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
Single 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.
It is clear to estates attorneys in Atlanta that the most valuable asset for many local residents is their homes. First of all, there is no way to put a price on the emotional, historical, and personal value of your home. From house shopping to paying the mortgage every month to having a safe place to live during your retirement, no dollar amount can be added up on a calculator. That said, in these time of uncertainty, it’s more critical than ever to make sure the most valuable asset you own stays protected.
A powerful tool that is commonly used for this purpose is the revocable trust. This is created while you are still living and allows you to make changes. The revocable trust gives you and your home a number of protections during your lifetime but also creates provisions for when you pass away. For example, if you have created a revocable trust, once you die, it becomes unchangeable (“irrevocable”), ensuring that your wishes are carried out. Also significant is the fact that it keeps your house out of the Fulton County or Cobb County probate process, saving money and the risk of the courts choosing to do something other than you would have liked.
Revocable trusts are relatively easy to set up with an estate attorney in Atlanta. The cost varies, of course, but putting together all of the legal documentation usually costs less than a few thousand dollars and saves many times that much for the estate. They are also very flexible, which means that you can have a lot of say in what becomes of the home you’ve treasured.
For example, you may wish to leave the property directly to a certain heir or group of heirs who will then be responsible for the costs associated with keeping and running the home. On the other hand, you may choose to incorporate funding for the upkeep of the home. Some people even choose to leave their home as a legacy to a certain organization for various purposes or to a group of family members to use as a vacation residence.
Options Provision for Your Revocable Trust
Another option that Atlanta estate attorneys see in practice is when a specific person is given the option to buy the home. If this person declines, then the next potential family member is given the option. The grantor can name as many people as he or she likes or can choose to have the home sold and the proceeds given to the charity of his or her choice. When a family member exercises this option, however, it is typical for the home to be purchased at fair market value.
A good estate attorney in Atlanta will be able to help you create a revocable trust that gives you access to your home throughout your lifetime while setting up what will happen to it after your death. By doing so, you may be able to avoid certain taxes which would apply, not to mention avoiding the significant costs associated with probate in Georgia.
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.
One of the many documents a trust attorney in the Atlanta area will encourage clients to put together is a living will. These documents have been considered incredibly important in both the legal and medical fields for 40+ years. A living will provides you with the opportunity to make your medical wishes known should you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions at the time. A living will often considers things like whether or not you want to be on life support and how you feel about doctors taking “extraordinary” measures to prolong your life.
There are a lot of positives to a living will. For example, it can take some of the burden off of your loved ones who are likely already in a state of shock over your incapacitation. In addition to worrying about your health and grieving over your condition, the people closest to you may also be called upon to make incredibly difficult decisions regarding your health care. Choosing to end life support for a spouse or parent is a heart-wrenching decision, and if you can take that burden from your loved one, then why wouldn’t you?
A recent Wall Street Journal article takes a deeper look into the usefulness of living wills, and some of their findings are contrary to popular belief about these documents. You can take a look at the article, “A New Look at Living Wills,” but some of the basic points made include:
- Living wills may be too “black and white,” while actual medical emergencies often fall into a “gray area.”
- Doctors have a limited ability to predict a patient’s outcome, so it is difficult to use their best guesses as a measure against which to determine if life support should be withdrawn or not.
- In addition to doctors and patients, ethicists are weighing in on the usefulness of living wills, and many of them are leaning away from using them at all.
One of the biggest problems with a living will is that the wording can be rather vague. This can be especially true if you use a fill-in-the-blank document you find online, rather than working with a knowledgeable trust attorney in Atlanta. In order to make your living will as helpful to your loved ones and medical staff as possible, it may be a good idea to be very thorough and to define what you mean by things like “quality of life” and “reasonable chance.”
Many people are moving toward these more comprehensive living wills, although it is certainly difficult to anticipate every situation that can arise. According to the WSJ articles, some people are now foregoing the living will altogether and opting instead to have their estate planning attorney assist them in naming a health care agent with whom you discuss your views and values before leaving the decision-making responsibilities in his or her hands.
If this is something you would like to explore further in your particular situation, or you have further questions about creating a living will here in Atlanta, please feel free to give our Marietta estate planning and elder law firm a call at 770-425-6060 and ask to schedule a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session with the mention of this article.