Working with a will lawyer in Atlanta can bring up some uncomfortable feelings. Those of us in this area of law are very aware of the fact that many people avoid important planning for this very reason. After all, there aren’t a whole lot of people who want to contemplate their own demise, let alone the feelings of those left behind.
Writing your own obituary can actually be kind of a cathartic experience that helps with the estate planning process. It gives you an opportunity to reflect on your own life, as well as to help shape how you will be remembered. It also takes some of the burden off of those who are left behind that might not be up to writing such an intense piece in the middle of grieving. You can write your obituary and have your will lawyer in Atlanta keep it in your file so that it is ready to go when it is needed.
What to Include
You don’t necessarily have to write a full obituary if you don’t want, but it’s a good idea to at least make a list of some key points to make it easier on the person who does the actual writing later. The guidelines for obituaries vary depending on where they will be published. Many funeral homes will place them on their web sites free of charge, but newspapers will charge for including them. A will lawyer in Atlanta will be able to tell you what local outlets expect when it comes to length and cost.
Some of the things that you may want to include are:
Date and place of birth
Education and employment background
Achievements and awards
Family information regarding children, grandchildren, spouses, and parents
Hobbies and interests
A photo you would like used
In addition, you may want to include your wishes regarding memorials. If you’d like flowers sent to the church or funeral home, for instance, you can include that. It’s common for people to request that donations be made to a favorite charity “in lieu of flowers,” too.
Again, you may prefer not to write the entire obituary yourself, rather you may choose to just include this information in your documents so that your family and friends have it to refer to when they create the obituary after your death. If you do choose to write your own, you may want to review it with your Atlanta will lawyer every once in a while to ensure that it is kept up to date and reflects any recent changes.
As a wills and trusts lawyer in Atlanta, it’s easy to see why so many people put off writing their will. After all, no one really wants to think about their own death, let alone prepare for it. In reality, though, preparing by creating a will is exactly what we should all be doing. There are plenty of reasons to consider, and any reputable wills and trusts lawyer will be able to go through the list with you to ensure that you are protecting your assets and the people you love.
Despite not wanting to think about death, the reality of it is inevitable. If you have not prepared by writing a will, then you are risking both your own wishes and the outcome for those you love. This may be especially important for parents.
If you haven’t put together your will, then your children’s future can be in serious jeopardy. For example, you may assume that your property would simply pass on to your kids, but the courts may have other ideas. Additionally, other family members (such as a new spouse) may step in and take things that you intended for your children.
The most extreme example, however, likely comes along with guardianship. In order to ensure that your children are raised in the fashion you deem appropriate, you need to specify their guardians. This is done through the will, and the best way to make sure your wishes are known is to work with a wills and trusts lawyer now, before the issue is completely out of your hands.
Some Atlanta residents feel that they don’t need a will simply because they are married. They assume that if they were to die, their assets, property, children, etc. would automatically pass to the spouse. In some rare cases, this may not be true, as others may have a legitimate claim to an inheritance when a will hasn’t been written. It is heartbreaking to know that your spouse may not be the beneficiary of those things you most want him or her to have.
Of course, there’s also the possibility of both spouses being killed at one time. In situations like that, there is no surviving spouse to speak up for the children or to have a say in the distribution of assets. Again, the courts will have a much bigger say in the outcome of your estate than you would probably like.
Creating a will doesn’t have to be an overly-complicated activity, although it makes sense to consult with a good wills and trusts lawyer to ensure you are covering the basics and fulfilling any legal requirements applicable to Atlanta residents. While it’s certainly not ideal to spend time imagining what would happen to your family and assets after your death, doing so now can make an incredible difference later.
If you own a car, you know it requires a regular maintenance in order to perform well and be reliable. When you purchased your car, you most likely received a recommended schedule for service. If you follow that schedule, most likely your car will continue to work well. If you don’t follow that schedule, you are taking the chance that your car will let you down.
Did you know that your estate plan also needs to be “serviced” on a regular basis? Your estate plan is a snapshot of your life the way it was at the time it was created. However, over time your family structure, your assets and the tax laws change so you should set a schedule to have your plan reviewed to make sure it doesn’t let you down.
So, when should you have your estate plan serviced? Any change in your personal, family, financial or health situation should prompt you to review your estate plan. But, in general, I recommend that you pick a date that you will remember to review the plan each year. Your cue to remember this might be a birthday or anniversary…just any date that will jog your memory and allow you time to sit and read through your plan.
If you think a change is needed, do not write on your estate plan. You should contact your wills lawyer. Hopefully your attorney operates like us and does not charge for quick questions such as these. You should be able to pick up the phone and speak to your attorney to ask whether your plan needs a tune-up.
You should also make sure that your Marietta GA wills lawyer will review your plan with you at no charge at least every three years. There are some things that might impact your plan that you don’t know about such as changes in federal or state laws.
As a guide, I have given you a few events where you might want to review your plan:
You and Your Spouse
You marry, divorce or separate
Your or your spouse’s health declines
Your spouse dies
Value of assets changes dramatically
Change in business interests
You buy real estate in another state
Birth or adoption
Marriage or divorce
Parent/relative becomes dependent on you
Minor becomes adult
Attitude toward you changes
Family member dies
Federal or state tax laws change
You plan to move to a different state
Your successor trustee, guardian or administrator moves, becomes ill or changes mind
You change your mind.
I hope that this list gives you an idea of whether you need your plan reviewed. If you are no longer in touch with your Marietta wills lawyer, I welcome you to call our office and let Lynn know that you need an Estate Plan Checkup and I’ll be happy to review it with you at no charge if you mention the KICK THE TIRES post.
Marietta, Cobb County (Atlanta) family estate planning lawyer Steve Worrall discusses how your estate plan is like a car and needs regular updates and maintenance. He also lists some key life events that might trigger the need for that review, like these:
• You marry, divorce or separate
• You or your spouse’s health declines
• Your spouse dies
• Your value of assets changes dramatically
• You have a change in business interests
• You buy real estate in another state
• You have a Birth or adoption
• A Parent or relative becomes dependent on you
• A minor child becomes adult
• Federal or state tax laws change
• You plan to move to a different state
• Your successor trustee, guardian or administrator moves, becomes ill or changes mind
• You change your mind about any of the above for whatever reason
Make sure your lawyer includes the costs for quick questions about your plan in the fee and that your lawyer offers a no-cost review of your plan at least every 3 years.