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.
Receiving an inheritance is both an honor and a responsibility, and Atlanta estate planning attorneys constantly see individuals who are just not ready to take that on appropriately. Unlike items of sentimental value, such as jewelry or family heirlooms, a financial inheritance was likely meant to be used toward your own monetary goals. The temptation to simply spend away an inheritance as “bonus” money can be strong, but there are a whole lot of very practical means by which to manage the funds for your own future.
When you receive an inheritance, you should look at how it fits into your overall financial plan. Are you saving for a particular purchase, working toward paying off debt, or building a retirement fund for yourself? These are all potential uses for the money which has been left to you. You should also be aware that inheriting the funds may have tax implications. Your Atlanta estate planning attorney will be able to guide you when it comes to ways of reinvesting or living off of the inheritance in order to minimize the amount of taxes you will need to pay.
The types of inheritance you receive can certainly vary, with stocks, bonds, bank accounts, and insurance benefits all being possibilities. The different types of sources and dispersal of funds may be governed by certain rules or laws. For example, many people are surprised when their Atlanta trusts and estates attorney tells them they can have a limited amount of time to withdraw funds from an inherited retirement account, like a 401(k), 403 (b), or and IRA. The rules and regulations won’t be the same for every type of account, but if you don’t find out what they are, you can end up paying a lot of penalties and fines out of the money you’ve inherited.
There may also be times when you feel you don’t need the money as much as another beneficiary and are willing to forego your share. This might be for altruistic reasons or simply to protect your own tax situation. In this case, you can work with your Atlanta estate planning attorney to properly disclaim your inheritance. Doing something along these lines can allow the money to “flow” through you and to another beneficiary, possibly even one of your own children.
When it comes to managing your inheritance, there can be many complications to work through, and one of the best ways to minimize confusion is to work with a qualified and experienced Atlanta estates attorney. Remember, the type of inheritance, your future goals, your tax situation, and even whether or not you “need” the inheritance will all come into play when determining what is the best route for you to take.
Our attorneys are ready to answer your questions and assist you with the implementation of your financial goals. To schedule a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session with the mention of this article, simply call our office at 770-425-6060 or email us at email@example.com.
Below is a fictional letter that my friend and colleague in Colorado, Martha Hartney, Esq., recently posted on her blog. The paragraphs at the bottom are from me. Martha agreed to let me post it here for everyone who reads my updates, so a BIG THANK YOU! goes out to Martha! Martha says, “I drafted it to anyone’s former partner because I know only too well what can happen when estate planning is not done properly. I hope you enjoy this outreach to an ex-spouse or partner and consider taking steps to do everything this letter suggests for yourself. You can even send the link to your ex!”
Though we’re not married (cohabitating, procreating) anymore, there are a few things I’d like to say about how you set up your affairs for our kids. You’re about to go on vacation—and I know you worry about being away from them and having an emergency or tragedy happen. I don’t have ANY say in how you set up your estate plan. But there are things that I’d like you to consider about the well-being and care of our beautiful children.
- Make sure your life insurance is up to date and your beneficiaries are listed properly. Don’t name our kids as direct beneficiaries! That will put them straight into a conservatorship (guardianship) where a judge will supervise their financial lives until 18, then they’ll get the assets outright in one fell swoop.
- Instead, leave your assets to them in trust, which will sidestep probate, keep the management of your assets private and in your control, and prevent loss of those assets to our kids’ future creditors and predators and reduce the estate taxes that can take valuable resources away from our kids.
- Name a trustee that I can work with, someone you trust with your life, because your trustee will have to deal with me. If I were the only parent left, I would be legally responsible for ensuring the assets left to our children are properly managed. I would be looking at the annual accountings. I would be the one asking for court intervention if they are mismanaged or embezzled.
- Don’t leave your assets to our kids outright and don’t leave too much. There is nothing more damaging to a kid’s life purpose than having too much money at their fingertips. There’s a saying, “Leave them with enough to do something, but not enough to do nothing.” If you have lots of assets, consider giving some to your favorite charity instead of the kids.
- Don’t cheap out on an estate plan. Whitney Houston did that. She bought a schlocky will that didn’t protect her assets from her daughter’s creditors, estate taxes, and probate. Spend the money to get it done right. It’s really not that much in the scheme of things.
- Plan for a very long life. I know you want to leave our kids your accumulated wealth, but think of yourself first. We’re all living longer lives and, even though we’re not “in love” anymore, I do care about you and your welfare. Create a wealth-plan that will give you lifelong, passive income.
- Make sure you have disability insurance. Your ability to earn is your greatest asset. Nothing will diminish your wealth, and put you in poverty quicker than not being able to earn money anymore. Even if you didn’t need care, if you couldn’t work, you would run through savings quickly and may have to cheap out on things like your lifestyle, vacations, then even necessities like good, wholesome food, the roof over your head. Please don’t let that happen to our kids or to you.
- Get long-term care insurance. The person who is going to live to 150 is believed to have already been born! People will routinely live to be over 100 and that could be you. Long-term care is EXPENSIVE and it’s only going to get more so. Since you’re over 50 and in good health, consider buying a LTC policy on you, or a rider on your life insurance policy.
- Name a guardian for our kids—and ask me who I named. We might be able to agree still on that. Of course, I’ve taken care of my guardianship nomination but if I didn’t, our kids would be subject to a guardianship proceeding—and you and I both know that would be bad because our families would duke it out. You can even do that for FREE online at www.kidsprotectionplan.com. [In Georgia, go to georgia.kidsprotectionplan.com] With that resource, there’s really no reason not to do that at the very least.
- When you decide to remarry, get great guidance from an attorney in advance because remarriage can cause complications to your planning. I’m sure you’ve heard of assets going to a spouse instead of to kids—and while you may eventually want that—don’t let that happen by accident or oversight.
- Make sure you have your own healthcare documents in place naming your agent for medical decision-making. Don’t name the kids as your agents until they are legally capable—over 18, and emotionally able to handle the job.
- Check with your attorney and your retirement account custodian to see if I need to sign any waiver to your retirement accounts. In some cases, if you haven’t remarried, as your previous spouse, I may retain some rights in a 401(k) or similar account that you may have had when we were married. I know that’s not what you want, and that’s okay.
- Most importantly, shoot a video of yourself telling the kids your life story. Tell them about how we met and what you liked about me. Tell them that it’s not their fault that we didn’t work out but that we did have some awesome times together. Tell them about your biggest life lessons, your values, your setbacks and victories. Tell them what a terrific businessperson you are and how you learned to be that. Tell them about your favorite hobbies and what you’re good at. Tell them what you love about them and how much blessed you are that we brought them into the world. [We are now offering Family Treasures Legacy interviews to our clients – call to set yours up today!]
So, dear Ex, I do want the best for our kids and I hope you consider my wishes so that if something did happen to you, they’d be okay. Because I promise that if something did, I would do everything in my power to make sure they’re able to heal, to thrive, to honor you every day of their lives.
If you haven’t gotten around to doing these things yourself, we can help. If you’d like to learn more about anything you read here, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, but because of the importance of divorced parent planning, I’ve made space for the next five people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.
I’m also happy to send you a FREE digital copy of the best-selling book “Wear Clean Underwear—a Fun, Fast, Friendly—and Essential Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents” so you can get even more education on your family’s legal needs. Just call my office at 770.425.6060 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for the book. We’ll email it to you right away!
By the time you earn your college degree, you may not feel like you have anything to “protect” through estate planning. After all, the stereotype of the “starving college student” got started for a reason! But, even if you leave college with a load of student loans and an entry-level job (or hopes of one), you will do yourself a favor by spending just a little time doing some basic estate planning here in Marietta and Cobb County, Georgia.
Marietta GA Estate Planning for Your Physical Self
There are tons of reasons to do your estate planning, and it seems like those most often talked about are passing on your possessions and avoiding taxes. It can be argued, however, that there is a far more important reason, and it’s one that even young college graduates shouldn’t overlook: your medical decisions.
What happens if you become injured or otherwise capacitated and can’t tell the doctors what you want? Who makes decisions for you about what kind of life-sustaining measures should be taken or whether or not you consent to surgery? In most states, an individual’s parents are given this responsibility (although that is not always the case). Whether you want your parents in that role or someone else, the way to make sure you have a say is to have an estate planning lawyer in Marietta Georgia draw up a legally binding “medical power of attorney.”
Marietta Estate Planning for Your Finances
It may not seem like you have much of anything to look after when it comes to finances and the recent college grad. In reality, though, you likely do have some things to consider. For example, do you have any debt, and if so, do you know what happens to it if you become incapacitated or pass away? The answer has a lot of variables such as the kind of debt, whether or not you have other authorized users on your account, and more.
One of the reasons you worked so hard for your degree was likely so you could move out into the workforce, and with that comes options such as retirement accounts and insurance. Each of these includes naming a beneficiary for benefits, and you’ll want to make sure you are up to speed on what it means and have the appropriate people named. Some accounts don’t have specific beneficiaries, so setting up even a simple will can help make the transfer of those funds much easier and less expensive when the time comes.
Marietta Georgia Estate Planning for Your Partner
Many college graduates are moving forward with their lives as couples, both married and unmarried. Either way, estate planning in Marietta and Cobb County GA is an important part of making sure that your partner is cared for and receives the appropriate benefits upon your death. As mentioned above, you want to make sure you have the correct information filled out when it comes to beneficiaries on accounts, but you will probably want to go a step further to ensure that your assets pass in the way you want. Typically, an unmarried partner is not entitled to the same benefits as spouses, so if you don’t set up the situation appropriately through well-reasoned estate planning, your significant other might be entitled to absolutely nothing!
Estate Planning Matters For College Grads, Too!
Contrary to what you may have heard, estate planning is NOT just for the ultra-wealthy or the elderly. Estate planning is just as important for the college grad and savvy young adult, too. Celebrate your recent graduation and your success by getting a complimentary review of your situation. Schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session with the mention of this article and let us help you layout a road map for lasting protection and peace of mind in the future.
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It’s “Date Night” Friday…
The one night a week when you and your spouse spend time together…talk about the week…have a nice leisurely dinner…just the two of you.
You’ve lined up a babysitter…
You left money for the pizza delivery guy and a list of contact numbers on the refrigerator door…right under the magnet you bought in Yosemite last summer…
You’ve got everything taken care of…
Except what happens to your children if the unthinkable happens and you never make it back home.
If you have minor children and you’re severely injured or worse in an accident, the police may have no choice but to place your children with Child Protective Services if they don’t have information or documentation indicating who you would want to care for your children.
Once the immediate situation has passed, your children could then be at the mercy of the “system”. There is no way the State can know who would be the best choice as a guardian for your children.
So…what do you need to do?
First, Put Your Guardianship Wishes in Writing
Just telling your chosen guardian that you want them to take care of your children is not enough. What you “said” is not legally sufficient and you could be placing your children at the mercy of the foster care system for a long period of time. You need to have a plan in place, written instructions, and the proper legal documentation in order to ensure that your wishes are followed and that everyone knows what those wishes are.
Another misconception is that if you name a guardian in your Will, that’s all you have to do.
A guardianship provided for in a Will only takes effect after you die. If you become incapacitated but are still alive, it means nothing.
Proper Documentation for Guardianship
A good, solid guardianship plan will allow you to choose guardians either on a permanent or temporary basis and leave instructions for those guardians so they know exactly what you want them to do and under what circumstances.
You need to have at least these documents in place at all times if you have minor children:
1. Legal documentation naming a short term or temporary guardian in case you become incapacitated for a short period of time, or in the interim between your death and the time your permanent guardian can arrive. The best option for this guardianship is someone close by that can take immediate custody of your children and keep them out of the court system. Make sure that you talk to these individuals about your plans and that they are willing to serve as temporary guardians. Have their names at the top of a contact list that is available immediately in the event you are not able to communicate. And always make sure they have a copy of the documents naming them as temporary guardians.
2. Legal documents naming permanent guardians. The same information applies for this document as for temporary guardianship papers. Make sure you talk to the people you select and that they have copies of these documents to provide to the court.
3. Make sure you have written instructions for anyone taking care of your children so they know exactly what needs to be done if something happens to you. Make sure they know who to call. Even if you’re leaving your kids with the 16 year old kid next door to babysit on Friday night, make sure she or he knows what needs to be done if the worst happens. And always have written instructions in place for the person or persons you choose as a guardian to tell them how you want your children to be raised.
4. Always have a Medical Authorization and Power of Attorney for your children, especially if you’re sending them to Grandma’s on their own. These documents will allow the person taking care of your children in your absence to make medical decisions that could be a matter of life and death.
Really makes you think, doesn’t it?
He said/She said will not hold up in court, so if that is the only plan you’ve made for your children if the unthinkable happens, you could be placing them at the mercy of the foster care system without even realizing it.
If all this has made you realize you would like to get your documents in order to make sure that your children and your property are taken care of, call us to schedule your Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session today. We can identify what you need to do to plan for your family’s future and answer any questions you have about an effective estate plan. Our Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session is normally $750, but mention this article and you’ll have a complete planning session with me at no charge. Call 770-425-6060 today and mention this article.