425.6060 and mention this article.