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.

4 Reasons You Need a Will Now, According to a Cobb County Wills and Estates Lawyer

4 Reasons You Need a Will Now, According to a Cobb County Wills and Estates Lawyer

Of course it makes sense that Cobb County wills and estates attorney would tell you to create a will, right?  Our job is to help people plan for what will happen to their estates once they’re gone.  But, having been involved in estate planning in Cobb County for such a long time, it’s clear that message of proper planning is something more people still need to hear.

That’s why I’ve put together a list of four brief reasons that explain why you need a will…and why it must be created sooner, rather than later.  There are certainly many other aspects to consider, but these can have a great impact on the future of your estate:

Reason You Need a Will #1:  It Saves Money

There are so many financial issues that come into play once an individual has passed away, and it really does take a trained lawyer to understand them and come up with a solid game plan.  An estate planning attorney is able to help you take advantage of tax benefits that you might not have otherwise known were available, as well as help you save an incredible amount of money that can be passed on to your heirs.

Reason You Need a Will #2:  It Protects Your Family

Not all adults have minor children, but those who do should have a will in place that names who they want to be their child(ren)’s legal guardian in case of death or incapacitation.  If you and your wills lawyer in Cobb County have not formally and legally laid out this information, then it will be up to the courts to determine who will raise your children in your absence.  Keeping your will updated also protects other family members, as you can determine what goes to whom, rather than having family members cause fights and drama over your estate.

Reason You Need a Will #3:  It Keeps Real Estate Intact

Do you own a house or other property?  If so, and you pass away without a will, the courts will likely pass co-ownership of that property to your heirs.  What happens when some of your heirs want to keep the property and others want to sell it?  What if you specifically want a certain heir to inherit your property?  What if you don’t want your heirs inheriting the property and would rather leave it to someone outside the family instead? Without a will, the answers to all of these questions will be completely out of your control.

Reason You Need a Will #4:  You Might Not Be Allowed to Do It Later

One of the requirements of a valid will is that the person creating it is of “sound body and mind.”  If you become victim of an illness or injury that brings your ability to make sound judgments into question, you may be unable to put together a legally binding will later on.  Anyone who does not agree with your decisions can simply contest the will, saying that you were not competent to make those choices; and the whole thing could end up in court.

Of course, there are many, many other reasons to meet with an Cobb County lawyer and have an estate plan designed that addresses your unique legal and financial needs.  We’re happy to help you get started with the process, so if you have further questions about wills here in Cobb County or you’d like to move forward protecting the people and things you love, please give our office a call at 770.425.6060 and ask to schedule a free Georgia Family Treasures Planning Sessions with the mention of this article ($750 value).

Physicians Should Consider Asset Protection Planning with a Georgia Estate Planning Attorney

Physicians Should Consider Asset Protection Planning with a Georgia Estate Planning Attorney

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As medical malpractice claims continue to rise in the US, more physicians than ever are turning to asset protection strategies to help them avoid financial catastrophe in the face of a malpractice lawsuit.

While nearly every physician is at risk for a lawsuit, there are some doctors who experience legal claims more than most.  3 of the most at-risk medical professions for lawsuits include obstetrics, neurosurgery, and radiology.

The reasons for the high percentage of medical claims in these fields are varied and complicated, but it often boils down to the rate of risk associated with these areas, rather than with lack of skill or professionalism on the part of the physician.  Of course, there is case of frivolous lawsuits as well.

Whether a lawsuit against a physician is well-founded or not, it can still cost an incredible amount of time, effort, and money.  While it may help to reevaluate laws regarding malpractice litigation, there are more immediate things that doctors can do to protect themselves, and their personal assets, if a lawsuit is filed.

Traditionally, physicians have attempted to protect their assets by setting up living trusts and even placing their property in another person’s name. Now, however, physicians may find the asset protection vehicle they are looking for in a Family Limited Partnership.

Originally created in the early 20th century, the Family Limited Partnership was intended to protect family assets and even to provide tax benefits.  It has since evolved into a useful tool for use by physicians who may face lawsuits.

A qualified attorney who is well-versed in the Family Limited Partnership and how it applies here in Atlanta will assist and advise the medical professional on how to set up a structure similar to a family business.  Other individuals in the family can be included as general partners.  Once property is properly placed into this type of partnership, it generally will not be eligible for use to pay off a lawsuit.

It is necessary that the Family Limited Partnership be meticulously planned and worded, which is why it is especially important to work with an attorney who fully understands how to craft the partnership as it pertains to a physician’s family and unique risks.  Choosing an attorney who understands this approach to asset protection and how it affects physicians in Atlanta provides new options that many doctors have not been afforded before.

If you are a physician interested in protecting yourself and your personal assets from lawsuits, call our Atlanta asset protection lawyers at 770-425-6060 and ask to schedule a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session with the mention of this article.

A Parent Sanity Protection Kit For Georgia Parents of Graduating Seniors

Georgia Parents of Graduating Seniors:

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Did you know…

Now that your graduating senior is “legally” an adult, you can no longer make important medical or financial decisions on his or her behalf?

UNLESS you have these 3 things in place…… (see below to discover how EASY it is to legally intervene if your child is injured or otherwise unable to speak on his or her behalf!)

Your graduating senior may still be your baby, but in the eyes of the law he or she is now an ADULT!

That means you can no longer make important medical or financial decisions for your child without their permission.

But let’s face it….your job of being a PARENT doesn’t stop just because your child turns 18.  If there’s a medical emergency or your child asks for financial help, you NEED the ability to cut through the legal red tape and get involved.

FACT: Doctors, hospitals or financial institutions will NOT bend the rules on this! It’s against privacy laws.  You must have 3 KEY DOCUMENTS in place to make important medical or financial decisions on your child’s behalf (just imagine the nightmare of your child getting hurt hundreds of miles away at school and the hospital refuses to give you so much as a status update!).

I call these 3 key documents the Parent Sanity Protection Kit, as they give you the legal permission you need to HELP your child and avoid more gray at the same time!

  • Advance Health Care Directive

  • Financial Power of Attorney

  • HIPAA Forms

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To ensure your child is protected before the summer or college starts, you can now receive this critical Parent Sanity Protection Kit  just $350 when you call 770.425.6060 and schedule your appointment by June 30th.

P.S. – Graduation Gift for YOU, too, Moms and dads:  Mention this blog post and receive a FREE Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session (normally $750) to go over YOUR will, trust or other legal documents!  Having an “adult” child is a huge life-change for mom or dad too and your estate planning documents must be updated accordingly!