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.

Michael Jackson’s Will Filed with Court Today

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.

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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