Marietta Estate Planning in the Comfort of Your Home

Wills

Wills

This is a question I get all the time. Parents are often concerned about who they should name as Executor of their estate, and whether or not one child’s feelings would get hurt if he or she was not named as Executor.

There is no hard and fast rule to whether or not children should be named as Co-Executors. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that Co-Executors work TOGETHER. It’s not an either/or situation. They both have to sign off on all matters relating to the estate. If your children do not work well together, do not name them as Executors expecting that this experience will draw them closer – it will not. If you have a large number of children, and you name them all as Co-Executors, you are creating a logistical nightmare.

It’s best to choose a person who is trustworthy, level-headed, and detail-oriented to serve as your Executor. If you have more than one child who meets this description, and you feel that they would work well together and benefit from having more than one Executor, naming Co-Executors is not a bad idea. If you have a large number of children and/or children who do not get along well, naming them as Co-Executors is not a good idea.

After you decide who you want to serve as Executor, it’s best to ask him/her if they are willing while you are alive. Once that decision has been made, you should consider letting your other children know as well, and let them know why they were not chosen. This can help to avoid hard feelings after your death – you probably know families who have been torn apart after a death because of hard feelings or a simple misunderstanding.

If you have any questions about who you should name as Executor, call me, Sarah White, at 678-453-6490. I work extensively with families on these issues, and I can help you sort through your situation.

If you have life insurance, you’ve probably purchased it with the idea that it will go to support your family after you pass away, not to pay your debts. I have some good news for you – in most cases, the life insurance will pass to your family members and will not be subject to the claims of creditors.

Typically, if you make life insurance proceeds payable to your spouse or your children, that money passes outside of your estate directly to your spouse or your children. Since it doesn’t become a part of your estate, it doesn’t become subject to the claims of creditors. Although many of my clients are debt free and aren’t worried about creditors, it’s possible that some creditors could surface after your death. For instance, if you died in a car wreck that was your fault and injured others, the other injured parties could make a claim against your estate, and any assets in your estate would be subject to the claims of creditors.

For those reasons, I usually recommend that my clients make their life insurance proceeds payable directly to an individual, or a trust for the benefit of their children. If they do that, the money will pass directly to their loved ones. It’s always a good idea to keep those beneficiary forms up to date, so I recommend that my clients update those forms as a part of the estate planning process.

Do you have any questions about life insurance proceeds and debts in Georgia? Call Sarah White, Marietta wills attorney, at 678-453-6490. I’ll be happy to provide you with a free phone consultation.

This is a question I get a lot. Many, many clients express to me that they were motivated to get their Wills done because they were afraid if they passed away without a Will “the state would get their money”.

However, that’s not really what happens. There are a couple of issues at play: (1) Who gets your money if you pass away without a Will in Georgia; and (2) if the state will get your money.

To answer the first issue, if you pass away without a Will in Georgia, where your probate estate passes is determined by Georgia law. Georgia law says that if you die without a Will, your probate estate will be shared among your spouse and children, and if none, then it passes to your parents, and if they aren’t living it will pass to your siblings. Your probate estate includes any property you own in your individual name (and not joint with right of survivorship) and any accounts that do not have a beneficiary form or accounts on which your estate is named as beneficiary. Assets that are owned jointly or have beneficiary forms pass outside the Will. This distribution of assets may sound reasonable, but most married couples wish for their spouse to get everything, and for the assets to pass to the kids upon the spouse’s death.

To answer the second question, no, in most cases the state will not get your money. A couple of cases in which the state could end up with your money is if you owed estate taxes, or if you had no living relatives. If you had a very large estate ($5.25 million if you passed away in 2013), anything over amount that would be taxed and could end up in the hands of the federal and/or state government. You could possibly avoid that by doing some tax planning in your Will. If you died without a Will and had NO living relatives (meaning no parents, siblings, spouse, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces or nephews, etc.) your estate could pass to the state (it’s called “escheating” to the state). That would be an unusual situation, but it happens. You could avoid that by doing a Will and naming friends or charities to inherit your property.

If you want to learn more about Wills in Georgia, call Sarah White, Marietta estate planning attorney, at 678-453-6490 or email me at sarah@lawyersarah.com. I will be happy to talk with you for free over the phone. I work with clients in the northern Atlanta suburbs, including Marietta, Woodstock, Kennesaw, Canton, Cartersville, Acworth, Smyrna, and Roswell.

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.

If you do a Will in one state, it is generally valid in all states. However, if you move you should usually have your Will and other estate planning documents reviewed by an attorney in your new state at a minimum.  Although the Will may be legally created in that state, there are variations in state laws that can have an impact on your estate.

For example, in Georgia we prove our Wills using a self-proving affidavit and a notary, so that witnesses aren’t required to be called into court to testify that the Will is yours. However, some states don’t accept self-proving affidavits. States have different rules on what property a spouse is required to inherit. Some states allow holographic Wills (Wills written entirely in the handwriting of the testator) and some don’t.

Your Power of Attorney and Healthcare documents will also need to be reviewed in your new state, and probably updated. Although you may consider it a hassle to update your documents with each move, odds are it”s been at least a few years since you drafted the documents, so they probably need to be reviewed anyway. If you have just moved to Georgia and would like me to review your Will, Revocable Living Trust, Power of Attorney, Healthcare directive or other documents, give me a call at 678-453-6490. I would be happy to help you and welcome to the Peach State!

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.

For my clients, I try to make the will and other documents as flexible as possible in order to take into account future circumstances. This usually means including unborn children in the estate plan, listing several possible executors and trustees, and listing several people who could inherit in the event the primary beneficiary has died. However, even if you tried to take into account all possible future events when drafting your documents, I still recommend you review them at least every five years.

In addition to reviewing them every five years, there are also several circumstances that might happen in your life that would cause you to need to review your estate planning documents. These include:

– The birth of a child
– A change in the tax laws, such as the change that is scheduled at the beginning of next year
– A divorce or break-up
– A death of someone close to you who may be named in the documents, such as a spouse, sibling, or child
– A change in your health
– The receipt of a large inheritance or other windfall

Regardless of whether you have experienced any of these, it’s still a good idea to review those documents every five years. If you have reviewed them and have any questions, call Sarah White, Cobb County estate planning attorney at 678-453-6490. I offer free phone consultations and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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.

This is a question I get all the time. I frequently meet clients who have already put their children’s names on their deed in order to make things easier when they pass away. It is true that having your children as co-owners on your assets avoids probate. Also, putting your children as co-owners of your property is fairly simple and can sometimes be done without an attorney. However, this is not something I recommend for a variety of reasons.

First, when you name your children as co-owners on assets such as real estate, they have as many rights to the property as you do. Although your children may be very responsible, upstanding citizens, many people fall on hard times unexpectedly. If your children were to file for bankruptcy, go through a divorce, rack up medical expenses or tax debts, those assets are theirs and are subject to those claims. Also, if your child is an owner of the property, he or she has as much of a right to sell it or live on it as you do. As you can imagine, this can create problems in some cases.

Also, there can be tax consequences to naming your children as co-owners of the property, both when you name them on the property, and when they sell it. It is typically much better from a tax perspective to give gifts at death rather than during life. In most cases, this will greatly reduce the amount of taxes they pay on the property when it is ultimately sold.

Finally, some people name only one child as a co-owner simply to make things easy, and they assure me that once they pass that child will share with the other children. However, legally that child does not have to share with his or her siblings. I hear a lot of horror stories about how much people change when there’s been a death in the family and how the money destroys relationships. You don’t want to let property drive a wedge between your children once you pass. Instead, I recommend letting everything pass through probate in most cases. Probate in Georgia can be simple, and it’s not worth the risks you take by naming a child as a co-owner of property simply in order to avoid probate.

Do you have any questions about probate in Georgia or how assets should be titled? If so, contact Cobb County estate planning attorney Sarah White at 678-453-6490 or email me at sarah@lawyersarah.com. I would be happy to give you a phone consultation.