Marietta Estate Planning in the Comfort of Your Home


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 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.

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.

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.

Most people know that they need a will, but they don’t know everything that the will should contain.  Although everyone is different and needs vary, commonly wills include these provisions:

  • The will tells where your property should go. This is what most people think of when they think of a last will & testament – a document that states who gets your property once you’ve passed away. Although most people leave their property to family members, others leave gifts to friends, charities, or sometimes even pets.
  • Burial vs. Cremation. Wills commonly state whether the testator wants to be buried or cremated, and if the body is to be buried in a specific place or ashes sprinkled in a specific place. This information is also contained in the Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare.
  • Guardians for minor children. This is one of the most important provisions in the will for parents of minor children – naming a person or a couple to raise their children for them if they are both gone.
  • Trusts. Some people would prefer that their beneficiaries not get everything right away, so the property may be set aside in a trust that’s contained in the will. Although this is most commonly included in the wills of parents of minor children, trusts can be used for a variety of purposes, including to benefit special needs children or adults, to care for pets, to protect money for beneficiaries who may not be responsible with money, to provide for the education of grandchildren, to protect money for the benefit of children from a previous marriage, and more.
  • Naming executors and trustees. Your will will list who you want to be your executor (the person who wraps up your affairs and follows the directions in your will once you’re gone), as well as your trustee (the person who is in charge of any money you leave to a trust).
  • Waiving a bond, inventories and returns. Typically, in your will you will relieve the executor from posting a bond, and from filing inventories and returns with the court. This makes it easier for your executor to wrap up your estate.

Wills are a necessary part of estate planning for most people. If you are interested in discussing your Georgia Last Will & Testament with an attorney, call Sarah White, Marietta estate planning attorney, at 678-453-6490 today.

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.