Will 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.
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
Very frequently, we get a call from someone who is ready to make an appointment for a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, but wants to know “How Much Will “It” Cost?” “It” here refers to a will or trust or other legal planning document; i.e., “How Much Does a Will Cost” or “How Much is a Living Trust”? Let’s imagine you have that question. Here is what I would tell you.
Before we talk about fees, it’s important for you to understand how our firm is different than traditional law firms. First of all, we don’t bill anything on an hourly basis, so you never have to worry about any surprises when it comes to what something will cost. Everything is flat fee and discussed up front, so you will never get a surprise bill in the mail. With a traditional law firm, you might expect to pay $500-$3,000 for a typical set of estate planning documents. In many cases, in our experience, those estate planning documents won’t work when your family needs them because they will become stale the minute you walk out the door of your lawyers office – you’ll put the documents away and never look at them again. Your life will change, your assets will change, and the law will change, but those documents are going to be sitting there – staying the same. You are unlikely to ever hear from your lawyer again and won’t update your plan and if you do, you’ll very likely have to pay hourly to take care of any updates with uncertainty about how much that will cost on an ongoing basis. And, if your lawyer goes out of business or dies, you’ll have to start everything over with a new lawyer and pay all those initial fees again. And, this is sad to say, your assets are very unlikely to be owned in the right name at the time of your death, making all the planning you did irrelevant.
At GeorgiaFamilyLaw, we don’t believe that traditional model of estate planning really serves you and your family. Instead, we focus on developing a lifetime relationship with you, giving you affordable access to a lawyer who will help you make the right legal decisions throughout life and then being there for your family when you can’t be.
We do this in a number of ways, including throwing out the time clocks – which means everything we do is billed on a flat fee basis, agreed to in advance, so there are no surprises. It means we have a whole team in place to ensure that every part of your planning is done right, including that your assets are titled in the right name and that your planning continues to work throughout your lifetime. We do that by reviewing your planning at least every three years at no additional charge and if you want to make unlimited changes to your plan on an ongoing basis and be able to consult with us about all of your legal and financial questions that come up during life without paying hourly fees, we have a membership program you can join to ensure your planning works when your family needs it. And last, we don’t focus only on passing on your financial wealth, but we also have a unique process for capturing the assets that are most often lost when someone dies because they are intangible – the intellectual, spiritual and human assets – or who you are and what’s important to you.
All of that’s getting a little ahead of the game though because we can’t get to any of that until you complete a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment and have a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session to determine whether your family is a good fit for our services. Normally, that Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session is $750, but if you found us through this blog post on our website, we will waive that fee for you.
We only have a limited number of these free sessions we can offer each month, so if you want to have your session for no charge you should go ahead, call our Marietta estate planning lawyer’s office at 770.425.6060 and get on our calendar now.
As of your 18th birthday, you became an adult in the eyes of the law.
Even though your kids may still act like teenagers (or you may feel like one), in the eyes of the government, turning 18 means you need to have legal documents in place in case of an accident.
Every adult should have in place an Advance Health Care Directive and a Financial Durable Power of Attorney. Estate planning is not just for rich people. These legal documents are important for everyone who loves their family.
If you don’t have these legal documents in place and something scary happens, it will make life a whole lot more difficult for the people you love.
An Advance Health Care Directive (also known as a living will) does two things: first, it names the person you want making health care decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself and second, it lets that person know how you want them to be made.
This is important because if you are in the hospital and cannot communicate, you need someone to make decisions for you and you want them to make those decisions as you would want them made, without question.
If you don’t have this document in place, it could create a huge rift among your family as the people you love fight about what you would have wanted.
The important thing in this document is that the whoever you name is also given authority under the new (within the past three years) Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (aka HIPAA).
If your health care agent (the person named in your Advance Health Care Directive) is not designated as your agent under HIPAA, they will not be able to look at your medical records, which makes it mighty hard for them to make health care decisions for you.
By the way, if you have college age kids going off to college, you’ll want to get this in place for your kid. Otherwise, when you call the school nurse to discuss your child’s illness, you may find no one can or will talk with you because they would violate HIPAA if they did.
We get frantic calls in our office at least once or twice each fall from parents looking for legal documents for their college-age kid for just this reason.
The second legal document you absolutely need to have in place as an adult is a Durable Power of Attorney. This document names someone to make financial and legal decisions for you if you can’t make them for yourself.
Beware of the one-page standard durable power of attorney you find on the internet where you just check off a list of applicable powers. I’ve seen family members try to use those to access their loved ones assets and then not be able to because the form was too generic.
It’s important for your kids going off to college to have this in place too because if they are in an accident you are going to need to take over paying the bills and get access to bank accounts and make legal decisions. But, you will have to go through a long and expensive court process if there’s not a signed Durable Power of Attorney in place.
It’s the same for you too. If you are in an accident, and you don’t have a Durable Power of Attorney in place,it will be difficult for your family to deal with things on your behalf.
So, regardless of the amount of money you have in the bank, get your Advance Health Care Directive (or living will) and your Durable Power of Attorney in place at the bare minimum. Oh, and of course, if you have kids under 18 at home, get your comprehensive Kids Protection Plan in place too.
None of this has to do with money. It has to do with making life as easy as possible for the people you love.
SOURCE FOR POST: Family Wealth Matters by Alexis Martin Neely
Do Your College Age Children Have Healthcare Directives? DO YOU?
Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care