Estate Planning Checklist For The New Year

ID-10043426Now that the champagne has been consumed and the party horns have been put away, it’s time to really begin the New Year.   You may or may not be sticking to those resolutions you made on January 1st, but even if they are a vague memory at this point, I challenge you to add one more resolution to your list — review your estate plan.

Here’s a checklist to get you started:

  1. Look for your estate planning documents and see if they are still in the place where you left them.  Check your fireproof safe, safety deposit box, or other location where you store the actual documents.  In addition, make sure your electronic copies are where you last left them.  You may have chosen to keep them on a CD or on your home computer, in any case, make sure they are still accessible.  Additionally, make sure your heirs, executor, or trust administrator know where they are.
  1. Review your children’s long-term and short-term guardian nominations.  Has anything happened either in your children’s lives or your guardian’s lives that may make you rethink things?  Has the person (people) you’ve named as guardians moved, had a child, divorced, or remarried? If so, does this impact your decision?  Have any changes happened that might make you rethink the people you named as short-term guardians?
  1. Did any of your children turn 18?  If so, you need to make sure that they have the proper legal documents in place.  They may not have many assets so they may not need a full-blown estate plan, but they will need a signed healthcare power of attorney and living trust in case something happens to them.  Without these legal documents in place, you may not be able to speak for them.
  1. Update, review, or consider a pet trust.  If you currently have a pet trust, has anything happened that would make you rethink it?  Did something happen to your pet that may mean there are more medical expenses than you thought? Did you get a new pet this year that you want to be sure will be cared for if something happens to you?
  1. Think through 2014 and list any substantial assets you may have acquired.  If you have new assets, make sure they are transferred into your trust.  If they aren’t, those assets could end up in probate even though you thoughtfully created a trust to avoid this.
  1. Review and think about your asset distribution. Does your trust still reflect your wishes for how you would like to distribute your assets? Again, life events such as births, deaths, marriage and divorce may impact the decisions you made about this.
  1. Check your insurance policies.  Does your life insurance still reflect an amount that would support your family if something happens to you?  Has something happened in the past year that would require you raise that amount?
  1. Are you still happy with your decision regarding who should administer your estate?  Is he or she still willing to accept this duty?  Has anything happened in the last year that would make you wonder whether this person is still able to perform this function?  If you are in doubt, you may consider discussing the person you chose and make changes if necessary.
  1. Update your family’s legacy. Each year you should update your written legacy whether it is in writing or recorded.  Be sure to note family member milestones and accomplishments.   This will most likely be the most valuable part of your estate plan so be sure to spend time on this.

As I tell my clients, your estate plan is a document that changes just as your life changes.  While every change in your life doesn’t mean that you need to update your estate plan, it is important to think through the past year’s events and experiences to make sure that your estate plan will still take care of your family just has you planned.

Atlanta Estate Planning Attorney Asks: Do You Know How to Manage Your Inheritance?

Atlanta Estate Planning Attorney Asks: Do You Know How to Manage Your Inheritance?

stack of gold coins

 

Receiving an inheritance is both an honor and a responsibility, and Atlanta estate planning attorneys constantly see individuals who are just not ready to take that on appropriately. Unlike items of sentimental value, such as jewelry or family heirlooms, a financial inheritance was likely meant to be used toward your own monetary goals. The temptation to simply spend away an inheritance as “bonus” money can be strong, but there are a whole lot of very practical means by which to manage the funds for your own future.

When you receive an inheritance, you should look at how it fits into your overall financial plan. Are you saving for a particular purchase, working toward paying off debt, or building a retirement fund for yourself? These are all potential uses for the money which has been left to you.  You should also be aware that inheriting the funds may have tax implications. Your Atlanta estate planning attorney will be able to guide you when it comes to ways of reinvesting or living off of the inheritance in order to minimize the amount of taxes you will need to pay.

The types of inheritance you receive can certainly vary, with stocks, bonds, bank accounts, and insurance benefits all being possibilities. The different types of sources and dispersal of funds may be governed by certain rules or laws. For example, many people are surprised when their Atlanta trusts and estates attorney tells them they can have a limited amount of time to withdraw funds from an inherited retirement account, like a 401(k), 403 (b), or and IRA. The rules and regulations won’t be the same for every type of account, but if you don’t find out what they are, you can end up paying a lot of penalties and fines out of the money you’ve inherited.

There may also be times when you feel you don’t need the money as much as another beneficiary and are willing to forego your share. This might be for altruistic reasons or simply to protect your own tax situation.  In this case, you can work with your Atlanta estate planning attorney to properly disclaim your inheritance. Doing something along these lines can allow the money to “flow” through you and to another beneficiary, possibly even one of your own children.

When it comes to managing your inheritance, there can be many complications to work through, and one of the best ways to minimize confusion is to work with a qualified and experienced Atlanta estates attorney. Remember, the type of inheritance, your future goals, your tax situation, and even whether or not you “need” the inheritance will all come into play when determining what is the best route for you to take.

Our attorneys are ready to answer your questions and assist you with the implementation of your financial goals. To schedule a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session with the mention of this article, simply call our office at 770-425-6060 or email us at steve@georgiafamilylaw.com.

Should Facebook Play Into Estate Planning For Cobb County Residents?

Should Facebook Play Into Estate Planning For Cobb County Residents?

atlanta digital assets lawyerEstate planning lawyers in Cobb County have always had to keep up with the times, and this is just as true in Georgia as it is anywhere else.  Often these changes include things like new legislation, but there are other factors that need to be considered, such as differing lifestyles and advancing technologies.  Have you ever stopped to wonder what happens to your Facebook when you die?

It’s a question that even the legal world is starting to address.  Of course, Facebook is only one of the social networks out there, and it’s likely that more will emerge, with some taking over the spotlight.  For now, Facebook is certainly one of the most talked about, as Facebook has reached a billion users.  As of November of 2012, Twitter had 500 million, Google+ had 400 million, Skype had 280, and LinkedIn had 175 million.  And this represents only a fraction of the social networks that are out there.

New York, Oklahoma, and Nebraska were some of the first states to start taking a look at how estate planning attorneys might assist clients in designating personal representatives to take over their social media accounts should the original owner become deceased or incapacitated.  Some people are referring to this as an “online executor,” and it’s even being suggested to officially name this person in the will or trust.

What About Facebook?

While it still remains to be seen how things will play out, especially as newer technologies become part of the Cobb County estate planning landscape, Facebook (as well as many other social media networks) already does have a system in place for dealing with the death of a user.

When someone passes away, Facebook allows another person to notify them.  They will need to be able to supply the individual’s full name (used on the account), email address used to create the account, and the URL of the deceased’s profile.  This is done through a form.  In addition, the person must report their relationship with the deceased.

At this point, Facebook will ask what should be done with the profile.  Some families prefer to take the entire thing down.  Others choose the option of “memorializing” the page.  When this happens, Facebook allows only those who were already confirmed as friends to see and post on the page.  Many friends do this as a way to leave memories or express condolences to those left behind.  If the account has been memorialized, it is removed from the general search function.

Another common option is for people to create their own pages in memory of a friend or family member.  This can even be done in conjunction with the memorializing of the original page.  The benefit is that this allows those who were not confirmed friends on the original account to leave messages, post photos, etc.

So, do you need to get a Cobb County will lawyer involved when it comes to your Facebook account?  The answer to that is “maybe.”  If your account is part of your business strategy, for example, you might find it to be even more imperative.  Even for those who just use Facebook and other social media for personal communication, naming an online executor is something to consider.

Our Cobb County wills, trusts and probate law firm can help you get started in creating a digital asset protection plan that best meets your personal or business needs. For more information or to schedule a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, please give our office a call at 770-425-6060. 

Divorce and Estate Planning in Cobb County, Georgia

Divorce and Estate Planning in Cobb County, Georgia


Marietta and Cobb County, Georgia, estate planning attorney and divorce lawyer Steve Worrall reminds us that when a divorce—also called a dissolution of marriage—is imminent, meeting with an estate planning attorney in Cobb County, GA, is probably not at the top of anyone’s list of things to do.  But, it very well should be.  Keep in mind that divorces can take a fairly long time (months or even years) to complete.  It makes sense to consider what would become of your assets, or even your physical self, if you should become incapacitated or die before the divorce has been finalized.

If you do not take steps to change your estate plan in light of an impending divorce, then your soon-to-be ex may still be entitled to everything that was agreed upon when it was originally drawn up (or as the courts deem appropriate if no estate plan is in place).  This means that if he or she has your medical power of attorney, all of your medical decisions will be in the hands of someone who may not have your best interests in mind.  Likewise, if you are incapacitated and your spouse has power over your finances, it’s possible that you will not be happy with the outcome.

Another concern comes up if you and your spouse are co-trustees on various trusts or other accounts.  Again, if you become incapacitated, the spouse could access and use all kinds of property that you would not want him or her to have access to.  This becomes a real worry when you realize that this person could actually buy or sell property or even take out loans without your consent.

And, if you have inherited or stand to inherit from your parents, another potential problem arises.  Should you pass away before the divorce is final, your inheritance may legally pass directly to the person you were in the process of trying to get out of your life.  Even if you have assets that would be passed directly to your minor children, without a proper estate plan in place, the courts will likely put your ex in charge of any money or other property that you leave them.

In order to protect your interests during a divorce, it makes good sense to talk with your estate planning attorney.  A qualified will attorney in Cobb County can offer advice on where you may be vulnerable.  You may need to work with him or her quickly in order to revoke the appropriate documents, and keep in mind that you might need to contact various institutions personally to ensure they are aware of the revocation.

An estate planning attorney who is familiar with the laws specific to Georgia is the best option for ensuring that you are protecting yourself both during and after a divorce in Georgia.

Estate Planning for College Graduates in Georgia

Estate Planning for College Graduates in Georgia

Estate Planning for College Graduates in GeorgiaBy the time you earn your college degree, you may not feel like you have anything to “protect” through estate planning.  After all, the stereotype of the “starving college student” got started for a reason!  But, even if you leave college with a load of student loans and an entry-level job (or hopes of one), you will do yourself a favor by spending just a little time doing some basic estate planning here in Marietta and Cobb County, Georgia.

Marietta GA Estate Planning for Your Physical Self

There are tons of reasons to do your estate planning, and it seems like those most often talked about are passing on your possessions and avoiding taxes.  It can be argued, however, that there is a far more important reason, and it’s one that even young college graduates shouldn’t overlook: your medical decisions.

What happens if you become injured or otherwise capacitated and can’t tell the doctors what you want?  Who makes decisions for you about what kind of life-sustaining measures should be taken or whether or not you consent to surgery?  In most states, an individual’s parents are given this responsibility (although that is not always the case).  Whether you want your parents in that role or someone else, the way to make sure you have a say is to have an estate planning lawyer in Marietta Georgia draw up a legally binding “medical power of attorney.”

Marietta  Estate Planning for Your Finances

It may not seem like you have much of anything to look after when it comes to finances and the recent college grad.  In reality, though, you likely do have some things to consider.  For example, do you have any debt, and if so, do you know what happens to it if you become incapacitated or pass away?  The answer has a lot of variables such as the kind of debt, whether or not you have other authorized users on your account, and more.

One of the reasons you worked so hard for your degree was likely so you could move out into the workforce, and with that comes options such as retirement accounts and insurance.  Each of these includes naming a beneficiary for benefits, and you’ll want to make sure you are up to speed on what it means and have the appropriate people named.  Some accounts don’t have specific beneficiaries, so setting up even a simple will can help make the transfer of those funds much easier and less expensive when the time comes.

Marietta Georgia Estate Planning for Your Partner

Many college graduates are moving forward with their lives as couples, both married and unmarried.  Either way, estate planning in Marietta and Cobb County GA  is an important part of making sure that your partner is cared for and receives the appropriate benefits upon your death. As mentioned above, you want to make sure you have the correct information filled out when it comes to beneficiaries on accounts, but you will probably want to go a step further to ensure that your assets pass in the way you want.  Typically, an unmarried partner is not entitled to the same benefits as spouses, so if you don’t set up the situation appropriately through well-reasoned estate planning, your significant other might be entitled to absolutely nothing!

Estate Planning Matters For College Grads, Too!

Contrary to what you may have heard, estate planning is NOT just for the ultra-wealthy or the elderly.  Estate planning is just as important for the college grad and savvy young adult, too.   Celebrate your recent graduation and your success by getting a complimentary review of your situation. Schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session with the mention of this article and let us help you layout a road map for lasting protection and peace of mind in the future.

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