Category Archives for "Estate Planning"

Thank You!

Our clients are at the heart of what we do.  It is always a joy for us to be able to provide you with our best service.  We are filled with appreciation as we share that you voted us The Best Law Firm in North Fulton.

Family Life Publications produces some of our favorite local print publications including North Fulton Family Life.  If you would like to check out the winners in all categories, as voted by members of the community, you may check it out at familylifepublications.com.

As always, our support team is really what sets us apart.  Meet the team behind our success here.

We are always here for you!  Reach out to my team at 770-817-4999 or drlg@debrarobinsonlaw.com to schedule an appointment today.

You Need More Than Just A Will

If you have a Will, you’ve taken an important step.  However, if all you have is a Will, you’ve left yourself unprotected for a significant risk – disability.  The risk is more obvious for the elderly, but illness or an accident can happen to anyone at any time.

What would happen if you were suddenly disabled?  Who would pay your bills, talk with your insurance company, make medical decisions?  If you are married, and have joint accounts with your spouse, then those accounts would be accessible.  But your spouse has no legal right to access accounts that are held only in your name.  Your insurance company, because of the HIPAA privacy laws, is not allowed to discuss your coverage unless you’ve given legal authority.

Planning for incapacity is an essential aspect of a sound financial and estate plan.  Without proper planning, families find themselves in court filing for guardianship and conservatorship in order to make health care decisions and access and manage finances.

In Georgia, the two essential documents to protect yourself and your assets in the event of incapacity are a Financial Power of Attorney and an Advance Directive for Health Care.

A Financial Power of Attorney, sometimes called a General Power of Attorney, enables you to appoint someone as your agent, to manage your financial affairs.  A Financial Power of Attorney can be effective when it is signed, or it can be a “springing” power of attorney that becomes effective only when triggered by a designated event, such as a doctor’s certificate of incapacity, or a panel of family members making a determination of incapacity.

An Advance Directive for Health Care, which replaced the old Georgia Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, enables you to appoint someone to make medical decisions if you are not able to communicate your wishes.  You can also provide instructions on your treatment preferences.

There may be other estate planning techniques that are right for you, such as a revocable or an irrevocable trust.  But the core documents that everyone should have include a Will, Financial Power of Attorney and Advance Directive for Health Care.


					

Estate Planning for Singles

When you hear estate planning, what do you think of? For many, it’s family—a strategic way to ensure the future wellbeing of their spouse and children. In reality, it’s more than that, estate planning is a means of protecting yourself should youbecome incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions. It is your chance to decide in advance who will provide for your care, ensure the safety of your assets, and make financial and legal decisions on your behalf. These priorities aren’t unique to being married with kids.

Like anyone, single people who neglect the implications of going through life unprotected risk playing with fire.

Consider this: without having a financial power of attorney or an advance directive for health care, your wishes become irrelevant. A Court determines who will speak for you—someone who may ultimately fail to share or understand your beliefs. Do you want that person to be in charge of life and death decisions for you?

Without a valid Will, you also leave the fate of your assets up to state law. This means your assets will go to your closest living relatives, including your parents, any siblings, nieces and nephews you may have, or even distant relations. Having an attorney draft your Will empowers you to identify beneficiaries on your own—be they family, friends, or charities.

Even better is a revocable living trust. If properly funded, it canavoid the probate process altogether, prevent the contents of your Will from becoming public record, and bypass the requirement that your heirs be notified when you pass, decreasing the likelihood that anyone contests your instruction. Imagine relatives you haven’t seen for decades battling in Court to invalidate your Will and get their hands on your estate! Even if no one contests your Will, locating and notifying heirs can delay the distribution of property after you pass.

At the end of the day, being single is all the more reason to take a proactive stance against undue forces. Be your own champion and start an estate plan today.  Schedule an appointment today by calling 770-817-4999 or emailing drlg@debrarobinsonlaw.com.

Get Your Parents To Talk

In six of the ten metropolitan Atlanta counties, growth in the older population is exceeding growth in the general population.  If you have parents, grandparents or other family members who are part of that older population, you may find yourself having to step in to take care of their finances or health care.  Would you have a clue about what to do?

Members of the older generations often pride themselves on being independent and they keep their financial affairs private. They aren’t going to volunteer information, and may not take it well if you ask whether they have a legal and financial plan in place. If the conversation becomes unpleasant, you may decide to keep the peace and drop it.

You should think about what would happen if there were a diagnosis of dementia, or a serious illness, and they were no longer able to be independent. Would you be prepared?

Do you know if there is a Power of Attorney or an Advance Directive for Health Care?  If those documents exist, do you have copies or know where to find them?  Do you know if the Power of Attorney was done recently or ten years ago?   In Georgia or the state where they used to live?

If they don’t have an effective Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive, and dementia sets in, it will be too late for those documents to be signed. That’s when you’ll find yourself in Court, filing for a Guardianship and Conservatorship. That process involves a court hearing, multiple attorneys, evidence presented, and thousands in court costs and legal fees.

If they object to seeing an attorney to have the necessary documents put into place because “it will cost too much”, you can explain to them that the money they save, plus a whole lot more, will probably have to be spent on legal fees and court costs down the road.

As hard as it might be to get the older generation to share information they consider private, it will be much harder to deal with the consequences if they don’t.

Do you need help ensuring that your parents are properly protected?  Schedule an appointment today by calling  770-817-4999 or emailing drlg@debrarobinsonlaw.com.

Thankful for You

As the holidays approach, we are extra thankful for our colleagues, clients, families and friends.

To celebrate Thanksgiving this year, we continue our tradition of donating to a local organization that we are happy to support, North Fulton Community Charities.  The organization has consistently remained open throughout the pandemic, providing financial support and food to more than 1,500 families.

North Fulton Community Charities has helped families with holiday assistance for over 30 years. Last year’s annual holiday assistance program served over 900 families and 1,800 children in the communities where so many of our clients live: Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton, Mountain Park and Roswell.

In support of NFCC’s Holiday Programs, our firm is donating baskets for seniors and disabled adults filled with everything needed to provide a happy holiday dinner.

If you would also like to make a donation to this charity, or are interested in learning more about their holiday programs, please visit them by clicking here.

We wish you and your family a very safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Who Owns The House?

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.

Protect Your Children’s Inheritance With A Trust

As the holidays approach, family is much on our minds.  Particularly in this year where celebrations are sure to look different than what we might traditionally enjoy, many of my clients are considering how to best protect their children.

Whether a couple has been married 5 years or 50 years, a common estate planning concern is the protection of their assets if after one of them dies, the survivor remarries.  A new relationship after the death of a spouse does not necessarily diminish the love the survivor had for the deceased spouse, but it can diminish their children’s inheritance.

Many couples have Wills in which they leave all assets to the other, relying on the other spouse to provide for the children after both of them have died.  But a surviving spouse who loses mental or physical capacity after remarrying will usually rely on the new spouse to handle financial matters.  If the couple is elderly, it is not uncommon for the new spouse’s children to take control.  Somewhere along the way, a new Will is executed by the surviving spouse leaving all assets to the new spouse or his or her children.

Planning to protect your children’s inheritance is not difficult.  Instead of leaving everything outright to your surviving spouse, you can leave your assets in a Trust.  All of the income (interest and dividends) can be paid to the survivor, and the Trustee can be given authority to invade principal if needed for the surviving spouse’s health and support.  The surviving spouse can serve as a Trustee, but to protect the Trust assets there should be a Co-Trustee, such as a sibling, adult child, close friend, accountant or bank.

If the assets are in a well drafted Trust, the new spouse, and that person’s children, will not have the ability to divert the Trust assets.  At the surviving spouse’s death, the remaining Trust assets will be distributed to your children.     

Making a Trust part of your estate plan is easy to accomplish while you are alive and mentally competent.  You and your spouse can’t know which one of you is going to become incapacitated or die first, so why not protect each other and your children by implementing a plan while you are both able?

Estate Planning for a Lifetime

October is National Estate Planning Awareness Month.  Many people view Estate Planning as a “one and done,” believing that the decisions they make when drafting their documents are permanent.  This can lead to undo stress and worry about how relationships with executors, agents or beneficiaries may change over a lifetime and how those changes may impact your wishes.  A better approach is to view your Estate Plan as something with which you will have a lifelong relationship.  Check points will be needed across the years and having the flexibility to make changes may bring comfort to a sometimes daunting task.

In order to provide the utmost flexibility, our firm offers an Estate Plan Maintenance Program with benefits that extend far beyond the ability to make simple changes (although that is a benefit, too!).  Our Annual Maintenance Program includes:

No charge for reasonable phone calls by you, your representatives, or your professional advisors to anyone in our office
Law firm initiated changes to your documents to take advantage of changes in law
Annual summary of your current estate plan
Annual checkup – we will contact you to get current information regarding changes to your family, your assets, or other matters that might affect your estate plan
Assistance to your disability panel to verify your disability and get your successor Trustee appointed
“Word processing” amendments to your estate planning documents at no additional charge. If changes are more complex than just word processing, the annual maintenance fee paid will be deducted from the bill
On-going guidance with funding of new assets acquired during the year
A meeting with your family or helpers upon your disability or death to explain the plan you created and outline the assistance available in maintaining or settling your plan (any new services, if required, will be identified and billed separately)
Safekeeping your original estate plan documents
Special pricing for family members to do planning during the year – a 15% discount
Referrals to attorneys with other practice specialties and to other professionals such as accountants, elder care specialists and realtors

In celebration of National Estate Planning Awareness Month, I am extending an offer to all existing clients to join the Maintenance Program now for the 2021 Annual Fee of $395 for Married Clients and $295 for Single Clients—you’ll receive the last two months of 2020 for free.

Wondering if it is time to revisit your Estate Plan?  Click here to download our Annual Checkup Questionnaire, one of the resources typically reserved for Maintenance Plan members.

My firm and I are constantly seeking new ways to bring value to the services we offer.  As always, I am grateful to count you among my clients.  If you are ready to join our Maintenance Program or have any questions, please reach out to my team at 770-817-4999 or drlg@debrarobinsonlaw.com.

The Gift of Peace of Mind

October is National Estate Planning Awareness Month.  One of the most rewarding aspects of my job as an Estate Planning attorney is the satisfaction of helping families achieve their goals and protect what matters most to them.  Because what I do is really about family, I am often fortunate to meet many generations of my clients’ families and to share in their journeys.

For many people, Estate Planning may seem like a sad subject to consider, associating the work to be done with end of life or tragedy.  But really, good Estate Planning is about caring for family.  This is done in many ways, from relieving family members of the burden of decision making when faced with tough situations to protecting assets to ensuring harmony in your financial life.

Often, as clients come to see the value that Estate Planning brings to their own lives, they feel motivated to encourage friends and family members to seek the same services and the peace of mind that comes with a well-executed plan.  Sometimes this is a parent wanting to help guide an adult child who may not have given much thought to Estate Planning.  Other times, it is a child wanting to ensure the best possible protection for mom or dad.

No matter the situation, clients sometimes express concerns around the cost of professional Estate Planning as an obstacle for those they love to put an Estate Plan in place.  This is understandable, particularly in the current climate which is filled with uncertainty for many.

With this in mind, my firm is making Gift Vouchers for Estate Planning work available to purchase as we approach the holiday season.  What better gift to give to those you love than the gift of peace of mind? 

Gift Vouchers are available in any denomination and may be applied toward any Estate Planning service offered by our firm including:

  • Wills
  • Trusts
  • Financial Powers of Attorney,
  • Health Care Directives
  • And more

Vouchers are presented in an envelope with ribbon, suitable for gifting.

Imagine giving a gift that truly has value beyond measure and allowing your loved ones to start the New Year looking forward to a greater sense of security and well-being. 

If you are interested in purchasing a Gift Voucher, please contact the office at 770-817-4999. 

Navigating Tough Conversations in Estate Planning or Eldercare

October is National Estate Planning Awareness Month.  Proper Estate Planning may provide security and peace of mind but sometimes feels difficult to approach.  This month, I want to share resources geared toward overcoming obstacles that you or your family may be facing in achieving successful estate planning.

Navigating tough conversations can be a part of Estate Planning and Eldercare Law.  Knowing the right person to help smooth communication can be key to successful planning.  As with so many things, expert help can make all of the difference.  For that reason I’ve invited my friend and colleague, Rebecca Zimmerman, to share the role that Mediation can play in resolving family conflict.  Rebecca is an Attorney and Mediator whose specialties include Elder Care and Estate disputes.  Through her company, Keystone Conflict Solutions, she is able to help families navigate difficult conversations.

Families fight; it’s a fact of life. As parents age, families face many new decisions.  Should Mom/Dad move to an assisted living facility? Should the family home be sold? Who should be in charge of finances, health care activities, day-to-day chores, companionship for parent? Do all siblings or other family members live close by? These are all dynamics that can create a logjam in decision making.

Conflicts over estate distributions invariably involve highly charged emotional situations. These conflicts can arise whether or not a Last Will and Testament exists. Unresolved disputes can take years to complete and involve costly attorney’s fees. Compromise and negotiation involve a willingness on the part of all parties to move off singular solution mindsets and finger-pointing. The emotions involved in protecting one’s perceived rights and interests can create a logjam in decision making.

Mediation creates a pathway to conversation and empowers family members to develop solutions that work best for them. Each person has a chance to express his or her concerns, questions and needs in an environment where both individual and collective ideas are presented, considered and valued. While there can be no guarantee of results, Mediation creates a spirit of compromise and negotiation that often leads to positive solutions for all involved.

Mediation is simple and cost effective and can be conducted in person or virtually.  A particular Mediation can last an hour or two or may need multiple sessions, depending on the complexity of the issues and the number of participants. Mediations may be charged by an hourly rate or fixed price.  The cost is generally split among the parties.

If you are curious about whether Mediation may be a resource to assist you in resolving a conflict with a family member, contact Rebecca Zimmerman at Keystone Conflict Solutions, LLC.  You may reach her at 404-314-7228 or rebecca@kcsmediation.com or learn more at www.kcsmediation.com.

Rebecca Zimmerman, Keystone Conflict Solutions

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