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Around The Web: Thinking the unthinkable: Businesses require estate planning

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Estate planning is not just for older people or people who have already retired. Once someone owns a business, it is crucial to start creating an estate plan. The reason for this is to make sure that in the event of incapacity or death, your loved ones and your business are safe and secure.

As soon as you have something to give away, it’s time to do an estate plan. You could be twenty, thirty or forty years old. The estate plan will map what the business owner wants to happen with the business and all assets when he or she dies.

Before scheduling an estate plan meeting, there are a few important things to ask yourself according to this article. Who do you want to handle the business affairs? Who will take over the business? Will it be your family? Your children? A key employee? You may also choose to leave the business to one child and leave other assets to your other children. Having an idea about who you want to leave things to and what those things may be will help make the estate planning process simpler.

The business could easily be put into jeopardy if a business owner does not have estate documents in place. Some businesses do not survive to the next generation because of a lack of planning. It is very important for business owners, no matter how old, to have estate plans in place. Estate planning helps a business survive.

To learn more about estate planning, contact us today!

Everything You Need to Know About Estate Planning for Special Needs Children

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Everything You Need to Know About Estate Planning for Special Needs Children

Estate planning is an important step every family must take. Unfortunately, 64% of Americans have not made a will. If you’re one of them, you need to think about estate planning and get started on your plan now.

This is especially true if you have a special needs child. This adds other factors to consider when making your estate plan.

Here’s what you need to know about special needs planning.

How to Start Your Special Needs Planning

Here are the steps you need to take to complete your plan.

  1. Get Organized.

You’ll need to collect information about your financials, the names of medical providers, Your child’s medical history, and any legal documents such as power of attorney or health care directives.

  1. Draft a Will

You need to plan for how your special needs child is cared for should you die or become incapacitated. It is important you make sure your child is cared for in the best way possible.

This means naming a legal guardian for your child. Otherwise, it will be up to a judge to appoint someone.

  1. Create a Letter of Intent

This is not a legal document, but it provides you with the opportunity to give detailed instructions to the guardian about how to care for your special needs child.

After all, nobody knows better than you what your child likes and what they need.

  1. Develop a Special Needs Trust

special needs trust ensures your child will still qualify for government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.

The trust puts the guardian in control of managing the fund and taking over duties such as filing taxes. If money is given directly to the child, it will reduce or eliminate government benefits.

The trust can also supplement the government aid to provide additional income for the care of your special needs child. However, establishing the trust is complicated and the rules for setting up the trust can vary from state to state.

  1. Review and Update Your Plan

Once you’ve made the plan, you still need to review it periodically and update the plan should circumstances change. Also, tax laws can change and require you to update your plan accordingly.

Updating your plan can include changing documents or rethinking how you approached the planning. This will often require the assistance of an attorney who specializes in estate planning and who understands special needs planning.

Make Your Estate Plan

Setting up your estate plan can be challenging. Special needs planning adds complexity to the process.

As much as this seems like a daunting process, working with a skilled and experienced lawyer can make a big difference.

They will know all the things you need to think about and what legal requirements exist in your state. That way you can be confident you’ve taken care of everything and your special needs child will be cared for in accordance with your wishes.

We’re here to help. As experienced estate planners, we can help you set up your estate plan.

Contact us today and we’ll get your estate planning started.

Around the Web: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning Your Estate

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When someone passes away, it’s often difficult for their loved ones to take on the responsibilities of their estate while also grieving the loss of someone close to them. To make that difficult time easier on your loved ones, it’s best to be prepared and have a well-planned estate.

This article highlights 5 key estate planning questions everyone should ask themselves when they begin this process.

  1. Why haven’t I created a will? If you have any assets you want to leave behind or want to specify who will raise your children if you should die, you should create a will.
  2. Do I have enough life insurance? Would your spouse be able to afford your mortgage and other bills if you unexpectedly passed away? Life insurance helps provide necessary financial protection for your family in the event of your death.
  3. What do I want to do with my home? Deciding now what to do with your home can ease things down the road with your survivors. Options on what you can do with it vary depending on whether you’ve paid it off or not.
  4. Will anyone know how to find my key documents? Create a designated space for these documents and make sure that someone knows where to find them.
  5. Who will care for your pets? Make sure your beloved pets are cared for after you pass by leaving instructions.

Want to learn more about starting the estate planning process? Contact us today!

How an Estate Lawyer Can Save Your Family

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How an Estate Lawyer Can Save Your Family

Nearly 90% of families who have to deal with an estate end up in conflict over the will, no matter how soundly it’s written. The last thing you want to spend your grieving days doing is fighting with the people you love. Hiring an estate lawyer can put everything into the hands of a neutral party and leave your family to support each other.

Estate lawyers have seen every kind of conflict between family members. They’ll be able to help your family navigate the next steps and arbitrate any conflicts with the estate.

If you fear your family will end up in conflict after a loved one dies or if you’ve recently seen conflict bubbling after the death of a loved one, you need help. Here are 8 ways an estate lawyer will ensure your family avoids permanent damage to your relationship.

1. Navigating Personal Property

One of the most common conflicts between family members is over personal property. Your lawyer can generate a property list or personal property memorandum that is included with the will.

The list, once signed and dated, becomes a legal document defining who gets what. When you’re generating the list, make sure you add sufficient details for each item that is being dispersed.

2. Keeping Plans Updated

If you hire your estate lawyer soon enough, they can make changes to the plans as conflict arises. If there is a divorce, there might need to be major changes made to the estate.

If beneficiaries pass away, their inheritances will go to the next legal heir unless otherwise noted. If this person is not the preferable heir for the owner of the estate, they should change plans as soon as possible.

Should power of attorney, whether medical or financial, be still in the hands of someone who is no longer in the family, this needs to be changed. Failure to update the estate plan will lead to bizarre or unwanted results. Former spouses should be disinherited as soon as possible.

3. Special Assets

Your estate lawyer can organize a meeting to talk about any special assets the family has. If there is a disabled child or someone who is in special care, this needs to be accounted for.

For family businesses, every detail should be worked out as specifically as possible. Make changes as early as you can so as to keep other plans from being interrupted. If there’s a family vacation home, you don’t want to have to make last minute changes to your plans once the home comes under dispute.

4. Manage Any Prenuptial Agreement

If the owner of the estate has been married a number of times, multiple people could come forward to claim an inheritance. This is a common occurrence but can be easily avoided by an estate lawyer.

Make sure that a prenuptial or post nuptial agreement is struck to maintain who is owed what and at what time. This can decrease the chance of conflict following a death. Children who are not from the marriage could make a claim and a nuptial agreement could make it clear one way or the other if they’re owed.

5. Make Gifts And Loans Clear

If someone received a gift from a loved one, members of the family could claim that it was a loan and want payment from the recipient. Parents sometimes help children who are in dire financial straits.

Other children could claim that the parent should have received repayment. They can claim that the child who received the supposed loan is no longer eligible for a share of the estate.

Parents need to make clear what is a gift and what is a loan as they age. If they want their children to have a good relationship, their clarity can step in front of any conflict even after they’re gone.

Your lawyer will know to get this in writing and keep a record of any statements.

6. Keep Trusts Funded

An estate lawyer will be well experienced in managing trusts. After the death of the person who maintained a trust, it might be unclear who is responsible next. This trust could sit in limbo or be left to someone who doesn’t want to maintain it.

Taxes will be taken on the trust and need to be filed by someone. If the person who is tasked with doing that is disinterested, it could cause headaches for the whole family.

7. Resolve Joint Ownership

Sometimes parents will make their children the joint owner of assets as they age. This is a problematic method of passing along assets and can produce negative results.

If the co-owner of an asset no longer has interest in it or doesn’t want the liabilities, they could be tasked with a burden.

An estate lawyer knows better. They’ll make sure any assets are put into a trust. If a co-owner claims bankruptcy or gets into legal trouble, the asset could also be thrown into conflict.

8. Manage Funeral Details

An estate lawyer will make sure that details are laid out immediately following death. Emotions can be high at that moment and having a clear plan is the best way to avoid conflicts.

Spouses from previous marriages might claim ownership over the funeral details or of determining where the deceased will be buried. This will cause distress for families and cause mountains of conflict at a stressful time. Hiring a lawyer in advance will ensure you can avoid these problems.

Hire an Estate Lawyer for Peace Of Mind

Most people think they’ll be level-headed when death occurs. Sadly we’re never as composed as we wish we were in those moments. Hiring a lawyer in advance will ensure that much of the financial path ahead is already laid out.

If you’re ready to hire a strong and sympathetic lawyer for your estate, contact us for more information on how to find one.

The Envelope Please . . .

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This is about the moment when the 55-year-old, visibly healthy-looking bread winner of the family collapsed at work and was hauled off by the EMS to the emergency room and appeared to be in a coma.

It looked grim. The guy had been hit by a massive stroke. The family naturally gets into a tizzy about what will happen next are in a panic. The people are work wondered what would come of them and the business.

But there was this “envelope” that he had told his chief assistant, his wife and his oldest son about. They grabbed the “envelope”. It had his living will and advanced directives in there. There was a sheet of paper containing all his account numbers for every kind of retirement and bank account, C.D., life insurance and disability insurance information and his agent’s cell phone number. All his personal user names and passwords for every credit card account and even the information to be able to access his social media accounts like F.B., LinkedIn and Twitter. His attorney information was in there too, but the family knew who that was because every two years they all sat together for an hour to make sure was known about the plan in place. The attorney had set up everything right. The main people at work knew that they were going to stick with the company because they had all agreed to a succession plan that rewarded them for sticking with the family while the disposition of the business was decided. Everybody would still get paid this Friday, just like normal. You see, this person was prepared for the unexpected and wanted all his teammates and family to be fine and move forward if something happened to him.

Now they all felt worried and concerned about their boss, father, brother and husband, but there was no wondering what would happen. They could just sit by his side as the doctors worked their hardest to produce a miracle for the patient.

As miracles would have it, three weeks later the lucky man was back at work and they had not missed a beat. They had not applied to work at other places and every teammate seemed more loyal than ever having survived the scare. But they also admired their boss for taking such good care of them.

This is what we all should have prepared for ourselves. A personal note. My best friend had his super-healthy 82 years old dad die several years ago. This is how well-prepared his dad was. It was smooth. Also, the tax savings due to the professional handling by his estate tax and financial plan was amazing.

Not like my dad, who died suddenly at age 53 without a will. Or, my mom who died having exhausted all her life’s wealth on long-term care. I love them both, that was not what they intended to do. My mom and dad were loving, dedicated parents and they were heroes to me. They were as smart as anybody and lived a life of great intentions. But, it happened the way it happened.

I am proud to be prepared because of what I learned.

Jeff Annis

Around the Web: Relying Only on a Will is Common Mistake

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Many people make the mistake of assuming that a written will is all they need for their estate plan. Unfortunately, the truth is you can’t rely solely on a will to tie up all of your loose ends when you’re gone. While it is essential, a will simply isn’t enough.

This article is one in a series from Forbes contributor Bob Carlson that highlights the most frequent mistakes people make when planning their estate. The first mistake most people make? Relying only on a will.

“A complete estate plan includes key documents that might be needed before your passing, such as a power of attorney and advanced medical directive,” Carlson writes. “These documents empower one or more people to make decisions and take actions regarding your assets or medical care when you aren’t able to.”

Another thing to consider when planning your estate are trusts, which are very flexible and can protect your assets while maintaining privacy. Trusts, according to Carlson, often surpass wills as key documents in estate plans.

It’s easy to procrastinate planning your estate, but it can become an issue in the case of a sudden health crisis. Don’t wait until it’s too late – contact us today to get on the right track with your estate planning.

Around the Web: SNL Amazon Echo Spoof

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We thought this video was too funny not to share and thought some of our clients might just relate!

4 Key Benefits Of Having Your Estate Attorney Set Up A Trust

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4 Key Benefits Of Having Your Estate Attorney Set Up A Trust

Planning your relative’s estate can be a difficult and emotional topic.

This difficulty, along with the amount of legal understanding involved make it necessary for you to hire an estate attorney.

When you contact an estate attorney, make sure to have them put together a trust. Forming a trust is one of the best ways to handle an estate, and estate lawyers are the most qualified to put them together.

If you’re on the fence about this and want to learn why you should have an attorney set up a trust, start with these four points below.

Your Estate Attorney Can Help You to (Legally) Avoid Taxes

One of the foundational principles of wealth is minimizing taxes whenever you can.

This remains every bit as true when dealing with handling an estate. You’ll want to avoid heavy estate taxation when getting an inheritance so that you can use the money however you need.

That’s where an estate attorney comes into play.

These lawyers will help you to shield the estate from taxes. They will first and foremost take an all-encompassing look at the estate and then determine how much tax liability you owe.

From here, they’ll work diligently to reduce the tax bill altogether.

Helps Prevent Litigation

While going through the estate process is also matched with grieving, it’s important to know that it’s not uncommon to get sued during this time.

People might contest the delegation of a will, which leaves you open to months or years of more litigation.

When you have an estate attorney put together a trust for you, the likelihood of having it contested is dramatically reduced.

Hashing out the legal matters on the front end in the form of a trust makes the important details ironclad and much harder to contest.

You Will Get Your Inheritance Faster

The last thing you would want is to have your inheritance tied up as the details are hashed out.

When you have a lawyer a trust, the inheritance process is streamlined, which is good for you and everyone with a claim to the estate.

This is especially important if you plan to invest your inheritance or otherwise use it.

For instance, many people use their inheritance to pay off student debt, open their own company, invest in stocks and other investments or become a homeowner for the first time.

Your lawyer will also be able to advise you on these matters of investment and the implications that come with each option. They can also point you toward financial experts in their network that can be helpful.

These Documents Are Of Life Changing Importance

Because these legal matters literally change the course of lives, it doesn’t make sense to go about them alone.

Having an attorney on your side that handles estate trusts lessens the burden tremendously. This is why estate attorneys like Audrey Rhodes, of Rhodes Law Firm, PC, work diligently to create these trusts.

If you’re interested in a trust and don’t know where to start, get in touch with us today.

Meet Our New Associate Attorney – Colby!

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At Rhodes Law Firm, we would like to share with you our newest member to the team – Colby Bouchillon, Associate Attorney!

About Colby

Colby is a native of Aiken, South Carolina. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of South Carolina – Aiken in December 2013. She continued her education at Emory University School of Law in Atlanta to earn a Juris Doctor degree in 2017.

Colby is a member of the Augusta Bar Association and is licensed to practice in Georgia. Her areas of focus are:

In her free time, you can find Colby rooting on the Atlanta Falcons or spending time with her nieces and nephew!

 

Around the Web: More Than Just Your Will

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You’ve created your will, and everything is in place. That’s great; you are ahead of the game more than you may realize. However, what if your will isn’t the only document you need to ensure your end-of-life wishes?

Documents to Consider

This article from USA Today suggests that there are other documents you may need to consider having to make any other areas are covered that lead up to what is, essentially, inevitable. Amy Florian, chief executive of Corgenius, provides readers with additional documents to have on hand:

  • A living will
  • POLST, which stands for “physician orders for life sustaining treatment”
  • Having a power of attorney for healthcare/healthcare proxy
  • Appoint a durable power of attorney
  • DNR/DNI orders
  • Diminishing capacity letters
  • Organ donor designation
  • Life insurance
  • A personal property memorandum
  • A digital assets memorandum
  • A collection of relevant information

To take the burden off the family, Florian recommends to have the necessary documents in one place.

For more information on how to get started, contact us today!