Estate Planning FAQs
A power of attorney allows you to have someone assist you with your financial and property affairs when and if you become unable to do it yourself. It is intended to avoid the need for court intervention.Sometimes people come to us looking for help with someone else’s estate planning, so before we can answer this question, we would need to understand whether the power of attorney is for you or for someone else.In addition, whether or not a power of attorney is really all you need is something we could help you determine with an estate planning consultation. The estate planning consultation is designed to help us help potential clients figure out where they are in their estate planning process and what needs they really might have.If after completing the estate planning consultation we determine that all you really need is a power of attorney then we may well be able to help you. If you need more than just a power of attorney, we may be able to help you with that, as well.
Wills created and signed in another state may be legally effective under Georgia law; however, they may not be drafted in a manner which takes maximum advantage of the provisions of Georgia law. Therefore, we generally recommend that you update your Will after you move from another state to Georgia. This can help ensure that you minimize the hassles and costs related to the probate process and that your documents will work as well as possible under Georgia law. You should also have your documents reviewed periodically to make sure they still reflect your current intent. If you have made a major life change, such as move to a new state, that is often a good time to revisit your estate planning desires as well as updating your plan to reflect the laws of the new state.
Proper handling of an estate is a common concern for loved ones and beneficiaries of an estate, especially when they lack information as to what is going on. Normally the best way to feel comfortable that things are being handled properly is to request that the executor be very open and honest about what is going on. Issues arise when the executor doesn’t want to be open.If you are concerned that that the executor may not be properly handling the estate, you should directly confront the executor and ask questions. If you don’t get satisfactory answers, you should seek legal counsel to get help in making sure things are handled properly.Executors often believe that the fact that a Will waives the normal requirement that they file an inventory and periodic reports with the court also waives any requirement that they provide information regarding the estate to its beneficiaries. However, this is a misconception. In addition, even if the Will waives the requirement for an inventory and reports, the beneficiaries of the estate still have the right to ask the appropriate probate court to force the executor to provide an accounting if the executor fails to provide the beneficiaries with appropriate information upon their request.
A trust is a legal relationship under which a trustee (which can be either an individual or a corporation) holds and manages assets for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries (who can be individuals or organizations, such as charities). Generally, the terms under which this relationship operates are spelled out in writing, in a document usually referred to as the “trust agreement.”Trusts can be revocable or irrevocable. They can have significant gift tax, estate tax, generation-skipping transfer (“GST”) tax, and income tax consequences, or they can have no significant tax effects. Trusts can remain in effect for a short period of time or for many decades into the future. They can help reduce the potential for conflicts over an estate plan, and they can help reduce or avoid the need for a Will to be submitted to probate. Because trusts can be used in so many different ways, and because the terms of the trust agreement are critical to ensuring that a particular trust will work as intended and accomplish the desired results, it is highly important that you get good legal advice and assistance when considering whether to use a trust, deciding how the trust should be structured, and implementing the trust itself. In addition, you rarely ever need just a trust. Instead, a trust should be used as part of an overall estate plan, which usually also means that you need to have a Will, Power of Attorney, and Advance Directive for Health Care in addition to any trust(s).As part of an estate planning consultation, we help potential clients consider their situations. If we believe that the use of one or more trusts would be beneficial and appropriate for a particular situation, we will recommend that the potential client consider creating the appropriate trust(s). Therefore, the first step you should take is to attend an estate planning consultation, where we can help you determine whether you really need or want a trust, what type of trust, and how it should be designed to operate. We can then help you create and implement your trust(s), as well as any other estate planning documents which you may need.
Each new potential client is provided with a short estate planning checklist to complete in advance of our first meeting. The checklist asks for basic family information and financial information. It also includes a reminder that the potential client should bring us copies of any existing estate planning documents, prenuptial agreements, divorce settlement agreements, business-related buy-sell agreements, or other documents which might affect the potential client’s needs.
It is difficult to provide an accurate cost estimate without having an estate planning consultation. That initial, complimentary consultation provides us with the information and details we need to determine what types of documents need to be prepared as part of your proposed plan. Please know that our clients are not those who are looking for the cheapest possible option, but instead are those looking for a solution which will carry out their intents with the least cost, hassle and taxes for their loved ones, as well as helping to avoid any post-death disputes. In other words, our clients are those who really care what happens to their loved ones after they are gone. If you really care about what happens to your loved ones after your death, it is important to carefully consider your options. It may be that all you need is a simple set of estate planning documents. However, without performing a complete evaluation of your situation and your actual needs, we cannot be sure what your needs are. After the proposed plan is developed, you will also be given a proposed fee for the documents to be prepared.
The fees for setting up a trust depend on the type of trust, which in turn depends on what your needs and goals are and why the trust is being created. As with a Will, the fee has to be determined after an estate planning consultation, in which your situation, your needs, and your goals are carefully considered and a plan developed. The determined fees include the RLT, a pour-over will, power of attorney, advance directive for healthcare, an explanatory cover letter, and several explanatory memos.
The two questions that need to be asked are how much do you properly owe and will you be able to pay it? Tax matters are fairly unique and must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, since the facts and handling of your case will depend on your individual situation. In our experience, these can range from simple clarifications of information to highly complex and time sensitive proceedings. In all situations, prompt attention is important.
You may change the executor named in your Will with a codicil. However, anytime you make a change to your Will you should take the time to reconsider the rest of the Will, to ensure it still properly reflects your intent. In addition, your attorney should consider whether changes in the law may have occurred since the Will was originally prepared, so that it can be updated to deal with such changes as needed. Finally, it is often better to redo the entire Will, rather than preparing a codicil, even if the changes being made to the overall provisions of the Will are fairly minor. This is because a codicil must be read with the Will it modifies, creating a situation where multiple documents must be interpreted together and increasing the chance for confusion. Having all of the desired provisions reflected in a single Will can help avoid the chance of confusion or misinterpretation which a codicil (or multiple codicils) can create.Each time you make a change to your Will, you should also consider updating your financial power of attorney and Advance Directive for Health Care, since these documents tend to lose power as they age. In today’s litigious society, financial and healthcare institutions worry about getting caught in a dispute over the use of these documents, and they may be have even more concern where the document is older, and possibly outdated. Keeping these documents fresh can help to ensure third parties will accept them when they are needed.