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Cumming Georgia Estate Planning Law Blog

Digital assets an important part of Georgia wills

Life is full of changes. Thirty years ago, the average Georgia family used a traditional camera and had to take the film to a store to be made into prints, picked up the telephone or a piece of stationery to catch up with friends and relatives and wrote checks to pay the monthly bills. Technological advances have changed the manner in which the average Georgia family communicates and preserves their legacy. Yet, these same families often do not recognize the importance of addressing their digital life when it comes to the creation of wills.

Rather than print out photos, many now store photos on the internet. They may be located in the cloud, on one's social media account or on one's private computer. This makes it easy to share photos and look at them at one's convenience. However, upon the death of the individual, unless access to these photos has been granted as a part of the will or other estate planning tool, it can be difficult for loved ones to gain access to these treasures.

Worried about Medicaid planning and retirement? You're not alone

For those in Georgia who worry about having enough money to carry them through retirement, it's important to understand that these concerns are not uncommon. As the American population ages, many baby boomers are worried that their retirement savings won't last as long as needed. Medicaid planning is also an important consideration, and can greatly affect one's later years. 

Experts project that as the population ages, Medicaid will shoulder the burden of providing care for retirees. The cost of Medicaid is expected to continue to rise, as well as the cost of long-term care options. That's true of both public and private facilities in states across the nation. While it's impossible to accurately predict the future, all signs point to a looming crunch when it comes to elder care. 

Issues to consider when choosing your executor

Selecting the right executor is an important part of making your will. It helps to understand the role the executor will play in safeguarding your estate and making sure the provisions of your will are duly carried out.

The executor's first duty will be to initiate the probate process and submit the appropriate paperwork to the court. Once he or she receives the Letter of Administration from the court, your executor begins the various tasks involved in managing the estate.

Including art and collectibles in wills takes special planning

Georgia residents who collect art or other valuable items may want to pass those assets down to loved ones. Including art and collectibles in wills, however, requires a degree of advance planning and communication with heirs. The first step involves determining the value of the collection so that taxation matters are clarified.

A good approach is to identify a professional appraiser or dealer who can assist in placing a value on a collection. Some people choose to have their artwork or collectibles appraised every few years for insurance purposes, and including that documentation with estate planning documents can be helpful. Others prefer to simply provide the names of a few trusted professionals so that their heirs can have the collection appraised when the time comes.

Protecting beneficiaries in regard to wills and trusts

When a Georgia resident sits down to prepare his or her estate plan, passing down wealth to loved ones is often the top priority. In some cases, however, beneficiaries could actually be harmed by their inheritance. Part of the estate planning process should include examining how wills and trusts could have unintended negative consequences for loved ones.

For example, many parents want to hand down assets to their adult children through a will. The intention is to make life easier for their loved ones by providing financial support. In certain cases, however, access to a significant amount of money can be a negative outcome. For example, the opioid epidemic has placed many Americans in a great deal of danger.

Communication is essential in regard to wills, trusts

When it comes to estate planning, the importance of proper communication cannot be overstated. Drafting wills, trusts and other estate planning documents is important, but so is communicating the provisions held within to loved ones. While these may be difficult conversations to have, the end result is a far easier process for those Georgia residents named in estate planning documents.

In addition to outlining the general provisions of an estate plan, it's also important to have an in-depth series of discussions surrounding wealth and the importance it holds within the family. Some families prefer to have formal, scheduled meetings for the purpose of discussing these matters. Others prefer to simply incorporate these discussions into routine family interactions.

What is a Medicaid spend-down?

If you fear that your Georgia parents are approaching the age when they may need the services of an assisted living or nursing home facility, you should help them begin planning for this possibility as early as possible. In all likelihood, your parents are not sufficiently wealthy to afford long-term care, and Medicare will not pay many of these costs. Consequently, your parents may need to apply for Medicaid as their only option.

However, neither you nor your parents can afford to wait until the time when they actually need the Medicaid benefits for which they will be applying. Why? Because Medicaid has a catch. To qualify for Medicaid benefits, a person must be “indigent,” that is, own less than $2,000 in assets or less than $4,000 if a married couple applies jointly for Medicaid.

Many Americans haven't created wills or other financial plans

According to a survey conducted by Wells Fargo, as many as four out of 10 Americans over the age of 65 have not taken steps to secure their estate planning wishes. That can create a real problem for loved ones who have little guidance in the absence of wills and other documents. There are steps that can limit financial vulnerability for Georgia residents, but a proactive approach is required. 

Drafting a will is a great place to begin, but many people also need additional documents. An advance health care directive and a health care power of attorney are also advised. A financial power of attorney can also be critical to handling money matters if the need arises. It's also critical to make wise choices when naming beneficiaries for various asset types. 

For some, wills must include cryptocurrency information

Structuring an estate plan is a demanding task, even for Georgia residents with relatively simple asset types. For those who invest money in many different ways, creating wills and other estate planning tools that cover all the bases can be even more of a challenge. That is especially true in cases where cryptocurrency plays a role. 

Cryptocurrency is a relatively new type of financial asset, one that many people don't fully understand. The nature of cryptocurrency is defined by privacy and a lack of traditional oversight. Accounts are secure; so secure, in fact, that even account holders who forget their password have trouble accessing their own holdings. 

How to incorporate charitable giving into wills

Many Georgia families feel strongly about the many benefits of charitable giving. They give frequently throughout their lives, and also pass down wealth to favored charities through wills and other estate planning tools. There are several different ways for individuals and families to pursue charitable giving, and there is a solution that works best for virtually every set of needs. 

One way to pass on wealth to charities is by specifically designating gifts within a will. Be clear about exactly how much is to go to each charitable organization. If the assets are complex, such as donating art or stocks, then additional provisions may be necessary. It's also helpful to share your plans with children and other heirs so that there are no surprises when the time comes to put those plans into action. 

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At Hodges Law Firm, we handle a wide range of legal issues for clients throughout the Atlanta area, including elder law, estate planning, probate, Medicaid planning and protection, asset protection, litigation, and business law and services. We are knowledgeable in the law and understand the real life implications of legal actions.