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Cumming Georgia Estate Planning Law Blog

Why wills are the gift that keeps on giving

For Georgia residents looking for the perfect Christmas gift for their adult children, estate planning packages are an interesting option. Many parents feel strongly about the need to craft wills and trusts, but their adult children don't share that same level of motivation. By gifting estate planning services, parents can get their adult children off on the right path. 

In order to avoid tension and hurt feelings, it's important to discuss the reason for the gift in detail. Explain that the focus is on ensuring that the child's wishes are clearly laid out in the event an unexpected loss arises. Some families find the death of an extended family member to be a good starting point for the conversation, especially if his or her financial affairs were not in order. Even the death of a celebrity can help underscore the importance of estate planning at all ages. Prince, Aretha Franklin and Anthony Bourdain all recently passed away without an estate plan in place. 

What is undue influence?

One factor that can potentially invalidate an otherwise technically perfect Georgia will is learning the will's provisions came to be as a result of undue influence. Allegations of undue influence are one major reason for probate litigation.

Prolonged litigation can deplete the estate and generate long-lasting conflicts. If you have reason to suspect the issue of undue influence may arise, your best option is to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable lawyer in your area.

Protect against elder abuse during family care planning

Elder abuse is something that Georgia families should discuss when thinking about long-term care needs for aging loved ones. While elder abuse is not incredibly common, it occurs more often than many people think. In fact, according to a recent report, state-based agencies responded to more than 235,000 cases of abuse of seniors living in their own homes, and most experts note that elder abuse is significantly under reported. The topic should be given consideration when families join to address long-term care planning needs. 

There are many different types of elder abuse, ranging from physical assault to abandonment, neglect and even sexual assault. Abuse can occur in the senior's own home, or in an assisted living or nursing home facility. Knowing what to look for is an important part of protecting a loved one from harm. 

Reviewing wills and trusts is a process, not a one-time task

Few Georgia residents enjoy planning for how their estate will be handled after they pass away. However, revisiting existing wills, trusts and other estate planning documents is an ongoing need and something that should be attended to every other year or so. Without those periodic reviews, it's easy to miss changes in estate law that could cost a family a significant amount. 

Most discussions about reviewing estate plans focus on factoring in changes within the family structure. For example, a new birth or death would alter the distribution of assets and require an update to the existing documents. However, changes in the law can also alter how estates are handled. 

The role of wills and trusts in divorce planning

Going through a divorce is never an easy process for Georgia spouses, and it can feel as though there's an endless list of items that deserve one's attention. Thinking about wills and trusts might be the last thing on the mind of a spouse in the middle of divorce, but it is an important consideration. Failing to plan for the future can result in unintended outcomes. 

Without wills and other planning instruments in place, it's possible for one's former spouse to inherit a significant portion of assets. That puts the intended heirs in a difficult position at a time when they are likely preoccupied with grieving. Having to wage a legal battle is never easy for the loved ones left behind and can forever alter the relationship between those parties. 

Newly announced estate tax exemptions could affect wills

Most Georgia residents are aware that a portion of the wealth they leave behind could be subject to taxation. In fact, some structure their wills and trusts around minimizing those obligations. One type of tax that applies after death is called the estate tax. There are thresholds that define when that tax is triggered, and the Internal Revenue Service recently announced an increase in estate tax exemptions for 2019. 

In 2018, an estate valued below $11.4 million per individual is not subject to the estate tax. That number is more than double the exemption of $5 million in place in 2013, and far more than the $675,000 exemption in effect in 2000. The 2019 number won't be permanent, however, unless legislation is passed before the new exemption expires in 2025.

How to handle specific heirlooms in wills and trusts

Amassing a collection of artwork or other valuable items can be a lifetime accomplishment. For those in Georgia who are thinking about how to handle these types of heirlooms in their estate plan, it can be helpful to have a plan in place. Wills and trusts can ensure one's wishes are carried out, but the first step involves clearly outlining those wishes. 

Tangible assets and heirlooms can vary from a collection of thimbles to a family vacation home. Regardless of the items in question, the first step is to get a solid idea of the value of the assets. That might mean paying for a real estate appraisal, or hiring a professional art appraiser to review a collection. 

How frequently should wills and trusts be revisited?

Some Georgia residents think of estate planning as a one-time event that can be completed and then checked off of the to-do list. In reality, it's absolutely critical to review wills and trusts periodically to ensure the provisions laid out within still apply. Life changes, and those changes often bring about a shift in how to address estate planning needs. 

A good rule of thumb is to sit down and review wills and other estate planning documents every five years. If there's been a major life event like a marriage, divorce, death or the birth of new family members, that event should trigger a review, even if only a couple of years have passed since the last one. Fortunately, checking over the provisions in these documents takes very little time. Even better, the more frequently one goes through the process, the more familiar they will be with the documents and the faster the review can be completed. 

How to prevent a fiduciary from cheating you and your family

The state of your and your family's future relies heavily on the quality of your estate plans. It takes careful planning to ensure the security of your well-being, property and family. An important part is giving certain people legal powers as executor of the estate or power of attorney.

Unfortunately, sometimes the people in these roles abuse their powers and cheat you and your family of your assets, which is devastating emotionally and financially. The good news is that there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of it happening as well as remove dishonest fiduciaries.

The role of irrevocable trusts in medicaid planning

Georgia families who want to plan ahead for late-life care needs may want to consider an irrevocable trust. When it comes to qualifying for Medicaid, the manner in which assets are held or distributed is incredibly important. Timely Medicaid planning can ensure that a Georgia resident or loved one has the care that is needed when the time comes. 

A revocable trust allows the creator to fund the trust with a range of assets, and retain the ability to access those assets at any time, for any reason. The problem is that creditors also retain the right to access funds held in a revocable trust. Medicaid is considered a creditor, and thereby becomes a beneficiary of a revocable trust. 

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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.