Estate Planning FAQs

These are a few questions our clients often ask us.

Why is Estate Planning necessary for everyone?

A lot of people believe estate planning is something only necessary for the very rich. The truth is that we all have assets. In addition to assets, most people are very fortunate to have quite a few loved ones, some of which are dependent upon them. Without the proper planning the assets you have worked so hard for and the people you love so much can be exposed to some severely adverse consequences. The goal of proper estate planning is to protect those assets and more importantly your loved ones from such consequences.
Additionally, many people fail to plan for the event of an accident that leaves them temporarily incapacitated, which can expose you to medical risk and financial ruin. It’s important to plan for and empower a trusted individual to act on your behalf.

Why do I need estate planning, all of my important assets (life insurance, bank accounts, etc.) already have a designated beneficiary?

Having assets pass outside of probate (formal administration of a Will) can be desirable in many situations. It can save money and time. Unfortunately, it’s not always the prudent thing to do. For example, if your designated beneficiary is a minor, the money that was intended to be used for their benefit will be placed under a Conservatorship. Conservatorships are more expensive and much more cumbersome than if the proper planning had been done. Also, tax deferred retirement accounts, one of the most popular vehicles for a family’s accumulated wealth, can expose beneficiaries to unintended tax consequences, which is possible to avoid with correct planning.

I have a financial advisor and an accountant, why do I need you?

Other financial professionals play an integral role in proper planning and wealth management, but they cannot offer legal advice and they cannot create essential estate planning documents like a Will or Trust. Unfortunately, some unqualified professionals feel they can do just that – it’s illegal and has a very high potential to expose your estate plan to the exact consquences you were trying to avoid. Estate planning is the most successful when all your team members are on the same page, Jordan welcomes the help and counsel of your other trusted advisors.

Do my spouse and I need separate Wills, or can we just use one?

Each person must have their own Will. A convenient technique that many Estate Planners use is that of Reciprocal Wills. The separate Wills mirror each other in most regards. While this option is a good one for many couples, every family is different and it may not be in the best interest of all involved to draft Reciprocal Wills. A good Estate Planning attorney is able to identify the times where this approach is advisable and when it is not.

My family and friends know where I want my kids to go in case something happens, do I still need to specify in my Will where I want them to go?

Absolutely yes! This is something I see too often in the other side of my practice. Young families, who understandably have many other expenses to balance, have not undertaken to create proper estate planning documents. Without proper direction in a Will, you aren’t leaving it to the judgment of people who know you and your children but to a judge, who although surely means well, does not know the dynamic of your family or your wishes. Furthermore, family members in equal levels of kinship, typically grandparents or siblings, all have equal claim on the children and then it becomes a matter of a judge deciding which potential guardian would serve the best interests of the child(ren). That scenario may work itself out in the right way but why leave your minor children in a state of limbo when their worlds are already upside down.

I’ve heard that probate is expensive and that I should put everything into a Trust, is that true?

This is one of those yes and no answers: Probate can be expensive and time consuming, especially if the Will is contested. It’s also a matter of public record, so those who desire privacy for themselves and their beneficiaries bristle at the idea of their last and intimate wishes being accessible to members of the public. Additionally, and as mentioned above, a Trust can be desirable in the event you have minor children – even for modest estates – because it is a much better alternative than a Conservatorship, which would be required if money in excess of $15,000 was directly left to a minor child.
On the other hand, the Probate process in Georgia is efficient. More importantly, having the oversight of a court can help enforce your wishes and make sure that all interested parties are abiding by them. In the end, it’s truly dependent on each client’s assets and preferences.

Do you have other questions about Estate Planning?

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