This is the fourth in a series of articles on what to expect when you work with your Atlanta estate planning lawyer. Each article will cover several of the topics that you will need to consider to make a plan that works for your needs.
In this series, we have covered estate planning considerations for incapacitation and death, and for the most part, they’ve been the more commonly thought-of items. Yet, there are some other ideas that you will want to discuss with your estate planning lawyer in Atlanta, including:
- Service Providers: In your estate plan, you may want to include a section regarding your service providers. Everything from doctors and dentists to property managers and babysitters could be included here. This gives your loved ones the opportunity to contact these service providers to let them know you won’t be working with them any longer, to clear up any outstanding bills, and to make sure that you don’t continue being billed for a service you no longer use. This might be especially important if you have service providers who are automatically paid from your bank account.
- Memberships: Memberships and subscriptions are an area that is really easy to overlook, and as mentioned above, they can cost your estate! Belonging to a gym, country club, or other kind of organization might call for dues to be taken directly from your bank account, and without knowledge to end your contract, your executor and family members won’t even realize they need to discontinue your memberships or subscriptions.
- Credit Cards and Other Debts: Having a list of credit cards and other debts makes it easier for those left behind to follow up. They’ll want to cancel various accounts, as well as to get totals owed in order to make sure your legal obligations are taken care of before the estate is distributed. Estate planning lawyers in Georgia are familiar with the laws of the state and can guide you on what is expected.
- Keys and Passwords: Most of us have areas in our lives that are somehow secured from others. In the case of your death or incapacitation, you may need to be sure that others have access to these areas. For example, you wouldn’t want to share your online banking password with just anyone, but if someone needs that information to go with their power of attorney, it needs to be accessible. Keys to safe deposit boxes, passwords to accounts, and even the code to your home security system should all be kept somewhere that they can be accessed if necessary.
- Personal Letters: The personal letter part of estate planning is really up to an individual. Some people choose to write special letters that loved ones can keep as mementos. This is a time to share your feelings, offer forgiveness if you haven’t done so in life, or to just let those around you know that you love them.
There are a whole lot of facets to estate planning, and a good estate planning lawyer in Atlanta will be able to help you go over all of these aspects and many more to determine what you need to include in your estate plan.
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The decision of who to appoint as your executor or trustee is a huge one, and we’ve talked about it a bit in the past. Still, it’s important to make sure that you have the information you need to make the right choice with your Atlanta estate lawyer. This person will hold incredible responsibility for overseeing what becomes of your estate, and you want your choice to reflect this.
It’s not unusual to name your spouse as the executor or trustee, but there are certainly other options. You may determine that one of your adult children is a good choice or prefer to have a family friend in charge. In some cases, you may even place an attorney in the role. No matter who you choose, you’ll want to also list an alternate in case there is some reason your first choice is unable to take care of the duties required.
Some things to consider when choosing your executor or successor trustee:
- The process of closing an estate can take a very long time, so you want to choose someone who will be committed to following through.
- The person chosen will have access to your finances, and there are opportunities to abuse the trust placed in him or her. For this reason, among others, you want to choose a representative in whom you have complete trust.
- There are many details and conflicting interests that will need to be managed during the process, so you want to choose someone who is organized and able to juggle these responsibilities.
- Dealing with the estate requires working with a wide range of people and institutions. The person you choose to represent you must be able to clearly communicate with all of them.
- Because there are a lot of financial considerations to be made, it’s also best to choose someone who is responsible with money and has a decent grasp of how to manage it.
- The person chosen will likely need to spend time in your home or business, going to court, meeting with attorneys, etc. For this reason, estate lawyers in Atlanta will often recommend you choose a representative who is physically available, possibly even someone living in the area.
Finally, you want to ensure that the person you name to handle your estate is willing to take on the job. It’s best to discuss the responsibilities and expectations with him or her to make sure it’s something the person feels up to taking on. Spouses or children may feel like they would be unable to do the job in the midst of their grief, others may just not want the responsibility. By discussing it with them before having your Atlanta estate lawyer name them in your documents, you won’t be adding an extra burden to someone who isn’t able to accept it.
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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.