The holidays are a traditional time for multiple generations to gather together, and are also a perfect opportunity for adult children to perform a reality check on how their aging parents are doing health-wise as well as assess financial and medical planning issues.
The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance provides these tips:
Check your elderly relatives’ home for potential fall hazards. If there is unopened mail and unpaid bills laying around, it may be a sign they are having difficulty coping with everyday living.
Check the pantry and refrigerator to ensure it is well stocked. If a parent has lost weight or there is spoiled food around, this is a sign that they may need some additional help around the house.
Make a list of all your parents’ medications and get the phone numbers of their primary care physicians.
Be sure you have the license numbers of all vehicles in case one is stolen or your parent goes missing.
Talk to your parents about advance health care directives. If they don’t have one, help them find a personal family lawyer (our Marietta family estate planning law firm can help you there) to talk to about creating these and other important estate planning documents.
If you’d like to learn more about wills, living wills, advance health care directives, power of attorney for health care designations or any other aspects of estate planning, 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 two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.
As a Marietta divorce lawyer, I know that getting a divorce in Georgia can be an overwhelming process. There are so many decisions to make and things to do that it’s hard to keep everything straight. And as a Marietta estate planning lawyer, I also know there is one thing that divorcing couples must remember to do—and that is getting your will or trust updated.
Forgetting about your estate plan is understandable from any perspective. You’re so busy thinking about living arraignments, finances and custody agreements that you simply forget to contact an estate planning lawyer to make sure your spouse will no longer be the beneficiary of your estate once the divorce is final.
And while I admit estate planning is easy to overlook, it’s still something that must be taken care of either before you file or immediately after your divorce is complete.
This is especially true if you have a life insurance policy, retirement accounts, investments, property or even a joint trust with your current spouse. If you fail to take steps to create a single person trust or designate new beneficiaries on your other assets, your ex-spouse will still receive everything you own—even after you are legally divorced.
Similarly, if you don’t create an updated power of attorney and living will, your soon-to-be ex-spouse will be the only one with legal permission to make decisions for you if you are permanently or temporarily incapacitated. For most people, the thought of their soon-to-be ex making decisions such as medication administration, life-support or nursing home vs. home health care is frightening. Also, the ex most likely does not want that responsibility any longer. That is why it is critical to get these issues addressed at some point before or after the divorce proceedings.
However, there are strict time-frames as to when you can update/amend your estate planning documents during a divorce in Georgia, so please make yourself familiar with the following guidelines:
Updating Your Estate Plan Before Filing Divorce in Georgia
As a Marietta estate planning lawyer, I highly recommend you consider revoking and restating all of your estate planning documents before filing for divorce. This includes updating your advanced healthcare directive (also known as a living will) and financial power of attorney so someone other than your spouse has the ability to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable. This is especially true if you’re gearing up for a messy divorce which could likely drag on for a number of years.
You’ll also want to change the beneficiaries on your life insurance policy, retirement accounts and other investments. If you have a joint trust with your spouse, you’ll need to talk with your Marietta will and trust lawyer to find out whether you must provide notice to your spouse before it is revoked.
Updating Your Estate Plan During Divorce Proceedings in Georgia
During your divorce proceedings, the ability to revoke your trust or name new beneficiaries on certain accounts can be halted. What’s known as an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order (ATRO) or a Standing Order will kick in to ensure your assets and ownership interests stay the same until an official division of assets and ownership interests takes place. Therefore, it’s important to note that if you pass away during this time, your soon-to-be ex-spouse will still become the beneficiary of your estate. You can, however, update your will, power of attorney and living will during this time to minimize the amount of power your ex-spouse would have if something unexpectedly happens to you.
Updating Your Estate Plan After a Divorce in Georgia
After the divorce proceeding, you are considered a single person in the eyes of the law. You are free to update, revoke and amend your estate planning documents as you see fit. However, as a Marietta GA will and trust lawyer, I’ve come to find that many people falsely believe their spouse is no longer entitled to their assets once the divorce is officially granted. While it’s true that some estate planning powers may be automatically revoked after the divorce (such as the ability to speak for you medically if you were in an accident), if you have outdated legal documents in place that still include your ex-spouse, he or she will still be the legal beneficiary of your estate or specific assets upon your death. Therefore, it’s important to make sure every legal document you have is updated immediately following your divorce.
When to Get Help
I always advise people in Georgia to at least meet with a Marietta estate planning attorney, in addition to their Marietta divorce attorney before ultimately filing for divorce. That’s because it’s important for you to know exactly how the divorce proceedings will affect you and/or your children, especially if you become incapacitated or pass away suddenly during the process.
With so much going on during divorce it is difficult to think about adding another legal process. However, it is critical to make sure your estate plan reflects your new circumstances to avoid everything you own going to your future ex-spouse if you pass away or avoid having him or her legally responsible to make medical or financial decisions for you in the event of incapacity.
As the recession deepens, more Americans are trading high priced attorneys for DIY estate planning kits online. Yet despite the appealing cost, do online estate planning kits really have what it takes to protect your children, assets or wishes should something happen to you? Atlanta estate planning attorney, Steve Worrall, cuts through the hype to reveal when you can go it alone and when DIY planning is a financial disaster in disguise.
ATLANTA, GEORGIA – Who needs a $300 an hour estate planning lawyer when you can buy an entire DIY will kit online for under $100?
That’s the question most Americans find themselves asking lately, as the creation of computer generated wills, trusts and other estate planning documents make DIY planning seem like a very budget-savvy choice.
Yet do these documents really hold weight in the Georgia probate courts and will they truly protect your children, assets or wishes should the unthinkable happen?
“It depends,” says Atlanta family estate planning attorney, Steve Worrall. “Certainly someone with no children and assets under $100,000 could possibly benefit from DIY estate planning. The real problem, though, is that you don’t know what you don’t know and like anything in life, one size rarely fits all. In the case of estate planning, one simple mistake can cost your family thousands of dollars and years of headaches if death or incapacity unexpectedly occurs.” he warns.
So what situations warrant meeting with a qualified estate planning professional over a budget-friendly kit online? Worrall recommends the following:
1. You’ve been divorced or remarried– According to Worrall, DIY kits rarely take into account the complexities of divorce, remarriage or having children from a previous marriage. Without proper guidance, a mistake in this area could cause a number of problems, including a spouse losing out financially to a child from a previous marriage (as was the case with Ana Nicole Smith) or the disinheritance of children.
2. You have children– Worrall recalls reviewing documents from a popular online will kit only to find boilerplate language stating that future children were disinherited under the plan. “My client was horrified, and it really opened my eyes as to just how dangerous these kits can be for parents with minor children,” says Worrall. According to Worrall, DIY kits also fail to advise parents of the best way to leave an inheritance to their children, thus setting the stage for money problems down the road.
3. You’re in an alternative living situation– Gays, lesbians and life-partners should always meet with a qualified professional when planning for their death or incapacity. “Unfortunately, the laws are not on the side of people in non-traditional relationships, so I always recommend professional guidance to ensure your family stays protected physically and financially should tragedy strike,” says Worrall.
4. You have a special needs child– According to Worrall, parents of special needs children must be extremely cautious when using DIY estate planning kits online. “Many parents fail to realize that leaving money outright to a special needs child can jeopardize their ability to qualify for Medicaid or other benefits in the future,” says Worrall. He also warns that such kits fail to properly advise parents of guardianship issues and other ways to make sure their child is properly cared for in their absence.
“It only takes one tiny oversight in a DIY estate plan to cause the entire thing to backfire, or even become null and void in Georgia. And of course, by the time people realize such a problem exist, it’s often too late to go back or costs a fortune to fix, “says Worrall. “I’m a DIY’er myself, but I recognize my limitations. And when it comes protecting your assets, wishes and your children, I encourage others to do the same and seek the counsel of a professional lawyer that can guide them through the process.”
By Steve Worrall, Cobb County GA Probate Lawyer
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?
I hate to cause you more sleepless nights, but I can say as a Cobb County GA probate lawyer that 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 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 Cobb County GA probate 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 a Cobb County GA probate lawyer 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 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 at (770) 425-6060 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 Peace of Mind 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.
As a Marietta and Atlanta GA estate planning attorney and blogger on estate planning topics for several years, I have had the pleasure of getting to know many similar estate planning lawyers throughout the country. One of them, my colleague David Shulman of the South Florida Estate Planning Law Blog, has posted an excellent, concise and very timely discussion of, and a link to, the Last Will and Testament of Michael Jackson.
As I have posted before on my Georgia Wills, Trusts, Estate Planning and Probate Blog, we can show you a will after someone's death because it is a public record. Unlike many, however, as David points out, Mr. Jackson in this Will appears to have done it right: he had a trust (a private document) set up to hold his assets and this will transferred any property not otherwise ownedd by the trust but which was owned in the singer's individual name, to the trust, to be administered and distributed in accordance with the instructions left in the trust document. David's post continues below.
Here is the link to Michael Jackson’s Last Will and Testament.
The will is what’s known as a “pour-over” will. In other words, instead of the will itself disposing of all of his assets directly, it instead transfers all of his assets to the “MICHAEL JACKSON FAMILY TRUST” as amended and restated on March 22, 2002. The terms of his revocable trust will govern the disposition of his property. I assume that most of the assets will remain in trust for his children and their children, with significant distributions to other family members and charities.
However, I don’t know. I’m only assuming.
A will is public and is filed with the court. A trust is not. There is no obligation to disclose the terms of the trust to the public. Certain beneficiaries are entitled to copies of the trust however, and it’s possible that one of them might leak it at some later point in time.
The executors of the will [. . .] are John Branca, John McClain, and Barry Siegel. Their primary responsibility will be to transfer the estate’s assets, that is the assets that were not already owned by the trust, to the trust. The successor trustee (whoever that might be) is then responsible for managing the trust estate.
He did nominate his mother, Katherine Jackson as the guardians of his minor children. In the event of the death, inability, or refusal to act of Katherine Jackson, he nominates, believe it or not, Diana Ross!
Those are the only details now. It’s a short five page will. Unless there is a subsequent will, or the trust somehow becomes public, this is all the information that will be public.
I’m actually impressed. It seems that as irresponsible of a person as he was, he might have actually done this correctly. [Compare this to the outcome of] Anna Nicole Smith.
SOURCE FOR POST: South Florida Estate Planning Law Blog