Estate 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.
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
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.
As an Atlanta area estate planning lawyer, I see many of the same estate planning mistakes made time and again by people who either fail to plan properly or who use “do-it-yourself” estate planning websites or forms in an effort to save money.
Without professional guidance, this can cause more problems for your heirs and end up depleting estate assets by far more than what you could potentially “save” by doing it yourself online.
A qualified Atlanta estate planning attorney can help you avoid these 10 common estate planning mistakes:
1. Failure to leave any written documentation of your assets, including a list of your online accounts and passwords
2. Failure to let family members know where to find important estate planning documents
3. Failure to name a guardian for minor children or choosing a guardian who lives far away without planning for temporary, local guardianship (solved with a comprehensive ProtectMyKids Plan)
4. Failure to name recipients for your personal possessions
5. Failure to designate beneficiaries for retirement and other financial accounts
6. Failure to name secondary beneficiaries
7. Failure to name alternative trustees or executors
8. Failure to properly fund or title assets to any trusts you have established
9. Failure to update your estate plan as life circumstances change
10. Failure to create an estate plan of any kind and instead leaving it to the court system to decide how your assets will be distributed
If you’d like to learn more about how to avoid common estate planning mistakes that could cost your heirs dearly, 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 four people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article!
Estate planning lawyers in Cobb County work daily with families who want to use their wills and trusts to set up guardianships for their minor children. They go through extensive thought, planning, and soul-searching to make just the right choice in who will take over raising their children should they become unable to do so. It rarely occurs to parents that there is a real need to set up temporary guardianships at various times, often for really simple, but overlooked, reasons.
For example, many parents leave their children with a trusted friend or family member when going on a business trip or vacation or even when the parent must spend time in the hospital or recovery. There are also cases where a child leaves the home to live with a family member or friend for various reasons.
In these circumstances, it makes sense to give that person the legal ability to do things such as seek medical care, consent to school field trips, etc. If you are planning to leave your children in someone else’s care for much time, then filling out and signing a temporary power of attorney can make things much smoother should there be any question while you’re gone. For example, the temporary guardian could take your child to the doctor without having to have you make multiple phone calls to attempt to give your consent.
One area in which you might want to get your Cobb County guardianship lawyer involved is when it comes to emergency situations. It is possible to assign a temporary guardian in situations where an emergency has arisen. A useful example is if you happen to be injured and hospitalized while your children are in the care of a babysitter. When you don’t arrive home, the sitter will generally call the police who will have to get protective services involved because there is no legal documentation allowing the children to stay with the sitter. To avoid this, you can create a temporary guardianship document that allows your children to be with someone you trust until you are able to return to them or until their more long-term guardians can take over.
The rights you choose to delegate to the temporary guardian can vary, and it’s a good idea to work with a Cobb County attorney to ensure that you’re following the letter of the law. In most cases, you can choose to give the temporary guardian only specific rights or to delegate all of the rights of a parent to the adult in question, with only a few exceptions. In addition to signatures of involved parties, you will likely need to have the document notarized. Talk to your Cobb County attorney for the specifics on how to get started.