Roswell Law Blog

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.

Using life insurance as an estate planning tool

Even the youngest members of Georgia's baby boomer generation are now in their 50s. It's during this stage of life that many people begin to think about financial and estate plans. Life insurance products are one solution that's often overlooked. Taking some type of action with estate arrangements is an important step commonly recommended for the boomer generation since individuals within this age range tend to have significant assets they wish to pass along to future generations.

Many estate planning needs can be met with life insurance. It's also an appealing option because liquidity -- or cash -- for many of the expenses that arise following the passing of a loved one will be available fairly quickly. Typical expenses include unpaid debts and funeral costs, fees for attorneys appraisers and estate taxes. Life insurance can also make it easier to for surviving owners of a business to get access to cash that might be needed to either purchase the company from a decedent's estate or keep it operating.

Why trusts are important for many

In 2001, Georgia residents and others could only exempt $675,000 from federal estate taxes. Today, that amount has risen to $11.8 million. However, it doesn't mean that it isn't a good idea to establish a trust as they can provide benefits beyond a lower estate tax bill. For instance, putting assets in a trust means that they will be protected from creditors, which means that the asset stays in the family.

It can also allow a person with special needs to retain eligibility for government benefits. Finally, it means that a beneficiary may not have the chance to lose money because of a bad decision. The language of a trust can be as broad or narrow as a grantor wants it to be. A trustee will be assigned to ensure that the language of the trust is enforced. The trustee can either be a person or an entity such as a bank or similar type of firm.

Significant estate planning mistakes to avoid

Georgia residents may not enjoy the process of estate planning, but it is necessary to protect one's assets and ensure they are passed down correctly. Over a lifetime, an individual may accrue a variety of assets such as brokerage, bank and social media accounts. If those accounts are protected by passwords, it is important that those who are left behind are able to access them. Ideally, all relevant documents, passwords and other important information will be kept in one place.

Depending on what a person has, it may be possible to store this data online. A key estate planning mistake to avoid is to think that it shouldn't be reviewed after it is created. Life events such as a divorce or a marriage could render a trust or other document obsolete. Plan documents may also need to be revised after a person has a child or has children from multiple marriages.

Do you need a trust for your pet?

Recently, we wrote a post on trusts and whether or not they might be the right for you. Now that you might have a better understanding of trusts, you should know about the importance of one specific trust for an important member of your family: your pet.

Similar to a traditional trust, pet trusts allow you to pass on money to your pet after you have passed away. This is important because naming your pet in your will does not always allow this to happen. Courts generally consider pets as one of your personal assets. While a will can allow you to name who your pet will go to after you are gone, a will generally does not allow you to pass on assets to an animal.

Do you need a trust? If yes, what kind?

Setting up an estate plan can be daunting, especially if you are just starting out. There are a lot of elements that go into estate planning and deciding if you need a trust is just one element.

If you are debating whether or not you need a trust, it is likely that you already have a will. If that’s the case, you are ahead of the game, as only four in 10 Americans have a will.

Empty-nesters might need to redo estate plans

When parents become empty-nesters, this can be a sign that it is time to re-evaluate their estate plans. There are multiple reasons for this.

When children are minors, their parents want to ensure that if they were to have an untimely death, their children would still be provided for, including college educations. But once the kids have graduated from college and gotten launched in the world, financial priorities change.

What are the benefits of a financial power of attorney?

Estate planners in Georgia should consider a financial power of attorney (POA) to be an essential element of their estate plans. However, many never complete such a document and this can cause problems for themselves and their loved ones later down the line.

To help motivate you to complete a financial POA as soon as possible, here is a list of benefits that this document will bring you:

The importance of an accurate and valid living will

It's generally not very pleasant to have to think about the end of your life. Many people will put off planning their estate or creating a will for years. That can leave their families, minor children and assets in legal limbo if they unexpectedly pass. However, there's another aspect of estate planning that can put the planner in a dangerous position if not properly addressed.

Whether you currently have perfect health or a family history of medical issues, you need to take the time to draft a living will. Not only will this help you if you experience a serious medical event or traumatic accident, it can also guide your family as well.

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Roswell, GA 30076

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