While it doesn’t happen in real life as often as it does in the movies and on soap operas, Marietta GA wills and trusts lawyers do sometimes have to deal with a contested will. Wills and trusts are created in order to ensure that a deceased’s wishes are followed, as well as for the financial benefit of heirs. Additionally, they are often used to protect minor children or those with special needs.
When a will is contested, it’s usually by someone who feels that property left to the will or trust was not bequeathed appropriately. In the case of children, someone may feel he or she is a better-suited guardian than the one a parent named. It’s up to the Marietta wills and trusts lawyer to help ensure that the decedent’s wishes are carried out. This may boil down to refuting claims made by others, but the most important job is to set the will or trust up properly to begin with.
When Can Someone Contest a Will?
There are several reasons that a will can be legitimately contested:
- The decedent didn’t understand the choices he or she was making
- There is a mistake in the will
- It wasn’t properly executed (witnessed, etc.)
- The decent was unduly pressured by someone else
Contesting a will is not easy. Wills and trusts lawyers in Marietta and Cobb County do everything they can to make sure their client’s wishes are outlined according to the letter of the law in order to avoid just such a scenario. It’s also possible for a testator (the person making the will) to include a no-contest clause. The clause clearly indicates that anyone who contests the will forfeits their inheritance. This isn’t a 100% guarantee that no one will contest it, but it does offer some incentive to better follow your wishes. A Marietta Georgia wills and trusts lawyer can work with you to determine if this kind of clause might be beneficial.
When Can Someone Not Contest a Will?
There are reasons to contest a will, but “I don’t like what it says” is not one of them. An individual isn’t allowed to simply drag everyone into court to change a will because he or she isn’t happy with the way the property has been distributed. So, if your sister thinks she should have gotten your mother’s ring, but you left it to your daughter, the sister doesn’t have grounds to contest the will. Additionally, only someone with a direct financial interest is allowed to contest it. That means that a son-in-law cannot contest a will because he thinks his wife was treated unfairly.
Avoiding the Issue Altogether
The best approach, of course, is to work with an experienced Marietta wills and trusts lawyer who can set things up properly from the very beginning. The estate plan should be comprehensive and not leave room for ambiguity to be exploited later. Likewise, the attorney will make sure that each aspect of the process complies with applicable laws. As for the testator, there are things he or she can do to reduce the likelihood of a will being contested, one of the most important of which is to share what the will says and what your reasons are with beneficiaries before you pass away. This leads to less surprises later and also provides a better understanding of the decisions you have made.
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.
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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.
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.