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Cumming Georgia Estate Planning Law Blog

Wills won't cover a child's short-term needs

Most Georgia residents take a "big picture" approach when working on estate planning. They think ahead when considering how assets should be transferred, how to minimize taxation, and how to provide loved ones with all the guidance needed to navigate the aftermath of a loss. Many people even remember to include provisions for guardianship of their children, if the need should arise. But what happens when parents pass away unexpectedly? Specifically, what happens in the hours, days and sometimes weeks, before the provisions laid out in wills and other documents are put into motion?

For example, if a child's parents or primary guardians die in an accident, the authorities often have no guidance on where the child or children should go in the immediate aftermath. Without a clear family connection or documentation of parental wishes, children are sometimes placed in custodial care until a clear path of action is determined. That's especially true in cases where there is no family nearby, or when there's a dispute between surviving family members about who should take the kids. 

3 early warning signs of dementia

Your memory is what informs your decisions and helps you process information and understand the world around you. If something were to happen that took your memory away, a major part of your identity would be lost. This is why dementia is both tragic and dangerous. As victims lose their understanding of the past, they also lose the ability to face the future. It is important to be on the lookout for symptoms.

According to the World Health Organization, about 50 million people internationally have dementia. If you or a loved one exhibits symptoms, it is vital to consider care and estate planning. In the meantime, watch out for the following signs that can appear in the early stages of dementia.

Addressing drug or alcohol abuse in wills and trusts

For most Georgia residents, the primary purpose of estate planning is to pass down accumulated wealth to the next generation. For families that have a loved one struggling with addiction, that goal can become complicated. Deciding how to best structure an inheritance means taking the time to think through all of the possible outcomes prior to creating wills and trusts

Some families choose to give the portion of an inheritance intended for the addict to another family member for safekeeping. The idea is that the trustworthy family member will handle the distribution of funds, ensuring that the inheritance is used to enhance the addict's life, rather than being squandered. This approach fails to address the fact that the trustworthy family member could lose the inheritance through divorce or another legal proceeding. 

A fresh approach to creating wills, trusts and more

A recently published article makes the claim that "estate planning is dead." The author isn't arguing that people in Georgia or elsewhere should disregard the need for an estate plan. However, a strong argument is made that a fresh approach to estate planning could be beneficial. This augmented approach is called "legacy planning," and asks individuals to consider how their wills, trusts and other estate planning vehicles support their larger goals. 

The primary focus of legacy planning is on celebrating and furthering those things that are most important to an individual. Yes, there are assets and inheritance issues involved, but that wealth is handed down in a way that is meaningful. There are as many different ways to structure legacy planning as their are families, and a solution to fit virtually every set of needs. 

Lyft and other services could become part of Medicaid planning

For many Georgia residents, remaining in their home as they age is a top priority. With proper planning, that can be a reality for some. Medicaid planning is an important part of preparing for the future, as individuals must not exceed certain asset thresholds in order to qualify for Medicaid. When planning ahead, app-based transportation services like Uber and Lyft could also be a critical part of maintaining independence. 

Many seniors who remain in their own homes face transportation challenges. When family members are not able to transport a loved one to doctor's appointments or help with shopping, a senior's quality of life can go through a serious decline. Staying at home should not equate to being housebound. Yet that's the effective outcome for many older people living on their own. 

Now's the time to begin discussing care planning

Few families relish the thought of sitting down to begin discussing how to assist loved ones as they age. That's one reason why so many Georgia families fail to put long-term elder care planning into place. Unfortunately, failing to address this need can lead to disastrous consequences for aging family members. 

It's important to sit down and discuss what all parties want and expect as the aging process continues. For example, if a loved one feel very strongly about remaining in their home, a plan can be put into place to ensure that outcome. There are many services available to support staying home, including medical services, skilled care and household services. 

Medicaid planning tips for single seniors

Growing older brings numerous responsibilities, many of which pertain to ensuring that the financial groundwork has been laid for a secure retirement. For some in Georgia, that means Medicaid planning. Looking ahead and making wise decisions regarding Medicaid funding is important, especially for senior citizens who are single. 

Married people have more of a cushion when it comes to financial matters, simply because there is a second person there to rely upon and turn to for guidance and support. Singles very often take on a great deal of responsibility themselves, which can lead to gaps in financial planning. Thinking ahead about Medicaid planning is just one example of the financial missteps that can occur when an individual is going it alone. 

Is it OK to leave money to caregivers in a will?

Perhaps your mother has recently died, and you feel surprised to learn that she left $15,000 to her caregiver. You wonder if the caregiver may have pressured your mother in some way. Or maybe you are drawing up your will, and you would like to leave something to your valued caregiver. Is that all right?

In most cases, yes! It can be perfectly fine to leave money to caregivers in a will, but taking a few important steps can minimize or erase the chances of a will contest on a basis such as undue influence.

Not all spouses want to change their wills during divorce

When many Georgia couples divorce, they intend for the process to create a permanent end to their relationship, and to go their separate ways. That is not always the case, however. Just as no two marriages are ever exactly alike, divorces are also as unique as the couples involved. In some cases, spouses don't intend to alter their wills, even after a divorce. 

Some marriages end because the parties have simply grown apart. Others are a more practical matter, and have more to do with financial planning and the ability to qualify for Medicaid. In those cases, spouses may still intend for their soon-to-be-ex to inherit all or a portion of their estate. 

Here's why wills should play a part in Georgia divorce process

For those in Georgia who are going through divorce, estate planning might be the last thing on their minds. It's important to understand, however, that if these issues are not handled at the beginning of a divorce, one's estranged spouse could end up making serious medical decisions or inheriting if an unexpected incapacitation or death occurs before the divorce is made final. Wills and other estate planning documents should play a role in any Georgia divorce. 

According to Georgia law, provisions leaving property to a spouse in a will are automatically revoked when a divorce is made final. However, that doesn't mean that he or she won't receive the proceeds from a life insurance policy, retirement savings, joint trusts or other accounts. In order to remove a spouse's ability to inherit those assets additional steps must be taken. 

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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.