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.
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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Experienced will lawyers in Marietta, Georgia, often feel like they’ve “seen it all.” This is good news for clients, because it means that the attorney can help you prepare for situations that you might never have expected otherwise. One surprise that people hear from their estate planning lawyers is that you can’t use your will to pass on all types of property. While it seems like you should just be able to put it all down on paper and be done with it, there are some things that must go through different channels.
- Living Trusts – Property that you’ve put into a living trust must remain with the trust and be administered according to that trust. It can’t then be named in a will with an expectation that the will can supersede the trust.
- Joint Tenancy – Property that is owned with someone else can not be passed on. In these cases, the surviving co-owners will receive your share. This can be a major concern, so you want to work with your will lawyer in Marietta to fully understand state laws regarding this type of property.
- Life Insurance – Of course you want your life insurance policy to pay out to one or more beneficiaries, but that is handled through the policy itself, not with the will. If your insurance policy names a beneficiary, the will cannot be used to leave the funds to someone else.
- Other Property with Beneficiaries – Basically, if you have a payable-on-death bank account, vehicles or stocks held in beneficiary, or some kind of retirement plan where a beneficiary is named, you do not use the will to pass these on to someone else. If you want to change the beneficiary, this needs to be done through the institution that holds the account or policy.
You will want your heirs to know about these items, of course, and your will lawyer in Marietta will make sure that they are all included in your plan; however, they won’t be passed through your will. If you have questions or concerns about this fact, we invite you to schedule an appointment at our Marietta wills law firm to ensure that your end-of-life wishes are honored.
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For Atlanta, Georgia, area wills and estate lawyers like me, estate planning means so much more than just avoiding taxes and planning for death. Instead, it’s about preserving your “whole family legacy,” which includes family values, traditions and memories should something unexpectedly happen to you.
To that end, your memories are priceless treasures that you’ve spent a lifetime trying to preserve. Years ago it was the shoe box of pictures under the bed or the trunk in the attic, but in today’s tech-savvy world social media has taken their place.
More and more people are using social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to record important memories such as the birth of a baby, a child’s graduation, a wedding and so much more. And what makes this option so special is that it allows the owner of the social media account, along with friends and family to post comments and other valuable insights on each post.
Social media accounts serve as a cache for photos and videos – all of which are incredibly valuable to your family. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that you include a plan to preserve the memories hosted on your social media accounts along with the rest of your family’s legacy? Even though we are still at the dawn of what social media will become, the major social media platforms are already beginning to address the issue of how to handle social media accounts when the owner passes away. Here are a few examples:
Twitter recently adopted a policy to handle ownership of a deceased user’s account. Twitter requires the following information:
1. Your full name, contact information (including e-mail address), and your relationship to the deceased user.
2. The username of the Twitter account, or a link to the profile page of the Twitter account.
3. A link to a public obituary or news article.
Once you provide Twitter with these three things, you can either request that the deceased user’s account be deleted or receive an archive of all of the deceased user’s tweets offline.
Facebook has a unique feature where they will memorialize the profile of a deceased account holder. When a profile is memorialized, only current “friends” will be able to see it. It is however, still active so that friends can leave messages on the wall in remembrance.
To have someone’s profile memorialized, just click this link and you’ll be able to submit a request. You can also request that the decedent’s account be deleted using this form.
LinkedIn has a simple Verification of Death form, which is easy to complete. You can find this form and the information required to close the account on the LinkedIn Customer Support Center. You can opt to submit the form either online or via fax. You will need to know the account holder’s email address used on the account. This is what is used to verify the person’s identity.
As with all other aspects of estate planning, it is important to discuss what you want to happen to your online profiles with your Marietta, Georgia, wills and estates lawyer and document your wishes in writing. If you would like to discuss this with an Atlanta, Georgia, wills and estates lawyer who understands the importance of preserving a real legacy for your family, call us today at 770-425-6060 to schedule your own Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session (these usually cost $750 but you can get in at no charge if you’ll mention this blog post on social media). However, these appointments are limited each month, so call today!
As a Marietta GA wills lawyer and a Cobb County divorce lawyer, I can’t stress enough how important it is for all parents to create a comprehensive plan that will protect their children should the unthinkable occur.
But what happens if you are divorced and can’t come to an agreement with your ex-spouse as to who should raise your kids if something happens to you? Should you go ahead and document your own guardianship wishes anyway? And just whose wishes would hold up in court?
In most cases, if your child’s biological parent is still living at the time of your death and you share custody, your children will be raised by the surviving parent, unless there is some clear reason why that should not happen.
There is nothing you can do about this, unless you can prove that the child’s biological parent is unfit to raise your child and make a compelling case as to why your guardianship nominations should be honored under the circumstances.
Examples of this might include a severe drug addiction, criminal past or a history of abuse.
However, if this is unlikely, the next best thing to do is name guardians anyway so that your wishes for the care of your children will be known and taken into consideration should your ex-spouse should also pass away before your kids reach the age of 18.
This is especially important in the event your ex-spouse did not legally document his or her guardianship wishes upon passing, as your wishes would then be given priority over, say, an unwilling step-parent (just think back to the Cinderella story for a chilling example of this).
Finally, if you are a single parent and have concerns not only about guardianship, but also concerning your ex-spouse handling any assets you would leave to your kids if you passed away first, I encourage you to meet with an Marietta Georgia wills lawyer right away so you can protect such funds and ensure they are used for your children’s care only in your absence.
If you need help getting started with this, please feel free to give our office a call at 770-425-6060 and request a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session. These sessions are normally $750, but you can come in free of charge with the mention of this article. Again, call 770-425-6060 to reserve your spot (limited to first 10 callers).