You may not need an Atlanta GA estate planning lawyer to make a will (although that isn’t a wise decision), but what if you have no will at all? No one wants to think about their future demise, but death will be coming for all of us eventually. Without a will, what will become of your assets, your liabilities, and who will be the executor? Will any of your loved ones be left out in the cold?
Every state has its own specific set of laws, but by and large the basic rules are the same from state to state. A qualified Georgia estate planning lawyer is the best resource for uncovering what the laws are here. For someone to inherit intestate, or when there is no will, he or she must be a legal relative. Generally speaking a spouse (or civil partner in some states) inherits it all if there are no children. If there are children, the spouse may receive as little as 1/3 of the estate, and the rest is divided among the children.
The specifics concerning separated spouses, stepchildren, etc. can make things even more complicated, but there is one constant: no one can profit from a death they caused. If there are allegations or proof of abuse or murder, that person may be prohibited from inheriting at all. This makes sense; not only is abuse wrong, but the government wants to make sure that no one is rewarded for murder.
In cases where there are minor children and the other parent is still living, an estate planning lawyer will tell you that what is left behind usually goes solely to the spouse, with the understanding that he or she will use it for the benefit and welfare of him or herself and the children. If there are considerable assets, a will and trust lawyer in Atlanta can then help the surviving spouse to create living trusts for the children.
Sometimes, there is no surviving spouse or children. In these cases, distant relatives may be eligible to inherit some or all of the assets left behind. In no case, however, are friends and people not related to the deceased allowed to inherit. These people can only inherit based on the specifics of a will, and with no will, they have no claim.
Some assets aren’t passed along via a will, and so these items may also have clear beneficiaries listed on the specific documents.
- Life insurance policy proceeds
- Real estate, bank accounts, and other property held in joint tenancy or community property
- IRA funds, or other retirement plans that name a beneficiary
- Any funds held in a living trust
Perhaps the strangest thing that probate lawyers in Atlanta see is when there are no living family members and no will. When this happens, the assets are given to the state. If you want to make sure that your property is passed along to a friend or charity, be sure to make a will, because otherwise it goes to Uncle Sam.
Estate planning is very important, and your best bet is to hire an estate planning lawyer who has specific knowledge in this area of law. Each state has laws that change when and how people can inherit if you leave your estate intestate. So, do your loved ones a favor and leave a will. This way you can make sure that your estate is divided as you want it to be, without it going back to the government.
As our lives become increasingly digital, more and more of the assets we accumulate are based in technology or created online.
Estate planning attorneys in the Atlanta area have the important job of educating their clients on how to handle “digital assets” in the event of a person’s death or incapacity, and then helping the client document such wishes in a will or trust. Whether it’s an email account, blog, collection of domain names, hosting accounts, apps, ebooks, etc., a good estate planning lawyer in Atlanta can help ensure that only a person the account owner trusts can access and maintain digital assets in their absence.
One area of digital asset planning that has received a lot of attention lately is the management of one’s Facebook profile page. Until recently, loved ones of the deceased only had two choices: 1) Keep the wall public so everyone could continue to post messages and thoughts on the wall or 2) request to have the page “memorialized,” which meant the profile was no longer searchable or visible to those who were not already friends of the individual.
What Facebook did not allow to happen was for someone to manage the profile in the owner’s place. Without explicitly having the password (and the permission to use it!), loved ones could not accept new friend requests, pin important information about memorial services to the top of the profile or update pictures.
That’s all changed this week, though, with the roll out of Facebook’s Legacy Contact feature. Facebook users now have the opportunity to choose a “legacy contact,” either a family member or a friend, whom they want to manage their account when they pass away. Or, they can let Facebook know that they want their account deleted immediately upon their passing.
From Facebook’s Newsroom:
Today we’re introducing a new feature that lets people choose a legacy contact—a family member or friend who can manage their account when they pass away. Once someone lets us know that a person has passed away, we will memorialize the account and the legacy contact will be able to:
- Write a post to display at the top of the memorialized Timeline (for example, to announce a memorial service or share a special message)
- Respond to new friend requests from family members and friends who were not yet connected on Facebook
- Update the profile picture and cover photo
If someone chooses, they may give their legacy contact permission to download an archive of the photos, posts and profile information they shared on Facebook. Other settings will remain the same as before the
account was memorialized. The legacy contact will not be able to log in as the person who passed away or see that person’s private messages.
Alternatively, people can let us know if they’d prefer to have their Facebook account permanently deleted after death.
As you plan for the handling of your digital assets after death, the Facebook Legacy Contact Feature is an important tool to mention during the process. By simply logging into your account and following the directions below, you can easily make your wishes for your Facebook account known.
Here’s how to utilize the new feature:
Open Facebook settings. Choose Security Settings and then Legacy Contact at the bottom of the page.
After choosing your legacy contact, you’ll have the option to send a message to that person.
Here’s a snapshot of what a page will look like once memorialized. You’ll notice the word “remembering” over the deceased’s name.
How do you feel about the creation of Facebook’s new “Legacy Contact” feature? Will you take advantage of the opportunity to name a contact and share this information with your clients? Sound off why, or why not, send me an email or leave a comment below and let me know.
Many thanks to my friend Laura Lee Sparks for this post!
Marietta GA Estate Planning Lawyer suggests the Ultimate Gift of Love for your family : an up-to-date estate plan!
With budgets tight and uncertainty in the air, this Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to give your loved one a priceless gift that never grows old — financial security.
Sure, you can’t stuff it in a box or wrap it with a pretty bow, but taking the time to get your financial and legal affairs in order this month is the ultimate way to show your loved ones just how much you care now, and for the future.
Think about what would happen if you were disabled, incapacitated or passed away suddenly this year. That expensive night out you spent with your “special someone” won’t do much to ensure he or she will continue to thrive in your absence. A less exciting, but meaningful gift of life insurance, for example, would have been a better expression of your love during hard times.
And, when is the last time you updated your will or trust? Are you certain that your wishes would be honored and your loved ones would be taken care of exactly as you want in an emergency? This includes minor children who, without legal guardians named for them by mom and dad, will be at the mercy of the courts.
Legal and financial planning is the ultimate way to demonstrate your love for your family where it counts the most. Make a commitment to not put it off any longer and use this Valentine’s Day to give your loved ones the long-term financial security and peace of mind they deserve.
Steve Worrall is the Family Estate Planning Lawyer for Georgia Estate Plan: Worrall Law LLC in Marietta and Atlanta. If you’d like to give your loved ones and yourself the gift of peace of mind, please call Steve at 770-425-6060 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy of cuteimage at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Now 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:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
It’s always a great feeling when a new client meets with a wills and trusts attorney in Marietta to get started on his or her estate planning. Every day, people in Marietta recognize the importance of putting a plan into place to prepare for their own futures as well as those of their heirs. Wills and trusts are two very important tools that the client and lawyer can create to protect that future. As important as that initial meeting is, however, there is still a need to follow up regularly to keep your wills and trusts updated and reflective of your current situation.
There are some times when it is obvious that your wills and trusts should be updated, but there are other times that are easier to overlook.
Major Life Changes
When there is a major change in your life, it’s time to call your Marietta wills and trusts lawyer. These types of changes, such as a marriage, divorce, or birth of a child may dramatically affect who you want to name as beneficiaries.
Health situations are also another big indicator that it’s time to update your wills and trusts. Medical care can be incredibly expensive, and you may need to rearrange your plans to accommodate the costs. If dealing with a terminal illness or potentially life-threatening treatment, it also makes sense to ensure that your plans reflect your wishes.
Many Purchases Should Trigger Updates
Wills and trusts lawyers are able to help clients lay out a plan based on what the client has at the time. When your situation changes through major purchases (or sales) of real estate or other valuable assets, you should update your estate plan to reflect those changes. You want to ensure that the asset is included in your will or protected by your trust.
Purchases of, or changes in insurance policies, will likely also lead to a call to your Marietta attorney. These purchases will affect what you have to leave behind and will need to be reflected in your estate plan.
While you may not need to make changes with your Marietta wills and trusts attorney every year, it’s still a good idea to do an annual review of all your estate planning materials. In addition to refreshing yourself on what is there, your lawyer will also be able to advise you on any laws that have recently changed that might affect decisions you’d previously made. Just reading over the documents may be enough to notice a change that needs to be made. Not only does this give you an opportunity to make sure your plans still fit your needs, but by keeping them up-to-date, you are strengthening your will against being invalidated later. After all, if you’ve worked with an attorney to keep the wills and trusts fresh and in accordance with the most recent life changes, they are likely to reflect your true intentions.