Monthly Archives: May 2018

Who owns the home when your significant other dies

Are You Sure You Own Your House If Your Significant Other Dies?

For many of us, our home is the most valuable asset we own.  Yet many Georgia residents who own their home jointly with a spouse or other family member do not understand what would happen to the ownership of that home if one of the owners died.

In Georgia, for ownership of real estate to pass to the surviving owner at the first death, the Deed must have language such as “as joint tenants with right of survivorship”.  If the Deed simply has two names as the owners, but has no reference to right of survivorship, that means each person owns fifty percent.  When one owner dies, that fifty percent must go through probate.

Home owners tend to assume that if there are two names on the Deed, ownership will pass automatically to the surviving owner.  That assumption often leads to a delay in selling the home, because the estate of the first owner to die has to be probated to pass title to that fifty percent.

If the deceased owner has a Will which leaves that fifty percent to the surviving owner, the Executor of the deceased owner’s estate can sign an Executor’s Deed of Assent, conveying that fifty percent to the survivor.  But if the deceased owner did not have a Will, things could become very complicated.

For example, if there is no Will, and the deceased owner was survived by a spouse and two children, Georgia law says that the children and surviving spouse each get a one third share of the deceased’s estate.  That means the two children would each own one third of the deceased owner’s fifty percent.  If it is a second marriage, where the deceased’s two children don’t get along with their stepparent, that’s not a pleasant result for the surviving spouse.

If a Deed is not with right of survivorship, there is an easy solution.  The owners can sign a new Deed making it with right of survivorship.  The first step, though is carefully reading your Deed to determine which kind of joint ownership it is.

Are you wondering how you can make sure all your assets are protected should you or a loved one pass?  Attend one of our Free Workshops to educate yourself on how you can protect your stuff in 3 easy steps.  We invite you to register today and take the first step in knowing the right documents you need to protect you and your loved ones.


Elder Abuse warning signs to abuse in eldercare

Stay Alert To Signs Of Elder Abuse

As the number of older adults increases, so does the risk of elder abuse -intentional or negligent acts that cause harm or serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. The most obvious aspect of elder abuse is the infliction of physical pain or injury, but elder abuse includes much more than that. It can be verbal abuse, neglect of essential needs, financial exploitation, or simply the threat of physical injury.

The most common abusers are family members, often an adult child or a spouse. Caregivers, whether family members or professional health care workers, are also often abusers. Professionals with a legal duty to act in the best interest of a client, like investment advisors, lawyers and accountants, can use their positions of trust for self benefit. And of course, there are always con artists with fraudulent schemes and services.

What can be done to protect vulnerable elders? If you have a family member, a neighbor or a friend who is elderly, you can help protect that person by being alert for signs of abuse.

The most obvious signs of physical abuse are bruises, black eyes, broken bones, open wounds. Other things that could be signs of physical abuse are broken eyeglasses, torn clothing, or medication overdose.

Signs of emotional abuse include agitation, being extremely withdrawn and non-responsive, depression, lack of interest in daily activities, isolation, or excessive willingness to please.

Symptoms of neglect include thirst, weight loss, bed sores, poor hygiene, unsafe or unclean living conditions.

Signs of financial exploitation include sudden changes in bank accounts, unexplained withdrawals, unusual ATM activity, sudden changes to a Will, unpaid bills, unusual gifts, or confusion when discussing finances.

The refusal by a caregiver to allow visitors to see the elder alone should raise suspicion of abuse.

What should you do if you believe you have seen signs of elder abuse? If it’s an emergency situation, call 911. Otherwise, call Adult Protective Services at 866-552-4464 or file a report online at the Department of Human Services. Our vulnerable seniors need families, friends and neighbors to be on the alert for signs of elder abuse.

If you need support in helping to financially protect the assets in the lives of elders you know, then please feel free to contact our office today and schedule an appointment . We can help develop the right estate plan to make sure all your loved ones are protected.

Should the Inheritance be Equal?

Should the Inheritance be Equal?

For some parents the decision of how to leave their estate to their children is easy. The kids are all doing fine, they get along well, so the inheritance is left in equal shares.

For other parents, the decision isn’t that easy. One child may have a disability, and will never be self supporting. One child may have been the caregiver, while the other lives far away and rarely visits. One child may have already received an advance on the inheritance in the form of loans that were supposed to have been paid back, but weren’t.

No one is entitled to an inheritance and it’s the parents’ choice on how to leave their estate. Unfortunately, there are many children who don’t understand that concept. They won’t be happy getting a lesser share, and might take steps to fight the plan.

If there are reasons to disinherit a child, or to leave more to one child, that’s what the parents should do. But the plan must be carefully designed to minimize the risk of trouble from the child who is left out or left less.

Because probate of a Will in Georgia requires that all the heirs be given the opportunity to contest the Will, making unequal distributions in a Will is not good planning. Probate avoidance techniques like payable on death account designations or living trusts should be utilized. A “no contest” clause can be included in a trust to incentivize the child who is left a lesser amount to accept that amount and not contest it, because the clause states that anyone who contests will get nothing.

Sometimes the parents want to explain the plan to the children and attempt to soothe any ruffled feathers. Sometimes the children don’t find out what the plan is until after both parents have died. Every family is different, and there is no right or wrong way to handle disclosure of an unequal plan.

The key factor in leaving an unequal inheritance is to make sure the plan is designed to minimize the risk it might be prevented from being carried out.

If you need help in figuring out how to choose to leave your inheritance, then we invite you to contact our office and schedule an appointment today. We can help develop the right estate plan for you and your needs to make sure you are able to take care of all your loved ones.