Marietta Estate Planning in the Comfort of Your Home

Health Care Documents

Health Care Documents

Many of my clients have parents whose health is starting to falter. They may be unable to make decisions for themselves about their health, safety, or finances. However, in some cases the parents are reluctant to give up any control over their assets and don’t want anyone else to be able to make decisions for them.

I usually recommend that if possible, elderly individuals execute a power of attorney and a Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare (in addition to a Will). A power of attorney and a healthcare directive will allow a named individual to make decisions about finances and health care in the event the elderly person is unable to do so.

In some cases, the elderly person no longer has the capacity to make good decisions about his or her finances, health, safety or welfare. In other cases, the elderly person might be being taken advantage of by a family member or friend, and doesn’t want anyone else to make decisions for him or her. In those cases, a guardianship or a conservatorship may become necessary.

A guardianship is a legal process in which a person asks the probate court to give him or her control over an adult’s health, safety and welfare. A conservatorship is similar but gives control over finances. Guardianships and conservatorships are often expensive and time-consuming, but in many cases are necessary to protect an individual from either being taken advantage of or from making poor decisions.

If you believe your mother or father or another loved one is in need of a guardianship/conservatorship, call Sarah White, Cobb County guardianship attorney, at 678-453-6490. She will help you walk through the process and will also help determine if any alternatives exist.

If you are getting older and you are concerned that at some time in the future you won’t be able to manage your affairs, you may be concerned about who will do so. Many people have one person (often a child) who would be their first choice to take over in the event they became incapacitated.

If you have those concerns, there are a couple of actions you should take. First, you should execute two documents. One is a power of attorney, and the other is a Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare. A power of attorney will allow your children, or whomever you name, to handle your financial affairs in the event you become incapacitated. A Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare gives whomever you name the power to manage your healthcare decisions in the event you can no longer do so yourself. Those two documents are invaluable in the event you become incapacitated. You may also wish to discuss your wishes with your children about healthcare and finances, as well as to tell them what they need to know should that time ever arise where you can’t handle your affairs.

A lot of my clients ask my advice on whether or not they should add their child or children to their bank account to make paying bills easier. I almost never recommend doing that. If the child were to go through a divorce or bankruptcy, those assets could be seized. If the child decided to go on a gambling trip to Las Vegas, those funds could be used. When the individual passes away, those funds will go automatically to the child, and the child may choose not to share with other children. Instead, a power of attorney could be used that would give the child the same power over the account.

If you do not do any advance planning, and you become incapacitated, your loved ones could be forced to go through a court process to obtain a guardianship or a conservatorship. This process can be lengthy and expensive and may not result in what the elderly person would have wanted.

If you are concerned about your future and you feel that you may need a power of attorney or a healthcare directive, call Sarah White, Marietta wills attorney, at 678-453-6490. I serve clients in Canton, Cartersville, Roswell, Acworth, Woodstock, Kennesaw, Smyrna and the surrounding areas. Call today to learn more.

I get this question a lot. I also see a lot of clients with wills from the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s that are woefully out of date.

There are a few situations in which you should consider updating your estate planning documents. The first is if your personal situation has changed. Maybe you’ve gotten married or had children. Maybe one or more of your loved ones who are named in your Will have either passed away or your relationship with them has changed, and the documents no longer reflect your wishes. Maybe you did your documents when your children were very small and they are adults now. Maybe you have a great deal more or less money and property than you did when you originally did the documents. All of these would be good reasons to review the documents and consider updating them.

Another good reason to update your documents would be if you have moved out of state. It’s generally a good idea when you move from one state to another to at a minimum have your current documents reviewed, and generally they should be redone in accordance with the laws in your new state.

Another good reason to update or review your documents is if the estate tax laws have changed and you are unsure about whether you face an estate tax issue or not. A consultation with an estate planning attorney could potentially save you a lot of money that would otherwise go to Uncle Sam.

Do you think that your estate planning documents may be out of date? If you’re not sure, call Sarah White, Marietta estate planning attorney, at 678-453-6490 for a free consultation. I will be happy to discuss your situation with you. I serve clients in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, including Kennesaw, Marietta, Woodstock, Acworth, Cartersville, Canton, Smyrna, Roswell, and the surrounding areas. Call today to learn more.

This is actually a question I get asked a lot, but in Georgia there’s not really a document called a “revocable living will”.  Typically, when people ask me about revocable living wills, they are confusing two documents – a revocable living trust, and a living will. Although both documents have the word “living” in them, they are actually two separate things.

Revocable living trusts are documents people execute while they’re living, they title all of their assets to them, and then when they pass away their estate doesn’t have to go through probate (if done correctly). Although most of my clients in Georgia actually don’t need a revocable living trust, a few do.

A living will is a document that states your wishes about life support if you’re unable  to make those decisions yourself. In Georgia, we now use a document called an Advance Directive for Health Care, which replaces living wills. (And FYI,  living wills are revocable, which I guess means that there are technically documents called revocable living wills, but when clients ask about them they virtually always are getting two terms confused).

I hope this helps clears up any confusion. If you have any questions about living wills, Georgia Advance Directives for Healthcare, living trusts, or any estate planning-related matters, feel free to call me, Sarah White, Marietta estate planning attorney, for a free phone consultation at 678-453-6490. I work with clients in the surrounding counties, including Cobb, Bartow, Cherokee, Douglas and Paulding.

This is a question I get asked on a weekly basis. The answers I give are different depending on which document you are referring to. For a Will, when someone passes away and their estate needs to be probated, the probate court would prefer the original Will. The original Will should be kept in a very secure location, such as a safety deposit box or a home safe. Your heirs should know where it is and how to get it, and your attorney may want to keep a copy of it. You can also store your Will with the probate court in your county. A small filing fee is charged. However, if you anticipate making changes to your Will in the future, you will have to get the Will back from the Court and re-file the new Will later.

Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Directives should be placed in a location which is easily accessible. You may wish to give copies of those documents to your loved ones who are named in the documents. You may also wish to give your Healthcare Directive to your primary care physician to be stored in your medical file.

Do you have any questions about the storage of your estate planning documents? Call Sarah White, Marietta, Georgia estate planning attorney at 678-453-6490. I will be happy to answer your questions. Call today.

I get a lot of questions from people about what kind of health care documents they need. In the past they may have executed both a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care, or they may have read online that they need a living will and a health care proxy. In Georgia, those documents have been replaced with one document – the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care. Here are some things you need to know about the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care:

  1. It names people who can make health care decisions for you if you can’t for yourself. That person, the health care agent, also may be chosen to make decisions about an autopsy, organ donation, body donation, and final disposition of your body.
  2. It allows you to state your wishes on life support if you have a terminal illness or an irreversible coma.
  3. It allows you to select a person who could serve as your guardian in the event the court ever had to appoint a guardian for you.
  4. It can act as a HIPAA waiver – that is, it will allow your health care agent to have the same access to your private medical records that you have.
  5. It allows your health care agent to accompany you in an ambulance or to visit with you while you are in a hospital or other health care facility.
  6. It allows your health care agent to carry out your life support wishes.

I like the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care form. It simplifies the planning process by using only one health care form, and it’s fairly easy to understand. If you have questions about the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care, call me, Sarah White, Marietta estate planning attorney, at 678-453-6490 today.

School will be back in session soon, and now is the time that many college students are gearing up to head back to campus. As part of the back to school process, I recommend that college students consider executing some estate planning documents. The vast majority of college students don’t do any type of estate planning, mainly for financial reasons, and probably because they think that since they don’t have much property or wealth anyway, there’s no reason to do the documents.

However, estate planning can be critical for college students. For most of my clients, I recommend three forms – a will, a power of attorney, and a Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare. For college students in particular, the last two of those forms can be vitally important. A power of attorney and a healthcare directive are intended to be used while you are living but unable to make decisions for yourself about finances or healthcare. Without them, parents of students who are injured in an accident would have to petition a court in a lengthy process to obtain a guardianship or a conservatorship over the college student in order to handle their child’s affairs during his or her incapacitation. I don’t have any statistics available, but my practical experience tells me that those two forms, which are less expensive to prepare than a will, are used more often for typical college students than a will would be.

Are you a college student who feels you may need a will, power of attorney, or healthcare directive in the event the unimaginable happens? Call Sarah White, Cobb County estate planning attorney at 678-453-6490 to learn more about what you may need. Turnaround time can be quick and low cost packages are available.

A lot of new clients are confused about the health care documents they may need in the event of an accident or a debilitating illness. They often tell me they need a living will or a health care power of attorney, because that’s what they read online or were told by a friend.

However, in 2007 Georgia came out with a statutory form governing health care wishes, called the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care. It was intended to replace both the living will and the durable power of attorney. It’s a fairly easy to understand form, making it easy for Georgia’s citizens to make their health care wishes known. It is also available free online, and it’s a fill in the blank form, which also encourages individuals to complete it.

The Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care has two primary purposes – to allow someone to name another person to make health care decisions for him/her in the event the individual becomes unable to do so, and also to make wishes regarding life support known. The form also allows a guardian to be nominated in the event a court determines a guardian is necessary.

Once a health care agent is appointed, the health care agent has numerous powers: to consent to or withhold any and all types of medical care, to enter into contracts for health care for the declarant, to ride in an ambulance with the declarant, to see the declarant’s medical records, to donate the declarant’s organs, and to arrange a burial or cremation. In addition to the primary health care agent named in the document, usually one or two backup agents are named, in the event the primary agent is unwilling or unable to serve.

Do you have any questions about the Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare? Call me, Sarah White, Marietta estate planning attorney, at 678-453-6490 to learn more.

Although estate planning is important for almost everyone, it’s particularly important for unmarried couples. State laws offer some protections to married couples who fail to do estate planning, such as through intestacy statutes (which state the spouse automatically gets a percentage of the estate when a spouse dies without a will) and guardianship laws. However, couples that do not marry must prepare a few documents if they want to make sure they leave their partner protected.

In general, for unmarried couples, I recommend a will, a power of attorney, and a Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare, which are the same documents I recommend for married couples. The will states where a person’s property is to pass. This will insure that the unmarried partner’s property is protected. The will also provides who the guardian of any minor children of the couple is to be if something should happen to both of them. This can be crucial if there is a situation where the partners are not both the biological or adoptive parents of the children, and the biological parents are no longer in the picture.

The second document I recommend is the power of attorney. In a power of attorney, the signer gives another person the power to sign financial documents on his or her behalf while he or she is still alive. The power can be effective immediately or upon future incapacity. This document is crucial because it will allow the unmarried partner to handle the finances of the other partner if he or she was involved in an accident, developed Alzheimer’s, etc. Finally, I recommend a Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare. The Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare states who is to make healthcare decisions for an individual if the person can’t do so for themselves. The document also discusses who is to make decisions about the body after death, who gets access to healthcare records under HIPAA privacy laws, who should be appointed guardian in the event the court appoints a guardian for an adult, and life support preferences. This form is critical for an unmarried partner in the event of a healthcare crisis or death.

Although laws offer some built-in protections for married couples that unmarried couples don’t have, by drafting a few documents unmarried couples can make their wishes known. If you are unmarried and need some estate planning, call Sarah White, Marietta estate planning attorney, at 678-453-6490 to learn more.

This is something I hear all the time. People confuse the terms living trust and living will. The only similarities between a living trust and a living will are that they both contain the word “living”, and both can be done as part of estate planning.

A living trust is a tool that is primarily used to avoid probate. In a living trust arrangement, an individual will draft a trust agreement and title all his or her assets to the trust. When that person passes away, the property owned by the trust will not have to go through the probate process. Living trusts are not as valuable in Georgia as in some other states with more complex probate laws.

A living will is a document that tells about a person’s wishes for life support. In Georgia, a document called an Advance Directive for Healthcare is commonly used to express life support wishes.

Do you have any questions about living wills, living trusts, or estate planning in general? If so, contact me at 678-453-6490 to learn more.