Roswell Law Blog

Estate plans and passwords

When Georgia residents begin the estate planning process, they often focus on wills, trusts and end-of-life medical planning. One area that might be overlooked is password access for electronic devices and online accounts. Not having these passwords can make the process very difficult for loved ones and estate executors.

Many people manage their personal and business finances online. Banks and investment brokerages offer online account access, and consumers often rely on online services to pay their utility, mortgage and other bills. In addition, people often keep in touch via email and social media messaging. When someone dies, those who are charged with managing and closing the deceased's estate may need access to these accounts.

When an estate plan needs updating

Estate planning is not a favorite subject for most people, and it can take a while for residents in Georgia and other states to get their affairs in order. Once an estate plan is finally completed, many people think they never have to worry about the matter again. However, problems can arise as time passes, which makes revisiting a plan necessary. Here are some reasons updates may be needed.

If a person created an estate plan 10 or more years ago, many life changes could have occurred. A person listed as a beneficiary or executor could have died while new additions to the family like grandchildren may mean that new beneficiaries need to be added. Even if one's executor is still alive, this person may no longer be close to a grantor or could now be unfit for the position.

Family conflict is often a major concern for estate planning

A recent survey of attorneys, trust officers and wealth management professionals shed some light into the three largest obstacles in creating an estate plan. Some Georgia residents may be surprised that the most commonly cited threat to an estate plan is family concerns.

Market fluctuations is another top concern in the list provided by planning professionals. These obstacles may be expected for estate planners. After all, nearly every estate plan provides mechanisms for income and asset growth. However, experts say that many clients fail to make sure assets are available for retirement expenses.

How to change an irrevocable trust

An irrevocable trust is generally thought of as a trust to which changes cannot be made. While this offers greater protection to the assets in the trust, it also means that if circumstances change, a person may be stuck with a trust that is no longer useful. However, a number of states, including Georgia, offer a "decanting" option to change an irrevocable trust if necessary.

There are many reasons a person might want to do this. Parents who created an irrevocable trust for a child may believe that as an adult, that person is not responsible enough to manage distributions effectively. People may also decide they want to extend the term of a trust or change it to help a relative with special needs. If it is a support trust, they may want to change it to a discretionary trust with the added protection from creditors or during divorce that such a trust offers. Other reasons to change an irrevocable trust include making the trust more efficient or avoiding state income tax with a change to the governing law.

Top reasons people make the mistake of neglecting estate planning

Quick show of hands: Who will need an estate plan some day?

Obviously, anyone reading that sentence should raise their hand. Everyone will pass away eventually. Any assets they have, no matter how many or how few, need to get passed on to the next generation. Everyone's lives end this way, so no one can avoid it.

Necessary estate planning documents

One essential legal document for Georgia residents who are developing an estate plan is a living will. A living will can be enforced while an individual is still alive. Individuals can use it to detail their preferences regarding any medical treatment they should receive should they become incapacitated. They can specify what type of medical treatments should and should not be used to keep them alive. Individuals can also detail how long life support measures should be used.

The benefit of having a living will in place is that it can eliminate loved ones from having to make a decision about whether an incapacitated loved one's life should be continued. With a living will that explicitly states the wishes of an individual, it can prevent conflicts between family members who may have different opinions about using life support.

Who are the interested parties in a will contest?

When people in Georgia die with a will in place, some situations might arise in which a party might contest the will. A will may be contested for any number of reasons. If a will contest is successful, the court will disregard the will and either follow a previous will or order that the assets are passed under the state's intestacy laws.

When a person wishes to challenge a will, he or she must first identify all of the interested parties. The interested parties are not limited to just the people who are named in a will. If there is a prior will, the interested parties will also include all of those people as well.

Estate planning for art collectors

Some art collectors in Georgia might not know who they want to leave their favorite paintings and sculptures to. This may lead to procrastination when it comes to estate planning. Others might even completely forget to address the future of an art collection. However, if a collector dies without making a plan, family members could end up paying high taxes on valuable art. Furthermore, heirs could end up in litigation if they are not happy with how the art is distributed.

With effective planning, however, these issues may be avoided. Placing a collection in the ownership of a corporate entity can make probate easier since the artwork will not have to be retitled. The art might also be placed in a trust. A trust creator may choose to pass it to individuals or to a charity.

Estate planning considerations for the new year

Many people in Georgia start off a new year with a personal to-do list that often includes resolutions to get or stay in shape and kick bad habits. While these are certainly worthwhile goals, a commonly overlooked item on such lists is estate planning. Some individuals may not find this topic to be all that pleasant. However, being proactive with making estate-related plans may make life easier for heirs and other loved ones while also providing much-appreciated peace of mind.

The one basic estate planning document that's typically recommended for individuals eighteen and older is a will. In addition to determining asset distribution, this document can also be used to name designated guardians for children. A power of attorney allows a person to name a trusted individual to make financial decisions on their behalf should they be unable to do so. A health care power of attorney is a similar document that pertains to medical decisions. Preferences for care can be further clarified with an executed health care proxy.

Why should I make an estate plan in my 20s?

Many people often associate making an estate plan with getting older. They wrongly assume that it's not necessary to make such a plan unless you are in your 40s or 50s. However, this is simply not the case. Estate plans are not only necessary for planning your legacy beyond your lifetime, but they also help you to manage accumulating assets, retirement plans, and health directives.

This is exactly why it is wise to start considering your estate plan as soon as possible, especially if you are in your 20s and have children. Doing so can help you to make a plan for your future financial goals, and it can give you peace of mind regarding how decisions would be made if you were to become severely ill or incapacitated. The following are some of the key reasons why it is never too early to make an estate plan.

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Herman Law Firm, LLC
760 Old Roswell Rd., Suite 119
Roswell, GA 30076

Phone: 770-609-4468
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