Facing the Loss of a Loved One?
Request Your FREE Guide From Marietta Probate Attorney Steve Worrall:
Seven Steps To Handling Your Loved One's Estate:
How to close out accounts, notify key authorities, access death benefits and begin the probate or trust administration process after the loss of a loved one.
The weeks and months following the death of a loved one can be overwhelming. With so much to do legally and financially, you may be wondering where to even start and what exactly is involved in closing out a loved one's estate. Whether you have been named as the executor, a trustee or you are simply helping someone who is, this easy-to-understand guide will help you discover:
· Your duties as an executor or trustee, and how to carry them out in a way that involves the least amount of legal/court fees, headaches and delays for the estate.
· The most important people and institutions to notify immediately after the loss of your loved one, and the documentation you'll need to do it.
· How to deal with creditors and outstanding debt (hint: it doesn't just disappear after you loved one's death).
· How to avoid personal liability from heirs or beneficiaries due to unintentional mistakes or oversights on your part during the administration process.
· What is the probate process, how much does it cost, how do you file and which assets are subject to this lengthy and costly court process.
· How to locate and apply for additional benefits that your loved one may be entitled to for burial and related expenses.
Perhaps you saw it on the news a few weeks ago that economists on Wall-Street declared the recession officially over.
I’m not sure how they came to such conclusions, but I look around and still see far too many friends and family struggling to recover from the chaos to really consider it over. And while I acknowledge things may be improving on some fronts, I still find it hard to objectively look at a father who can’t find work or a mother who’s lost a huge chunk of her 401(k) plan to say our Country is officially in the clear.
I’m equally saddened by the number of bankruptcies taking place right now. For many families, bankruptcy is the only way to break free from the mountain of debt that constantly rests on their shoulders. Of course that’s not to say this decision is ever taken lightly by those who file, as the consequences of bankruptcy are long-lasting and sometimes severe—especially if you stand to inherit money.
Let’s say for example that you had a family member pass away who left you a cash gift in their will or trust. On the surface it seems like this would be a much needed and timely relief for a family going through bankruptcy. However, Federal bankruptcy rules declare that if you inherit money from a person who dies within 180 days of the date you filed for bankruptcy, you must tell the courts. In simple terms, that means the inheritance now becomes a part of your bankruptcy estate and will be distributed to your creditors as the courts see fit.
This also applies to items that you may inherit such as cars, jewelry or furniture. All of these items are subject to the administration of the bankruptcy estate. However, this doesn’t mean that items like this are certain to go up on the auction block. You can claim exclusion on certain things and the bankruptcy trustee has a certain amount of discretion in choosing what to liquidate. However, it can be extremely stressful to think about a family heirloom that has been in your family for years going to your creditors.
Hopefully your loved one had an Atlanta wills and estates attorney who knew a thing or two about protecting their inheritance from things like bankruptcy, creditors, divorce and the like. Ideally, your loved one would have been advised to set up a trust so any inheritance passed down to their family members would be out of reach from creditors and the courts. If they did not, and you have not filed bankruptcy yet, this may still be an option if your loved one is willing to have their plan looked at by a qualified Atlanta wills and estates attorney.
Planning to avoid giving your hard-earned wealth to creditors is not illegal or immoral either. You should think of it the same way you would when considering tax planning. Tax planning is fine, but tax evasion is not. The difference is whether you play by the rules and are honest. For example, not telling the courts you received an inheritance is illegal and you could face serious consequences. However, you are not skirting the rules if you are the recipient of a spendthrift trust. That wasn’t your choice.
If you or your loved one needs help facilitating such a trust to protect your inheritance from the claims of creditors, simply call our Atlanta and Marietta GA wills and estates office at 770-425-6060 to schedule a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session at no charge ($750 value). We will walk you through the necessary steps that must be taken to protect your inheritance from a bankruptcy filing or any other creditor’s claim. However, these appointments are limited to 5 per month so call today!
As an Atlanta and Marietta estate planning attorney, I know Generation Y has a lot to think about…starting their careers, buying their first home, starting a family. All of these things are beginnings, so it’s a rare day when someone in this generation wants to think about The End. But there are 4 reasons that they might need to…
A lot of people think that youth is an excuse for putting off doing a will or trust. But estate planning is not just about planning for your death. It is also prepares you in the event you experience an incapacitating injury and are unable to make your own financial or medical decisions. While the odds are certainly in your favor that you will not need an estate plan, you should still consider these four scenarios…
1. You need a plan in the event that you become disabled or incapacitated.
Unfortunately tragedies happen every day. And you are not immune to them because you are young. If something happens to you and you are no longer able to make decisions regarding your own financial, legal, and medical affairs you’ll need to make sure that there are basic documents in place such as a medical directive, power of attorney and HIPAA authorization so someone can.
2. You need to pass your assets.
You might be asking, “What assets?” Even if you do not yet own your own home, you need to consider IRAs, retirement accounts and life insurance accounts offered through your employer. You need to make sure that beneficiaries are named in the right way to make sure that the people you want to leave them to get maximum benefit.
3. You need to name guardians for your kids.
If you have children, you simply must name guardians. You should be the one who decides who will raise them if you are no longer around. You do not want this decision left to squabbling relatives or to a court system who doesn’t know you or your child.
4. You need to plan for your pets.
If you have a pet, chances are they are a big part of your life. They are totally devoted to you and also totally dependent on you. Have you stopped to think what might happen to them if something were to happen to you? If you want to make sure your companion is cared for if the unexpected happens, you could choose to put together a plan for their continued care. The plan may include directions about feeding, medical care and other needs along with funds necessary to provide for your pet’s support and to compensate the caretaker.
The scenarios above are just a few to consider when deciding if you need a will or trust. If you are in the Atlanta area, I encourage you to talk with an Atlanta and Marietta wills and trusts lawyer. Only then will you have the peace of mind of knowing that you are fully protected.
One of my greatest passions as an Atlanta estate planning lawyer is educating parents about how important it is to prepare for their untimely death. Not a fun topic, I realize. But here are a few cold-hard facts about what could happen if you, as a parent of a minor child, passed away suddenly without a will or trust in place.
1. A judge that doesn't know you or your children will decide who raises them.
2. The person who the judge picks to raise your kids will also be responsible for their financial well-being.
3. All of the money left from your estate (assuming there IS any) may go to your child in a lump sum when he or she is 18 years old.
Call our Atlanta GA estate planning office today at 770-425-6060 and make an appointment for a free Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session and you'll experience a peace of mind that you didn't even realize you were lacking.
I find as an Atlanta GA estate planning attorney that many people don't realize the privacy issues that will face their family should they die without a living trust. That's simply because upon your death, everything you are leaving behind to your loved ones automatically becomes a matter of public record—even if you have a will or other estate planning documents in place!
Stephen M. Worrall is an experienced family law and wills, trusts and estate planning attorney in Marietta, Georgia. He concentrates his practice in all areas of family law, including divorce, adoption and prenuptial agreements. He also helps families plan to protect their assets and their children in the event of their death or incapacity, and to transfer their whole wealth -- their financial, intellectual, and spiritual assets -- to their loved ones.