An Atlanta Wills Lawyer’s Checklist for a Georgia Will

wills and trusts

When it comes to creating your Last Will and Testament in Georgia, it is helpful to remember these points:

• Put it in writing.
• State it is your will.
• State whether prior wills and codicils are revoked.
• Name your legal heirs or say you have none. (A Georgia wills and trusts attorney can make sure you have included the right persons.)
• State that you want your estate to pay for your funeral and burial expenses; describe them.
• Name who is to be the representative of your estate (personal representative or executor).
• Name back-up representatives.
• State if your representative and back-up representative are free from bond, appraisals, inventories, returns.
• Name who is to be the guardian of your minor children if you and your spouse both die.
• Name back-up guardians.
• Name a trustee for your minor children if you and your spouse both die.
• Name back-up trustees.
• Set out the compensation and powers of your representative, children’s guardian, and trustee.
• State to whom you give your property; provide for a residuary clause.
• Clarify ownership of accounts with more than one name on them.
• If you divide your property among heirs, have you considered the effect of an outstanding mortgage on the person who receives that particular piece?
• If your estate is to pay all your “just debts”, do you want mortgages excepted?
• Is there a possible federal tax liability? Ask your Georgia wills attorney about testamentary trusts and gifts to legal charities.
• Ask your attorney if you need an “in terroremclause if you are concerned someone will contest the will.
• Sign in front of two witnesses at your Georgia estate planning attorney’s office. If the witnesses are needed, the attorney is best able to find them. To make things even easier when the time comes, you and the witnesses can sign a self-proving certificate in front of a notary to save the witnesses from having to come in if the will is uncontested. Ask the attorney about a codicil (amendment) to make changes in a will, to save having to redo the will.

Three Marietta Georgia Estate Planning Myths: True or False

Three Marietta Georgia Estate Planning Myths: True or False

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Marietta Georgia estate planning lawyers eat, sleep, and breathe estate planning and see pretty much every kind of situation unfold. Clearly, individuals who have taken the time to create a solid estate plan nearly always fare better than those who do not. Still, there are a whole lot of myths and misunderstandings floating around that stop people from making the choice to protect their futures with an estate planning lawyer’s assistance.

In an effort to help as many people as possible, it is incredibly important to tackle these myths head-on and to debunk those that just aren’t true.

T or F:  Estate plans are just for those with lots of assets.

The answer is false. So many people end up unknowingly damaging their estates and hurting their heirs because they just don’t think they have “enough stuff” to justify an estate plan. This myth absolutely needs to be debunked!  As long as you own something, there will be a legal process in order to determine what to do with it after you die. This process (probate) is not only long and drawn out, but it also costs money! That money comes from the estate itself, meaning that those precious few assets you wanted to pass on could actually end up being sold in order to pay for probate and taxes. Fortunately, working with an estate planning lawyer ahead of time allows you the opportunity to protect your assets using whatever tools are appropriate for your situation.

T or F:  You don’t need an estate plan as long as your family knows your wishes.

The answer is false. There are a couple of problems that Marietta GA estate planning lawyers encounter with this line of thinking.  First, and probably most importantly, is that just because you and/or your family wants things to happen in a certain way, there’s no guarantee they will. Instead of your loved ones following your wishes, they will be forced to follow the laws of the state—even if these go completely against what you wanted. Additionally, everyone experiences grief differently, and even though your child or other loved one knows your preferences, he or she may find ways to subvert them for their own gain. The best way to avoid both of these kinds of drama is to work with an estate planning lawyer in Georgia who knows how to ensure that things go the way you want as a matter of law.

T or F:  Trust funds are for more than passing on money.

The answer is true. While we may have certain ideas about trust funds as a result of watching too many movies, a whole lot of people aren’t clear on what they can really do. For example, your Marietta Georgia estate planning attorney can help you set up a trust in order to limit the taxes your estate (and heirs) will have to pay later. They also provide you with a big say in how your heirs are able to use the money—do you want them to have free rein, to pay for an education, or to give the money to charity? These are just some of the ways trusts are often used.

Even if you don’t have a ton of assets, a skilled Marietta estate planning lawyer can help you create a roadmap that will be followed by both the courts and those you’ve left behind. From avoiding probate and excessive taxes to ensuring that your grandkids go to college, working with an estate planning lawyer in Marietta is the first step in protecting what you hold dear.


 

Want to learn more about estate planning myths? Did you know that when it comes to estate planning, there are 5 RIDICULOUS myths that could cause your plan to crumble and fall apart when your family needs it the most. Whether you already have an estate plan or you have ZERO documents in place, this report will help you identify common myths and mistakes so that you can FIX any problems, make the right decisions and properly safeguard the people and things you love.

BEFORE YOU GO ONE STEP FURTHER WITH YOUR PLANNING…. Download this free special report HERE.

Who Needs to Consider Trusts for their Children in Atlanta

Who Needs to Consider Trusts for their Children in Atlanta

trust and estates lawyers in AtlantaThere 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.

Estate Planning for Single Parents in Marietta and Cobb County GA

Estate Planning for Single Parents in Marietta and Cobb County GA

single momSingle parents tend to work hard for their children, so it’s no wonder that those in Marietta and Cobb County want to protect the children they would leave behind should the adult be killed or become incapacitated.  Every day it falls to the single parent to provide just about everything for his or her children, and with 13 million single parent households in the US, there are a whole lot of folks doing their best to provide everything their children need today.  Working with a Marietta Georgia guardianship lawyer is the right step to make sure they are also provided for in the future.

As a single parent, your estate plan may look different from that of a married parent.  In those cases, there are laws in place to ensure that both property and custody have a means of passing to the surviving spouse.  In your case, however, the courts would determine your next of kin and disperse your property, as well as appoint a guardian, based on Georgia state laws.  While it’s great that there are laws like this to rely on when a single parent dies with no will in place, it’s not necessarily such a wonderful thing if the person/people named are not those you would have chosen yourself.

For example, it’s quite common for grandparents to be given custody of a child upon the parent’s death.  In many families, that would be the perfect choice.  In others, however, a better choice could be made.  Perhaps there has been a falling out between family members, or it’s possible that the grandparents are either too old or just otherwise not in the right place in their lives to be starting over raising children.

Clearly, appointing a guardian for your child or children is one of the most pressing issues for which to see an estate planning attorney in Marietta or Cobb County.  It’s not the only one, though.  This lawyer can also help you to create a financial plan which can help support your child even if you aren’t there.  You might be advised to look into a life insurance policy or to participate in a Georgia college savings plan.  Likely, a guardianship lawyer in Marietta will also help you to create a trust or trusts which can not only protect some of the money from being heavily taxed, but also give you some say over how the money is to be used and by whom.

An estate planning attorney will also help you to make sure that everything is in order.  He or she will ask you about bank accounts, insurance policies, retirement accounts, and even military service, as all of these can possibly be directed to the care of your child or children.  Every family, no matter what the marital status is, is unique.  With the help of a Marietta estate planning lawyer, you can put together a plan that works for your specific situation.

What Your Georgia Last Will and Testament Really Does

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You finally got around to making a will, so now you can rest easy.

You went online, found the forms, filled them out and you’re done.  If anything happens to you, your loved ones are taken care of. 

One less thing to worry about, right?

As an Atlanta and Marietta, GA wills and estate planning lawyer, I hate to cause you more sleepless nights, but just having a will is not the “be all and end all” of planning your estate.

Let’s clear up a few misconceptions about what your will actually does and doesn’t do:

This is What A Sound Georgia Will Actually Does

Your will distributes property that you own at the time of your death.  You can divide up your property any way you choose as long as your state doesn’t prevent you from disinheriting a spouse or children.  If you intend to do either of those things, you need to talk to a lawyer and make sure it’s even legal.  If you have property that would legally pass outside your estate (things like joint property, life insurance, or retirement plans), you will does not provide for how those assets are distributed unless you’ve made them payable to your estate.  Additional estate planning documents are required in order to do that.

Needless to say, there are various types of wills and they can be incredibly simple or terribly complex.  A very simple will is called exactly that – a simple will.  A will that establishes trusts is usually called a testamentary trust will.  If your will leaves assets to a trust created during your lifetime, it is called a pour-over will.  If you have either a testamentary trust will or a pour-over will, it should provide for property management and protection from creditors for your heirs and minimize their tax obligations on whatever property they inherit. 

Aside from creating trusts and distributing property, you can also designate a guardian for your minor children. If your will is properly written and you’ve set up the right kind of trust and chosen the right trustee to handle your minor child’s estate, the need for court supervision will be limited or even eliminated.  The same could hold true if you name an executor.  Check with an attorney to ensure that you’re taking full advantage of the laws in your state and that these designations are made in accordance with those laws.

What Your Georgia Will Does Not Do

If you have any nonprobate property, such as real estate that would pass to a surviving owner, or an IRA or insurance policy payable to a named beneficiary, your will does not determine how those assets are passed on.  These types of assets are governed by contract law.  Just because you list them in your will does not ensure that they will be handled as you’ve requested.  Always make sure that your beneficiary designations are up to date and in line with your intentions. 

Other types of nonprobate property you will want to account for are any jointly owned property, trusts, annuities, and retirement benefits and life insurance, to name a few. 

Makes filling out a form online and thinking you can sleep better at night a little less appealing, doesn’t it?  A simple piece of paper will not necessarily ensure that everyone gets what you want them to have and that Uncle Sam doesn’t take more of what you’ve worked for than your loved ones receive.

If you would like an expert opinion on exactly how effective your current will is, or advice on actually drafting a will, call us to schedule your Peace of Mind Planning Session today.  We can help ensure you take the right steps to take care of your loved ones if something happens to you. 

Also, as part of our estate planning process, we will interview you about your specific wishes and what you want your family to know.  We provide you with a copy of the interview so you can pass on the information you want your family to remember.  We understand that it’s not just about the paper you leave behind, but the voice you leave behind.  Our Family Wealth Planning Session is normally $750, but this month I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session with me at no charge.  Call today and mention this article.