Author: Paul Black
Paul’s experience as the son of two parents with big health challenges is what led him to the work he does today and gives him first-hand knowledge of the challenges that many caregivers and family members face. After graduation from GSU Law, Paul was chosen from dozens of applicants nationwide as one of three 2010-2011 Borchard Foundation Law & Aging Fellows. Paul has been named as a SuperLawyers “Rising Star” in the area of Estate Planning and as a member of Georgia’s “Legal Elite” by Georgia Trend magazine. Published on: May 23, 2019. Last updated on: July 13, 2019.
What Is Estate Planning?
If you’d like to sort out your financial affairs and protect your loved ones when you’re no longer around, consider estate planning.
Estate planning involves controlling, preserving, and distributing an individual’s assets. It may also be used to take charge of the assets and finances of an incapacitated individual.
If you’d like your estate to be distributed a certain way, or you’d like to ensure the guardianship of your minor children, you might need to develop an estate plan with the help of an estate attorney.
What Is the Purpose of Estate Planning?
The primary purpose of estate planning is to effectively distribute your assets in your absence. This way, you can prevent family drama or quarrels between your beneficiaries over succession and inheritance.
If you’re still sitting on the fence, here are some reasons you should plan your estate:
Reduced Estate Tax
Taxes decrease the value of your assets. With an estate plan, you can minimize federal estate taxes and inheritance taxes by setting up trusts as part of the will or revocable living trust.
Avoiding the Hectic Probate Process
The probate process concerns the validation and authentication of a deceased’s will. The process of obtaining probate over a deceased person’s estate could be cumbersome. Sometimes it could take years to resolve, depending on the nature of the estate. Until the process is complete, your beneficiaries may not have access to their inheritance.
However, a Georgia estate planning lawyer can help you avoid this lengthy process with the right legal device.
Eliminating Family Chaos
Proper estate planning could save time by preventing complicated succession proceedings.
Since your wishes are already spelled out, estate planning leaves no room for speculation. It can stop your beneficiaries from fighting over who gets what and incurring legal bills.
Making sure that your investment and asset accounts are assigned to your preferred beneficiaries through an estate plan helps prevent family chaos. This way, you can ensure that the peace and family bond in your family are not jeopardized in your absence.
Protect Your Heirs and Beneficiaries
Estate planning is essential, especially if the intended heirs are minors or adults lacking the capacity to manage assets. Appointing a guardian or conservator to oversee the inheritance on their behalf helps protect the beneficiaries from bad financial decisions while preserving the estate for their future use.
You may appoint a well-trusted relative or friend to run your financial and legal affairs and take guardianship of your children by granting them a power of attorney or mentioning them in a will.
What Are My Options Under Estate Planning?
There are several options available if you wish to plan your estate. Depending on your needs, you can use one or a combination of several. Some of these options are highlighted as follows:
A will is a legal document that indicates your last wishes concerning the distribution of your property when you die. With a will, you can appoint an executor to carry out your wishes in your absence. You can also appoint a guardian for your minor children.
A will helps you to take charge of your legacy. With the help of an attorney, you can learn about the specific laws and estate planning strategies to help you make a valid will and preserve your legacy.
A trust is a legal concept/document that provides for the interim transfer of assets from their owner (trustor) to a trustee for the use and benefit of the named beneficiaries.
The trust document sets out the established rules to govern the administration of the trust. These rules help the trustee manage the assets and distribute them to one or other beneficiaries.
When deciding whether to put your assets/ properties under trust, you could consider either of these types of trusts:
The revocable trust: This type of trust enables you to retain power over the assets and money and can change the terms anytime.
The irrevocable trust: This is a more permanent type of trust, and you cannot change the terms of the trust without the beneficiary’s approval. However, it has some merit since it is not subject to estate taxes. An irrevocable trust can also help to protect your assets from creditors.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a document appointing a person to step in and manage your finances and assets if you are ill, incapacitated, or physically unable to do so.
You can limit or give full control powers to the person you appoint by the terms contained in the document. A limited power of attorney is restricted, while an unqualified power of attorney gives your representative complete discretion on how to act.
A beneficiary designation is a written statement giving directions as to who would receive your benefits from life insurance policies, bank accounts, and retirement accounts benefits.
An annual maintenance plan with your lawyer may be essential to periodically review your designated beneficiaries and update the list if necessary.
Medical or Health Care Directive
A medical care directive is similar to a health care power of attorney. It gives an individual the right to decide on your behalf on the measures to be taken when you are ill or incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes.
If you’d like more information on how to set up a medical directive, contact a skilled elder law professional. They can answer your questions and ensure your desires are fulfilled.
How Does Estate Tax Affect Estate Planning?
When a person dies, their estate or sections of it may be subject to estate taxes. The amount of tax paid is usually a percentage defined by tax laws. TIn most cases, the sum is paid before the beneficiaries can fully own the assets.
This requirement could put your beneficiaries in a tight corner as they might be unable to afford the required tax.
You could be proactive and save your loved ones from such difficult situations by creating an estate plan. Your estate planning attorney can help you choose a plan that can minimize the estate taxes charged and is appropriate for your circumstances.
Get Help From an Estate Planning Attorney Today
If you’re considering setting up an estate plan, then working with an experienced estate planning lawyer would benefit you.
Your lawyer can help you determine a suitable estate planning strategy depending on your circumstances and draft the appropriate documents, including wills, trusts, or powers of attorney.
Estate planning attorneys can guide you in selecting the preferred beneficiaries of your estate and their respective portions. They can also help minimize your estate tax liability by providing legal tax avoidance strategies for your assets following applicable tax laws.
If you have further questions about your estate planning options or how to leave assets for your children and beneficiaries, The Law Office of Paul Black has you covered.
Attorney Paul Black is a seasoned estate planning professional. He can offer you personalized estate planning advice and services to suit your unique circumstances. Contact him today to secure your assets and the future of your loved ones.