Category Archives for "Estate Planning"

Is a power attorney of attorney enough?

Is A Power Of Attorney Enough?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document giving someone, known as the “agent”, the authority to handle financial and legal matters for the person who creates the Power of Attorney, called the “principal”.  A Power of Attorney can be limited: an elderly mother gives her son Limited Power of Attorney to handle the sale of her house.  A Power of Attorney can be general, giving the agent broad authority to handle all financial and legal matters.

A Power of Attorney is an important part of an estate plan, but unfortunately, families are being frustrated trying to use them.  Banks and financial institutions will often refuse to honor a Power of Attorney.  They may reject it because it’s too old. There’s no way of knowing how old is too old. A financial institution recently rejected a Power of Attorney that was thirteen months old. Very commonly, they insist that their customer sign a new Power of Attorney using the institution’s own Power of Attorney form.

Families usually don’t try to use a Power of Attorney until the principal is no longer able to manage, and at that point, may be incompetent to sign legal forms.  What happens if the bank says the Power of Attorney is too old, or they simply won’t accept one that isn’t on their own form, but the principal isn’t legally competent to sign a new one?

Sometimes it requires going above local managers to higher-ups, and sometimes it requires the intervention of an attorney.

It is wise these days to be proactive, and make sure that the bank or brokerage firm will honor the Power of Attorney while the principal still has capacity.  That can be daunting if the principal has accounts at multiple institutions.

If the principal is elderly, or if there are signs of dementia, another approach is to include a Trust in the estate plan, rather than relying on a Power of Attorney.  A valid Trust will be accepted no matter how old it is, and the financial institution isn’t going to have its own form for a Trust.

Are you wondering what is exactly right for you and your needs?  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.

The Sandwich Generation eldercare

The Sandwich Generation

The term “Sandwich Generation” was coined in the 1980s to describe the growing number of people in their 40s or 50s who are raising young or teenaged children, and at the same time serving as caregivers to their aging parents.  Members of the Sandwich Generation are the ones that children and parents rely on to handle all problems, from appointments with the pediatrician to appointments with the Alzheimer’s specialist, from finding a babysitter to finding a certified nursing assistant, from paying for summer camp to paying for adult day care.

Many of those in the Sandwich Generation work full time or part time jobs, are responsible for maintaining a household, and deal with their caregiving duties on top of everything else.  Their to-do lists can be overwhelming, and they do their best to manage it all.

There is one responsibility, though,  that many Sandwich Generation members overlook: putting a plan in place to provide for their children and parents if something happened and the one who handles it all isn’t there to handle it anymore.

Too many people have no estate plan at all, and most who do might have a plan that creates a trust for their young children, but says nothing about Mom or Dad.  If you are responsible for caring for an aging parent, what would happen to them if you died?  If you are providing for them financially, shouldn’t you have an estate plan that makes sure they are comfortable in their old age?  If your parent is living with you, shouldn’t you make sure they’d still have a place to live if you weren’t there anymore?

Some parents do have enough financial resources to provide for themselves, but many are living on Social Security and maybe a small pension, and rely on their children to help cover their expenses.  If a child dies without a plan to provide for the parent, what happens?

Sandwich Generation members need to make sure that all the things they are doing for their children and their parents could still be done even if they are no longer there.

If you’re looking for an expert in helping you plan and protect your children and your parents, 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.

Protect your children's inheritance with a trust

Protect Your Children’s Inheritance with a Trust

Whether you have been married 5 years or 50, you may have a common estate planning concern:  what if one of you dies and 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 it’s vital to protect each other and your children by implementing a plan while you are both able.

To learn even more about why you should implement a plan now, we invite you to attend one of our Free Workshops where you can learn even more about how you can really protect you and your loved ones.  Go ahead and click to register today:

Medicaid for Long Term Care

Medicaid for Long Term Care

Nursing home fees are so high that many families find themselves struggling to pay for care.  Without the resources to pay, they turn to Medicaid, the government program that provides financial assistance for long term care for the elderly.

To qualify for Medicaid for long term care in Georgia, an individual is allowed to have $2,000 in assets.  A married couple can have an additional $119,270.  Certain assets are exempt while the recipient and spouse are alive, but after the Medicaid recipient and spouse both die,  Georgia will implement “estate recovery” to get paid back what it has spent on the Medicaid recipient’s care from the exempt assets.

To discourage giving assets away in order to get down to the asset limits, there is a five year look back period.  Assets given away during the five years before applying for Medicaid must be disclosed, and will result in a penalty period.

Although you can’t predict what will happen to your health in the next five years, and you can’t know if you will ever need nursing home care, there are 108 nursing homes in the metropolitan Atlanta area, and it’s likely the owners of those nursing homes are predicting their beds will continue to be filled by future residents.  I’ve never met anyone who looked forward to moving to a nursing home, but I think it’s foolish to fail to plan for what may eventually happen.

It is possible and practical to plan ahead to preserve assets and still be able to receive Medicaid.  Most of the people who plan over five years before needing nursing home care are not multi-millionaires.  They are middle class people who have worked hard all their lives, been responsible citizens, and accumulated a nest egg.  But they know what they have isn’t enough to pay $10,000 a month for nursing home care for an ill spouse, and still provide a decent lifestyle for the well spouse.  They don’t want to lose everything they’ve worked for, and they don’t want to become a burden to their children.

It can be confusing figuring out exactly what you need to plan your future.  That’s why we have created a Free Workshop to educate you on how you can protect your stuff in 3 easy steps.  We invite you to register today and take the first step in planing to have protection for your long term care.

Get your parents to talk

Get Your Parents to Talk

Avoid expensive attorney fees and court costs by preparing before problems arise.

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 for them?
  • If those documents exist, do you have copies or know where to find them?
  • Do you know if their Power of Attorney was done recently or ten years ago?
  • Was it created 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.

A great way to get your parents to understand the need to open up, and why, is to bring them to attend one of our Free Workshops together.  We go over the reasons you need to protect your stuff and how it impacts your loved ones.  Click here to register today.

You need more than just a will

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.

If you want to find out more about about the documents we discussed in this article, you can check out our additional resources on our site here.

DIY can end up costing heirs

“Do It Yourself” Can End Up Costing Your Heirs

The concept of “Do it Yourself” is everywhere these days. But doing it yourself when it comes to legal documents can end up in headaches and unnecessary costs to your heirs.

A married couple owned a residence with their son, as joint tenants with right of survivorship.  That meant there would be no probate when one of the three died.  They wanted to take their son’s name off the deed, but instead of hiring an attorney, they bought a form at an office supply store and prepared the deed themselves.  Their son learned after both parents died that the deed they prepared was not with right of survivorship, so each of them owned 50% of the property. That meant probate was required for two estates instead of one.  By doing it themselves, they saved a few hundred dollars, but cost their son five times that much after their deaths.

A widow redid her Will shortly after her husband died, with the assistance of a lawyer.  A few years later she decided she wanted to change the Executor, but did not want to pay the lawyer to make the change.  She crossed out the Executor’s name, handwrote in the name of the person she now wanted, dated and initialed the change.  After she died, her family learned that you can’t make changes to a Will by crossing out and initialing.  The person she no longer wanted as Executor was the one appointed by the Court.  She saved money by doing it herself, but she left her estate in the hands of someone she no longer trusted.

A young couple used a do it yourself program to prepare their Wills.  The wife was killed in an accident.  After she died, the husband discovered that she’d reversed names when she filled in the blanks, and her sister was named Executor instead of her husband.  Not only did the sister live out of state, but she was a terrible procrastinator. They saved money by do it yourself Wills, but caused the grieving husband unnecessary delays and frustration.

You won’t know what mistakes you might be making when you do it yourself.  By the time your heirs find out, it will be too late.

That’s why we want to invite you to attend one of our Free Workshops where you can learn even more about how you can really protect you and your loved ones.  Go ahead and click to register today:

I’m Single. Why Do I Need Estate Planning?

Having a Will may not seem important to someone who isn’t providing financial support to other family members.  But if you’ve worked hard to accumulate assets, don’t you want to able to decide who gets to benefit from those assets?  Did you know that:

  • You could arrange some of your assets to pass by beneficiary designation, or in payable on death accounts, in order to avoid probate and ensure you determine who receives your inheritance
  • If you own a home solely in your name, it would have to go through probate at your death.  Without a Will, it will be up to state law to determine who receives your property.  But with a Will, you make that decision

For a single person, it is even more important to have a plan in place for incapacity.  The plan should include both of the following documents:

  • Financial Power of Attorney – A single person usually doesn’t have joint accounts with someone else. How would your bills get paid if you were in an accident or became very ill?  With a properly prepared Power of Attorney, you can name someone to take care of your finances if you aren’t able to.
  • Advance Directive for Health Care – This document names someone as your agent to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to communicate. By designating that person as your representative under the HIPAA privacy laws, you’ll make sure all your medical information will be accessible to your agent.

It can be difficult for a single person to choose someone to serve as agent, whether for financial or health care decisions.  If family is the most comfortable choice, but they all live far away, it’s better to have the document and name someone far away, rather than not have a plan at all.

Without any incapacity documents, if you fall ill or are in an accident, and are unable to manage for yourself, someone would have to go to court, to petition for guardianship and conservatorship.  Your hard earned dollars would pay for lawyers and court costs, and the person appointed by the court to take charge of your financial and health decisions might be the last person you would want.

Single people should protect themselves and their assets through careful estate planning so that you have the care and support you deserve.

Isn’t it time you take the first step in protecting yourself and your future?  We can help you plan for all stages of your life, and are ready to find the right estate plan that will meet your individual needs.  Single people should protect themselves and their assets through careful estate planning so that you have the care and support you deserve.  Contact us at (770)817-4999 or click here to get started!