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What Every Client Should Know Before Meeting with an Estate Planning Law Firm

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According to a 2023 survey, 58% of Americans have experienced disputes personally or know of conflicts others have had over a lack of estate planning. Some have found that rather than being distributed according to their late loved one’s wishes, their assets fall under the control of the courts. However, these stressful situations can be avoided with good estate planning.

Meeting with an estate planning law firm is an essential first step in getting your affairs in order. But what do you need to know before you meet? What steps can you take to help the attorney protect your interests?

Let’s explore the answer together.

Find the Right Estate Planning Law Firm

As we learned from Aretha Franklin, a little professional help goes a long way. Years of legal wrangling followed her demise, all because of a lack of professional estate planning. However, this doesn’t mean that you should just work with the first estate planning law firm you find.

Recommendations and Reviews

Recommendations from friends and family are a great place to start. Online reviews can be helpful, but remember that they are not always reliable. Look for high-quality testimonials from people in a position similar to your own.

Also, when you start making inquiries, don’t be afraid to ask about costs. Many people put off estate planning because of fear of costs, which is probably a fear of the unknown. Reputable estate planning law firms will be upfront and transparent about their fees.

How Long Have They Practiced Estate Law?

Estate planning is complex, and in the wrong hands, it can be fraught with difficulties. That’s why it’s essential to find out how long the estate planning law firm you are thinking of hiring has been in business. This is not a time to take a chance on an upcoming firm–you need a firm you can trust.

Additionally, experienced firms are more likely to keep abreast of changes to the law and know how to navigate these. For example, the tax bill Donald Trump signed into law in 2017 has had a big impact on estate planning. However, some of its provisions expire at the end of 2025.

Is your attorney familiar with these and other laws? Can they take advantage of them? Protect your assets by looking for a firm that specializes in this area of law and has done so for a considerable period of time.

Do They Solely Focus on Estate Law?

It is also worth asking the law firm what percentage of their practice focuses on probate, wills and trusts, and estate planning law. You don’t want to work with a firm that does a little estate law on the side but mainly specializes in other areas.

This is because they may not be aware of all of the legal provisions for reducing your tax burden when passing your estate on to your heirs. Thorny issues like second marriages and protecting your children require the knowledge, skills, and discretion of experienced estate law specialists. Ideally, choose a firm that focuses solely on estate planning.

The Cost of Estate Planning

One reason people put off estate planning is because of fear of how much it will cost. However, the alternative to paying for an estate plan now is paying court costs from your estate. The court will appoint a guardian for your children and someone to distribute your assets.

The person the court appoints may be someone you would never have chosen. Also, they will divide your assets according to what they think is best, not in accordance with your wishes. The takeaway is that it is much better to find out the cost of estate planning now and budget for it rather than lose control after your death.

Discuss Costs Upfront

A trustworthy estate planning law firm will be upfront about costs from your first discussions onward. If they provide flat fee services, they will give you a written fee agreement that outlines exactly what is included. This means there will be no unpleasant surprises down the line.

If your estate is more complex, they are more likely to work at an hourly rate. If they do, you will usually have to pay a retainer. This will pay for onboarding and go towards your final bill.

Make Sure You’re Comfortable

From your first contact with an estate planning law firm, you will get a sense of how friendly and professional they are. In effect, you are entrusting them with protecting your children and your assets, so it is vital that you feel comfortable when working with them.

Try to assess how knowledgeable and interested the attorney is. Do they listen carefully to try to ascertain exactly what you want? If they hedge questions, are vague, or have to research basic points, this is a warning sign.

It’s also vital that they put you at ease and are easy to talk to. After all, you need to open up about confidential matters, so it’s crucial that you have confidence in them.

Now You’re Ready to Meet Your Attorney

Follow the tips above, and you’ll be ready to make the most of your first meeting with an estate planning law firm. Many attorneys are vying for your business, but here’s why Rhodes Law Firm, PC, is the right choice.

We are dedicated solely to elder care law, including estate planning. We have honed our skills and expertise through more than 40 years of helping our clients organize their affairs. We want to help you prepare your estate to benefit your loved ones so you can get on with enjoying your life.

Contact us to talk to an experienced estate planning attorney today!

Around the Web: Now is the time to act before changes affect federal estate and gift tax!

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Federal estate and gift tax exemption was increased in 2017 from $5.49 million per person to $11.18 million. This was a huge increase in what taxpayers were allowed to transfer without triggering taxes. With adjustments for inflation, the exemption is at $13.61 million for individuals and $27 million for couples. However these changes will expire at the end of 2025 and decrease by half unless Congress steps in. This article explains why this could heavily impact your estate plan. 

 

These possible changes should prompt everyone to reevaluate their estate plans – especially if you took advantage of this increased exemption. Now is the time to assess your circumstances and make any necessary changes. Contact Rhodes Law Firm today to learn more.

Estate Planning: 9 Benefits of Planning for Your Children

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As you sit in your favorite armchair, sipping a cup of coffee and flipping through old photo albums, your mind drifts to the future. What legacy will you leave for your children?

Estate planning may not be the most fun topic, but its significance cannot be overstated.

Let’s go through the benefits of planning for your children when it comes to estate planning.

1. Financial Security

Financial security is a crucial aspect of estate planning, especially when it comes to providing for your children’s future.

Estate planning allows you to set aside funds specifically for your children’s education expenses. That ensures they have the financial resources to work towards a higher education without being stuck with student loans.

A good lawyer can help you explore the different types of trusts available for your needs.

In the unfortunate event of your untimely death, estate planning can include life insurance policies or other mechanisms to replace lost income. That helps ensure that your children’s financial needs are met even without your earning capacity.

2. Preserve Your Legacy

Estate planning allows you to articulate your values, beliefs, and life lessons to your children. That’s done through distribution of assets, charitable giving, and other provisions, ensuring that your legacy lives on through them.

It can involve bequeathing family heirlooms, artifacts, and other items of cultural or historical significance to your children. That preserves your family’s heritage for future generations to cherish and appreciate.

Adding charitable giving into your estate plan can instill a spirit of philanthropy in your children. That teaches them the importance of giving back to the greater Georgia community and making an impact on the world, even if your children are adults.

3. Guardianship

You can also protect your young children’s day-to-day life through estate planning. It allows you to choose a guardian for your underage children in the event of your incapacity or death.

This ensures that someone you really trust will be responsible for their parenting and upbringing. That provides them with stability and protection during a difficult time.

Estate planning enables you to select a guardian who shares your values, beliefs, and parenting style, ensuring that your children are raised in an environment that aligns with your wishes and provides continuity in their upbringing.

4. Reduce Family Conflict

Estate planning allows you to clearly outline your wishes about asset distribution and other major decisions concerning your children.

This transparency can help prevent misunderstandings and disagreements among family members by ensuring everyone knows your intentions.

By creating an equitable estate plan that treats each child fairly, you can reduce the likelihood of resentment or disputes among siblings. Clearly defining how assets will be divided can help prevent perceptions of favoritism or inequality.

In cases where certain family members are chosen for specific roles, such as executor, trustee, or guardian, estate planning allows you to provide explanations for your decisions. This transparency can help prevent feelings of resentment or suspicion among family members.

5. Avoid Probate

No one wants to end up dealing with an estate in probate.

Probate can be a time-consuming process, delaying the distribution of assets to beneficiaries. By creating a comprehensive estate plan that utilizes tools such as trusts, joint ownership, and beneficiary designations, you can ensure a smooth and efficient transfer of assets to your children without the need for probate.

Estate planning lets you choose how your assets should be divided among your children, bypassing the default rules of intestate succession imposed by probate. This flexibility enables you to tailor your plan to meet the unique needs and circumstances of your family members.

6. Business Succession

If you own a family business, you’ll definitely want to have an estate plan.

It allows you to ensure the smooth transition of ownership and management of the family business to your children. By clearly outlining your wishes and intentions, you can maintain operations continuity and preserve the legacy of the business for future generations.

In your estate plan, you can outline provisions for the training and development of your children to prepare them for leadership roles within the business.

This may include mentorship programs, educational opportunities, or hands-on experience to help them acquire the skills and knowledge needed to manage the business effectively.

7. Divorce or Lawsuit Protection

Estate planning allows you to shield your children’s inheritances from potential creditors. That includes ex-spouses in the event of divorce or litigants in the event of lawsuits. By utilizing trusts or other protective mechanisms, you can ensure that your assets remain within the family and are not subject to division or seizure.

If you have children with special needs, substance abuse issues, or other vulnerabilities, estate planning allows you to establish trusts or other arrangements that protect their inheritances from potential threats.

This ensures that they receive the support and care they need without being placed at risk in the event of divorce or legal action.

8. Community Impact

Advance planning allows you to allocate funds or assets to charitable organizations and causes within your community that align with your values and priorities.

By including provisions for charitable giving in your estate plan, you can make a positive impact on the issues and organizations that matter most to you and your family.

9. Peace of Mind

Making sure your estate is planned for is helpful for your entire family’s peace of mind.

Involving your children in the estate planning process and educating them about financial matters can empower them to make informed decisions in the future.

Knowing that your children are equipped to handle their inheritance responsibly can offer peace of mind as you plan for their future.

By taking the time to create a comprehensive estate plan that prioritizes your children’s well-being, you are demonstrating your care and responsibility as a parent. Knowing that you have taken steps to provide for your children’s future can bring peace of mind and a sense of fulfillment.

Planning for Your Children: Start Today

There are a lot of reasons you should integrate planning for your children into your estate planning.

Do you want some help with your estate planning? Rhodes Law Firm, PC  has been dedicated to helping Georgia locals like you for over 40 years.

Contact us today to learn more about our services.

Around the Web: Estate Planning is Essential in Agriculture Industry

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Farmers face many challenges on a daily basis, however the greatest of them all may just be ensuring the preservation of their land. By having a proper estate plan in place, you can help prevent your cherished farmland from being lost. This article highlights a few misconceptions about estate planning that may negatively impact your farmland in the long run.

Oftentimes, farmers can fall victim to the idea that a legal will is unnecessary as the family will know how to divide the assets. However, the article states that without a valid will in place, the state ultimately holds the authority to allocate the assets regardless of the decedent’s wishes.

Another common misconception is that once a will is created, estate planning is complete. With all of the changes that can occur over the years – from tax laws to familial relationships – it is crucial to routinely update your estate plan.

In addition, many believe that equal division of assets is the best way to settle their estate. This is not the case across the board. It’s important to take into consideration who is involved with the farm and who is not. If equal shares are distributed among everyone, the future of the farm could be jeopardized.

If you are ready to discuss an estate plan for your farm or have any questions, give Rhodes Law Firm a call today.

How To Prepare for Death Well Before the Time Comes

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How to prepare for death is a topic often avoided, yet it’s a crucial aspect of responsible financial planning. Surprisingly, two-thirds of Americans have no estate plan in place, leaving their loved ones vulnerable to a financial quagmire upon their passing.

Without a clear plan in motion, assets may be distributed haphazardly. This can lead to disputes and unnecessary stress for grieving family members. However, by addressing this uncomfortable reality head-on and taking proactive steps to organize finances, individuals can ensure that their legacy is preserved and their loved ones are provided for in their absence.

In this blog post, your expert team at Rhodes Law Firm will highlight the key steps you should take to ensure you are prepared for your passing, well before the time comes. Ready? Let’s get started.

Create a Will

Creating a will is the cornerstone of preparing for death from a financial perspective. It’s akin to crafting a blueprint for the distribution of your assets and the care of your loved ones after you’re gone.

With a will in place, you gain the power to dictate who inherits what, whether it’s your savings, property, or sentimental possessions. Additionally, you can designate guardians for any minor children, ensuring they’re cared for according to your wishes.

Fortunately, the process of making a will doesn’t need to be daunting. Seeking professional assistance from a lawyer can provide peace of mind, especially if you have significant assets or complex family dynamics.

However, even a simple will, written with clarity and witnessed properly, can serve as a legally binding document to protect your interests and provide clarity for your loved ones during a difficult time.

Establish a Trust

Establishing a trust is another vital step in preparing for death from a financial standpoint. Think of it as creating a secure container to hold your assets and distribute them according to your wishes.

Unlike a will, which becomes effective only after your passing, a trust can take effect during your lifetime or after, providing flexibility in managing your affairs and ensuring your loved ones are taken care of.

Setting up a trust allows you to avoid probate, the legal process of validating a will, which can be time-consuming and costly. By transferring assets into a trust, you can streamline the distribution process and maintain privacy, as trust documents typically remain confidential.

Moreover, trusts offer greater control over how and when your assets are distributed, allowing you to specify conditions or restrictions to protect beneficiaries and preserve your legacy. Consulting with a legal professional can help you navigate the complexities of trust creation and ensure your wishes are accurately reflected in the trust document.

Designate Beneficiaries

Designating beneficiaries is an essential part of preparing for death financially. It’s a straightforward process of specifying who will receive your assets after you pass away.

This step is particularly crucial for accounts like retirement plans and life insurance policies, where you have the option to name beneficiaries directly. By doing so, you ensure that these assets transfer directly to your chosen recipients, bypassing the potentially lengthy and costly probate process.

Updating your beneficiary designations regularly is key, especially when significant life events occur, such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of children. By keeping your beneficiaries current, you ensure that your assets go to the intended recipients. This avoids any confusion or disputes among family members.

Plan for Taxes

Death and taxes may be inevitable, but with proper planning, you can minimize the tax burden on your estate. When it comes to preparing for death from a financial perspective, understanding and planning for taxes is crucial.

By working with a financial advisor or tax professional, you can assess the potential tax implications of your estate plan and explore strategies to mitigate them. From gifting assets during your lifetime to setting up trusts, there are various options available to help reduce estate taxes and preserve your wealth for future generations.

Taking proactive steps to plan for taxes can significantly impact the amount of assets that ultimately pass on to your beneficiaries. By strategically managing your estate, you can maximize the value of your legacy and ensure that your loved ones are well provided for after you’re gone.

Consider Long-Term Care Planning

Long-term care planning is another crucial aspect of preparing for death from a financial perspective. As we age, the possibility of needing assistance with daily activities increases, and long-term care costs can quickly deplete savings if not adequately planned for.

By taking proactive steps to address potential long-term care needs, individuals can protect their assets and ensure they receive the care they deserve in their later years.

Exploring options such as long-term care insurance or setting aside funds specifically for future care needs can provide peace of mind and financial security. Planning for long-term care also involves evaluating different care options and discussing preferences with loved ones.

Communicate Your Wishes

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of communication when preparing for death from a financial standpoint. Openly discussing your end-of-life wishes and estate plans with your loved ones can provide clarity and guidance during a challenging time.

By sharing your intentions regarding asset distribution, funeral plans, and other important matters, you can prevent misunderstandings and conflicts among family members.

Having these conversations may feel uncomfortable. However, they are essential for ensuring that your final wishes are understood and respected. By openly communicating your desires, you can alleviate potential stress and uncertainty for your loved ones and ensure that your legacy is carried out according to your wishes.

How To Prepare for Death

Preparing for death may not be a pleasant topic, but it’s a necessary one. By taking simple steps to organize your finances and communicate your wishes, you can ensure a smoother transition for your loved ones when the time comes.

If you are interested in learning more about how to prepare for death from a financial standpoint, speak to us. Here at Rhodes Law Firm, state planning, wills, trusts, long-term care planning, and more. Click here to contact our experienced professionals.

FinCEN Begins Accepting Beneficial Ownership Information Reports: What to Know

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The United Nations estimates that the amount of money laundered globally is as high as $2 trillion a year. Governments around the world are taking steps to protect the financial system from crimes like money laundering. Among the new measures in the U.S. is the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA).

Congress enacted the CTA in 2021. The CTA requires many businesses that operate in the U.S. to report information about their beneficial owners. The reporting platform opened on January 1, 2024.

Many businesses are scrambling to figure out what they need to report. Learn more about filing beneficial ownership information reports and how a business lawyer can help.

The Corporate Transparency Act and Beneficial Ownership Information

Beneficial ownership information (BOI) reports are a requirement of the Corporate Transparency Act. The goal of the law was to fight illegal activities, like

  • Tax fraud
  • Money laundering
  • Terrorism financing

The CTA is designed to prevent bad actors from hiding or benefiting from their ownership of a U.S.-based entity.

Companies that meet the criteria under the law must report information about their beneficial owners to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). FinCEN will keep the information in the beneficial ownership registry secure and confidential.

What Are Beneficial Ownership Information Reports?

Beneficial ownership information reports tell the federal government who owns or controls companies doing business in the U.S. Reporting companies typically need to provide four pieces of information about each beneficial owner:

  • Name
  • Birth date
  • Address
  • Passport, driver’s license, state or local ID card, or Indian tribal ID number

A foreign passport can be used for BOI reporting if the beneficial owner doesn’t have any valid form of American ID. Any form of ID used for BOI reporting must not be expired.

Information about the company is also a requirement. Reporting companies formed before January 1, 2024, must submit:

  • Business name
  • Business address

Reporting companies formed on or after January 1, 2024, also need to submit information about the people who created the company.

How to Determine Beneficial Ownership

A beneficial owner is someone who:

  • Exercises substantial control over the reporting company, or
  • Owns or controls 25% or more of the reporting company’s ownership interests

Beneficial owners may exert direct or indirect control.

Exercising Substantial Control

A beneficial owner can exercise substantial control in several ways, such as:

  • Serving as a senior officer, like president or chief executive officer
  • Having authority to appoint or remove officers or directors of the company
  • Serving as an important decision maker

Someone who exercises a form of substantial control not listed is still a beneficial owner. The FinCen Small Entity Compliance Guide provides more detail on determining substantial control.

Holding an Ownership Interest

Ownership interests can include stocks, equity, voting rights, capital interest, convertible instruments, or options. Reporting companies may have more than one kind of ownership interest. Someone who holds at least 25% of any type of ownership interest is a beneficial owner.

Exemptions to Beneficial Ownership

A person may be exempt from qualifying as a beneficial owner. The exemptions include:

  • Minor children
  • Inheritors who will inherit interest in the reporting company in the future
  • Employees of the company, except senior officers
  • Agents or custodians
  • Creditors

Tax professionals and lawyers usually qualify for an exemption as agents or custodians. They act on behalf of an actual beneficiary owner.

Which Businesses Need to Submit Beneficial Ownership Information Reports?

Most privately-held companies registered to conduct business in the U.S. need to follow BOI reporting requirements. The law applies to domestic or foreign companies.

Publicly-traded companies don’t fall under the same reporting requirements. This is because publicly-traded entities have their own reporting requirements.

Several other exemptions exist, such as:

  • Companies with more than 20 full-time employees and $5 million in gross sales or receipts
  • Banks, credit unions, and some other financial institutions
  • Insurance companies
  • Nonprofits
  • Public utilities

Some statutory trusts, business trusts, and foundations may be reporting companies. You may want to consult a lawyer to determine if your organization needs to file a BOI report.

How and When to Submit a Beneficial Ownership Report

You can submit your beneficial ownership information online through the BOI e-filing website. Select the option to “File BOIR” to access the reporting form. Filing is free.

The Corporate Transparency Act requires reporting companies to submit information directly to FinCEN. State or local governments, financial institutions, or other federal agencies may have their own reporting requirements. Filing with these other organizations isn’t a substitute for submitting information to the FinCEN beneficial ownership registry.

Who Can File a Beneficial Ownership Report

An employee or owner of your company can file the beneficial ownership information report. You can use a third-party service provider if you choose. You may consult with a lawyer or an accountant.

Many businesses will be able to follow the reporting requirements without external help. If you have questions or a more complicated business situation, a lawyer may be useful.

Submission Deadlines for BOI Reporting

The deadline for submitting beneficial ownership information reports depends on when your company was established. If you created your company before January 1, 2024, you must fulfill your BOI reporting requirements by January 1, 2025. Businesses created in 2024 have 90 calendar days from their effective registration date to file BOI information. Companies registered in 2025 will need to submit beneficial ownership information reports within 30 calendar days.

You don’t need to submit a beneficial ownership report every year. After you file the initial BOI report, you only need to re-file if you’re updating or correcting it.

Find Help with Your BOI Reporting

Beneficial ownership information reports are a new requirement for many companies. They help FinCEN prevent and prosecute financial crimes. Accurately determining who the beneficial owners are for your company and reporting that information correctly is essential.

Rhodes Law Firm, PC has been serving business clients in the Augusta/Aiken area for over 40 years. Our expertise in business law means you can count on us to be a reliable partner. We can help you navigate BOI reporting to ensure that your report is accurate and filed on time.

Schedule a consultation with Rhodes Law Firm today to discuss the best way to fulfill your BOI reporting requirements.

Around the Web: Don’t Overlook the Importance of Title Insurance

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If you’re in the process of buying a home, the costs can add up quickly. If you’ve ever thought about avoiding title insurance, this article from The Ascent explains why that may not be in your best interest. 

 

Title insurance can help protect you against any competing claims or liens on the property, and help  prevent you from inheriting any unforeseen issues with the ownership of the property. The author of the Ascent article noted she was lucky to have title insurance on her pending home purchase as the home had been foreclosed upon and the previous owner had filed a lawsuit to get it back. 

 

Without title insurance, she could have been out a lot of money or been stuck fighting in court to keep the home. A home is a very expensive investment. You never know what might happen, and it’s not worth taking the risk when it comes to your ownership rights. 

 

Make sure you add title insurance into your home-buying budget and be confident in your investment. Contact Rhodes Law Firm today with any questions you may have about the process.

Navigating Estate Planning in Second Marriages: Tips and Strategies

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Those with children from prior relationships must consider the impact of 2nd marriages on their children’s ability to inherit. About 50% of adults remarry within five years of a divorce, with 18% of blended families having at least one stepchild. Measures also reduce impact if you fall into the 60% category of failed second marriages.

Regardless of the positive attitude of your new spouse toward children from a prior relationship, planning for/protecting your children is a priority. Once a parent dies, if the entire estate goes to their new spouse, that person has total power over the assets. This may result in children being disinherited.

We will share tips on protecting your children and their inheritance, whether they are six or 60 when you remarry.

Update Beneficiaries

Numerous financial accounts require designating a beneficiary to receive the assets upon death. The primary beneficiary gets all funds in the account. If there is more than one primary, all primaries receive equal amounts.

Contingent beneficiaries receive funds only if the primary beneficiaries predecease them. You may designate your children as primary beneficiaries and your second spouse as a contingent beneficiary or vice versa.

After a divorce or becoming widowed, check all accounts to determine who you have as a beneficiary of the account. If you remarry, having the proceeds of all or most of these accounts go to your children is one way to secure an inheritance.

  • Life Insurance
  • Pension
  • 401(k), IRA or other retirement accounts
  • Existing wills and trusts

Verify who you have as your durable power of attorney, the person on your health care proxy, and your safety deposit box. You don’t want your ex-wife in charge of live-or-die healthcare decisions while your second wife has no legal say in the matter.

Any legal or financial document that designates a person’s decision-making power or specifies beneficiaries must be adhered to, even if you have divorced that person.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

These contracts determine the division of assets following a divorce or death. They specify the holdings of each person and the distribution of assets when the marriage ends.

Marital contracts ensure an equitable inheritance for both parties and children of prior relationships. You should discuss the advantages and disadvantages of having a marital contract as part of your estate planning packet with your estate planning attorney.

A prenuptial agreement must pass a three-part test pursuant to Scherer v Scherer249 Ga.635 (1982) to be enforceable:

  • Proof that creation is not the result of duress, fraud, misrepresentation, mistake, or nondisclosure of material facts
  • The prenup is not unconscionable
  • That enforcement is not unfair or unreasonable

Anyone seeking to enforce the terms of a prenuptial agreement must prove the above. Failure to disclose assets or yearly income may fall under nondisclosure of material facts.

A postnuptial agreement is for people already married when they realize the need to protect assets. They may be necessary in a second or subsequent marriage to secure an inheritance for their children.

Postnuptial agreements must meet the same criteria as prenuptial agreements when seeking enforcement in Georgia. A full disclosure of assets is crucial to ensuring validity.

Wills/Trusts in 2nd Marriages

The individual assets each person brings into the marriage determine the best estate plan.

A will provides instructions for distributing assets after you die. This includes real property, personal property, and guardians for minor children.

Stepchildren do not have any legal inheritance rights to your estate, but your spouse does. Georgia law states that a surviving spouse may receive at least one-third of an estate; the remaining assets go to your children.

If the probate court accepts your will, your spouse receives what you designate in the will. You may leave your spouse out of your will, but they can request the court award them up to twelve months of support.

The Georgia intestate succession rules apply if you don’t have a will. This may leave your children less inheritance than you intend.

The standard probate process in Georgia is governed by Title 53, Chapter 5.  A will becomes a public record, meaning anyone can visit the courthouse where the will is on file, pay a fee, and obtain a copy. The way to avoid having your assets become public records is to place them in a trust.

Trusts

A trust avoids probate and keeps your assets private. The type of trust you need depends on individual circumstances.

marital trust transfers all assets to your surviving spouse as the sole beneficiary of your estate. This secures your spouse’s future but may leave your children with zero inheritance.

family trust allows you to designate the distribution of your assets among your surviving spouse, children, and any other beneficiaries you choose. You may also specify percentage allotments and the ages your children need to be before receiving their inheritance.

When appointing a trustee, many select their new spouse. If they do not have a strong, positive relationship with your children, this can create problems.

Select someone you can trust to act in the best interests of your children. If you are unsure of your selection, ask your attorney for suggestions or if they are willing to serve in this capacity.

The laws governing the validity of a trust are in §53-12-4 of the Georgia Code. While there are do-it-yourself wills and trusts available online, ensuring that your estate plan is valid is essential.

Estate Planning Is Tricky

Second marriages increase the importance of careful estate planning and the benefits of hiring an estate planning attorney. They will review your and your spouse’s financial holdings, offering options that protect both parties and their children.

Factors include children from prior relationships, your current spouse, children born of the second marriage, and any prenuptial agreements. You may have established businesses, significant retirement investments, real estate, significant debt, family heirlooms, or other items of value.

Hire an Estate Planning Attorney

Hiring an estate planning attorney ensures you have a legally binding estate plan. Rhodes Law Firm, PC has 35 years of experience, providing guidance in setting up your estate to reduce conflict risks and emotional distress of surviving family members.

Review these examples of why estate planning is crucial in 2nd marriages, then call (706) 724-0405 to schedule an estate planning consultation.

Around the Web: Estate Plans for Small Business Owners – What You Need to Know

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Small business owners should ensure they maximize the value of their business, not only for themselves but for their heirs. This article lists a few helpful things to consider to help you make the most of a significant portion of your estate. 

 

Planning your exit strategy is crucial for business owners, as it can help maximize the value realized from the business and add value to your overall estate. Whether you plan to sell your business to an outside party or set up a succession plan, an effective strategy will realize the full value of your business. 

 

Business owners should also have necessary estate planning documents in place. These may include a will, a power of attorney, and a medical power of attorney. A will can help lay out any wishes involving your assets, including your business. A power of attorney can help keep your business running smoothly if you are incapacitated for any reason. 

 

There are also a number of trusts that business owners can use to their advantage. These can also help keep the business running if the owner becomes incapacitated or dies. Some benefits include avoiding probate, keeping the business safe from creditors, and minimizing taxes during the transfer in a succession plan.

 

If you need more information or help creating an estate plan as a small business owner, contact Rhodes Law Firm today.

Around the Web: Revocable or Irrevocable Beneficiary – Which is right for you?

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While planning your estate, it is important to know the two types of beneficiaries and their differences. This helpful article helps illustrate their major differences as well as their pros and cons. Revocable beneficiaries can be changed without the beneficiary’s knowledge or consent at any time. The owner of the account has full control over the assets and has the flexibility to change the beneficiary as circumstances evolve.

 

Irrevocable beneficiaries cannot be changed without the beneficiary’s written consent and gives certain legal rights to the beneficiary. This is a much more permanent designation than a revocable beneficiary. 

 

Which type is right for you? It can vary depending on a number of factors. While there are numerous advantages of revocable beneficiaries, they don’t come without some limitations. For example, if you don’t remember to update your designations if circumstances change, such as divorce, you may face negative consequences. 

 

A seasoned family planning attorney can help you navigate which is right for you and help you make the best decision for your family. Contact Rhodes Law Firm today to learn more!