Consider Your Atlanta Estate Plan Before You Travel

Consider Your Atlanta Estate Plan Before You Travel

Atlanta estate planning law office

 

We are fast approaching the holidays, when travel is the busiest and careful planning is necessary to nab the best airfare or book that New Year’s beach cottage before it slips away.  One thing that is probably not on your travel to-do list is estate planning, but it should be so you can travel with peace of mind.

Here are some tips to pack away your worries before you board that flight:

Complete your estate plan.  If you’ve been putting it off, now is the time to complete your estate plan.  If money is a consideration, then start with those the most important items: a will, power of attorney and advance health care directives.

Update an existing estate plan.  Has something changed in your life since you last updated your estate plan?   A birth, a death, a marriage, a divorce?  Each of these triggers your need to update your estate plan.

Establish guardianship for minor children.  If you have ever gotten a nagging fear about what would happen to your children if something were to happen to you, then use that fear to follow through on naming a guardian for raising your minor children.  If you have young kids, there is never an excuse for you to neglect this important step.

Review beneficiaries.  Beneficiaries of your retirement accounts, life insurance and other assets must be kept current or your assets will not pass to them upon your death.  If you have minor children, you will need to set up a trust and name the trust as beneficiary so your assets can pass without court intervention.

Review/update incapacity documents.  Two very important health care documents – a durable power of attorney for health care and a HIPPA Authorization – will determine who can make medical decisions for you and who has access to your medical records in case of incapacity.  Be sure you have these documents before you travel and that the person/people named are still valid.

Review/update insurance.  Does your life insurance coverage still meet your family’s needs?  If not, it is time to update your insurance policy before you hit the road.

In addition, you need to be sure you have an organized file of all your accounts and estate planning documents and you need to tell your family where they can locate the file if and when it becomes necessary.

The time to create a plan that spells out how you will pass on your values, beliefs and your money to your children is now.  You can begin by calling our Atlanta estate planning law office today at 770-425-6060 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Georgia Family Legacy Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next three people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this blog post.

Image courtesy of Nujalee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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. 

Estate Planning for Women | Atlanta Will and Trust Lawyer

Estate Planning for Women | Atlanta Will and Trust Lawyer

atanta estate planning womenWill 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.

Younger Women

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

What Does the Mayan Calendar Have to Do With Your Estate Planning?

What Does the Mayan Calendar Have to Do With Your Estate Planning?

mayan 2012

2012: End of the World or New Opportunity?

It’s no secret that 2012 marks the end of the Mayan Calendar.  What that means, however, is anyone’s guess.  Maybe it means that the end of the world is imminent (though that’s not likely).  Perhaps the Mayans just got tired of plotting time and decided to continue writing their calendar in a few hundred years.  Maybe, just maybe the last day of the Mayan Calendar signifies a new awakening and a higher consciousness that will usher in a new era for humanity.

Or maybe it’s just a day on the calendar, and we can make it whatever we want it to be.

How Will Your World End?

Ayn Rand wrote one of the most widely read novels in history when she penned Atlas Shrugged.  In an interview, Rand once said something to effect that the world would end when she died.

Does that statement make Ayn Rand the most self-centered person ever?  Probably not, though she did write another book on the virtues of selfishness.  That’s beside the point.  What Rand meant by her statement is that at death, her world would end.  And since we all live in our own worlds . . . since it’s impossible to live in anyone else’s world or to walk in another person’s shoes, death is the end of the world for all of us.

Have you ever thought of it in those terms?  If not, maybe 2012 will be the beginning of some new beliefs for you.

The Point to All of This

There is a point to all of this.  Specifically, it’s this: Life is important.  The importance is defined by the meaning we choose to assign to events, and it is defined by the decisions we make and the impact we have on our loved ones.

We are generally good at making choices.  We choose careers and modes of productivity to impact our planet, sometimes even long after we’re gone.  We choose spouses, friends, and hobbies.  Life is about choice.

In some sense, death is about choice, too.

Choices That Take Effect When Our Worlds End

For far too long, estate planning has been considered something that only the elderly need—for those people who are established and on the downhill side of life.  Fortunately, there has been a popular movement aimed at showing young professionals and families that they too need estate planning, especially when young children are involved.

The reason is simple: An estate plan puts you in the driver’s seat.  It allows you to choose who will raise your children, who will manage your assets, and who will carry on your legacy if your world happens to end prematurely.  These are all choices you can make today that will have the effect of law, whether you pass away next week or in sixty years.  And if you fail to make these choices, they will be left to a judge—a total stranger with the discretion to act as he or she chooses without regard to what you “might have wanted.”

Make 2012 Count

You can make 2012 count in a major way by starting the year off with bold action.  Don’t wait to create a plan.  Waiting will never help when it comes to estate planning, and it could be absolutely catastrophic in some cases.  Make your plan now.  Set the wheels in motion so that if anything does happen to you, you’ll be remembered as the person who made sure everyone was cared for.

If you decide to create an estate plan this year, call our offices and mention this article by name.  If you do that, we’ll provide you with a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session absolutely free of charge (normally valued at $750).  You literally have nothing to gain by waiting . . . so don’t.

Atlanta Estate Planning Lawyer Raises Blunt Questions About Protecting Your Kids Should Something Happen to You

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I must warn you: these questions are blunt and to the point: if you are a parent of minor children, protecting your family and being the best parent you can be means that you MUST have a comprehensive and up-to-date estate plan so they are prepared for a life without you!

One of my greatest passions as an Atlanta estate planning lawyer is educating parents about how important it is to prepare for their untimely death. Not a fun topic I realize. But it just takes one sad circumstance of parents passing away and leaving the kids to deal with squabbling relatives to understand how critical this is for their well-being.

The possibility of leaving this world can be difficult to accept and many people choose to not think about it. Unfortunately, this fear often prevents people from taking the proper precautions they need to take.

I speak at various groups around Marietta, Cobb County and in Atlanta and usually deliver this message in an upbeat and cheerful way so people can see that preparing their estate plan for their family is a positive and joyful experience.  But for today’s post I’m going to give you the real-deal about Atlanta GA estate planning. Blunt, and to the point.

Essentially, it’s critical for everyone to understand the importance of estate planning for those we love – especially our children. As you can imagine, children are incredibly vulnerable if you die while they are still minors due to the simple fact that they are unable to take care of themselves.

Here are a few cold-hard facts about what could happen if you passed away suddenly without a will or trust in place.

1.      A judge that doesn’t know you or your children will decide who raises them.

If something happens to you, who is going to step up?  Is it the person that you want to raise your children?  If you don’t have an estate plan in place, will your relatives squabble over who is or isn’t responsible for raising them? Do you really want to put your children through that?

2.      The person who the judge picks to raise your kids will also be responsible for their financial well-being.

If something happens to you, all of your assets will be handed to the guardian (that you didn’t select) to be managed for them. The obvious fear is that this person could possibly use the funds for something other than the care of your children.  However, there are many other things to consider.  Does the person that the probate court judge picked have the same financial values that you do?  For example, you may feel strongly that you would like your children to attend high-end sports clinics to help develop their athletic skills.  But, will the guardian see the value in this?  What if they think spending money on what you would have wanted is a total waste?  The potential for trouble is endless.

3.      All of the money left from your estate (assuming there IS any) may go to your child in a lump sum when he is 18 years old.

Think about this one.  What would you have done if you had been handed a bunch of money at that time in your life?  Scary thought, huh?  The hard truth is that most 18 year olds are simply not mature enough to properly handle finances at that level.  I have heard story after story of kids who should have been fine financially, but weren’t because they decided to buy cars and clothes instead of investing in their future by going to college. So sad!

So, there you have it – some cold, hard questions for you to ponder. My hope for those of you reading this is that you have already taken care of naming guardians for your children and put your estate plan in place and that you are keeping it up-to-date as the circumstances of your life change.  But, if you are not, I would be happy to offer you a free Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session to start you on the path. 

Don’t worry if you aren’t sure who you would pick as guardian.  I’ll help you with that.

Don’t worry if you think you can’t afford planning.  I’ll work with you on that.

Don’t put this off because you don’t have the time.  Think about how your kids will spend their time if something happens to you and you haven’t made these decisions for them.

Call our Atlanta GA estate planning office today and make an appointment for a free Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session (value of $750) and you’ll experience a peace of mind that you didn’t even realize you were lacking.