In the United States, only 16% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 have a will or another type of estate planning document. One reason why people are less likely to have a will is that they do not know where to start.
Something that can make estate planning a simple process is hiring an estate planning lawyer.
Do you want help choosing estate planning lawyers in your area? Keep reading this article for the top seven factors you should consider before you hire an attorney for your estate planning.
1. How Long Has the Attorney Been Practicing in the Areas of Probate, Trusts, & Estate Planning?
The most important factor to consider when hiring an estate planning lawyer is their estate planning experience. Make sure you ask each potential attorney how long they have been practicing law.
Not only do you want to make sure they have plenty of experience in law, but you also need to learn how long they have been practicing in the specific areas of law, including probate, trusts, and estate planning.
When an estate planning lawyer has more experience, you are more likely to get high-quality service.
2. What Percentage of the Practice Is Devoted to This Area of Law
Another important factor to consider when choosing a durable power of attorney is what percent of their practice is devoted to estate planning, trusts, and probate. Even if your lawyer has technically been practicing in these areas for years, they may not have many resources devoted to these areas of law.
If your attorney has not worked on estate planning in recent months, they may not be up-to-date on the current laws and requirements.
Make sure the attorney is up-to-date with estate planning so that you get the help you deserve.
3. Is the Attorney Friendly and Easy to Talk To?
Because there are so many options for lawyers, you must find one that is friendly and easy to talk to. While this isn’t the only thing you should take into consideration, it is important that you feel comfortable with your lawyer.
This way, you can trust that they will give you the time and resources that you need. Plus, you will be more comfortable asking your attorney questions and you will not have to deal with an attorney that is too blunt or unkind.
Often, you can learn more about a lawyer’s personality and customer service by researching their references and reviews.
4. How Much Will Your Estate Plan Cost
While cost is not the most important factor to consider when you hire a lawyer, you should still start by comparing lawyer fees before you choose an attorney. You should learn how your attorney charges their clients, whether it is an hourly rate or a flat rate.
While you are considering your attorney’s fees, you should learn whether or not they require a retainer for their services. A retainer is an upfront fee that you must pay to your lawyer before they begin working.
This shows that you are financially able to hire your lawyer but may make it financially difficult if you have to pay upfront. Comparing these costs before you hire your attorney will help you find an attorney that meets your budget.
5. Is the Attorney Knowledgeable and Interested in Your Situation?
To make sure your attorney is on the same page, you should make sure you hire an attorney that is knowledgeable and interested in your situation. For example, if you are remarried and creating your will, you may want to find a lawyer that specializes in 2nd marriages.
If you have any other factors that will make your estate planning process more complicated, you should hire a lawyer that specializes in your type of situation to make sure you are taken care of.
6. Is the Attorney Understandable and Able to Clearly Explain the Law?
The estate planning process can be quite complicated. If you have an attorney that only speaks in legal jargon, it is difficult to know exactly what you are getting from their services.
Instead, you need to hire an attorney that is easy to understand and can clearly explain the different areas of law. This will also confirm that your lawyer knows what the current laws are surrounding estate planning, so you will not have to make changes to your estate in the future.
To make sure your attorney is a good communicator, you can see if they offer consultations before you hire them. Having a conversation with a potential attorney will also help you see whether or not their personality is a good match for your own.
7. Does the Attorney Provide a Written Fee Agreement?
Finally, you must make sure your lawyer provides a written fee agreement. This is a legal document that is necessary when you are working with an attorney, even if you think your case is simple.
This contract will tell you exactly the fees and compensation that you will owe, what work will be done, and more.
Having a written fee agreement will prevent disputes between you and your attorney over money and will make sure you are both on the same page.
Need Help Choosing Estate Planning Lawyers?
Estate planning is essential for planning for and protecting your children, your assets, and everything else you have. Hiring the best estate planning lawyer will put your asset in the best hands.
By following each of these tips, you can get help choosing estate planning lawyers in your area. Do you need help planning for your wills and trusts in Georgia or South Carolina? Rhodes Law Firm can help!
Contact our team today for more information about our estate planning services and to meet with our estate planning experts.
As your life changes, your will should as well. Whether you are having your first child or considering divorce, you should always reconsider your estate plan when a big life event emerges. This Kiplinger article addresses just a few of the many possible circumstances that may prompt a change in your last will and testament.
Your child is getting married
If your child is getting married, it may be time to consider taking another look at your will. It could be time to update it from addressing issues that applied when your child was a minor, to now addressing issues that may arise should your child ever be divorced. It’s recommended that you create these adjustments after your child is officially married, as to avoid any complications should the wedding not happen or you pass away before the marriage.
Your beneficiaries pass away
If you named someone to manage your estate or to receive any funds and they pass away, you may need to change your will. It is always a good idea to have a contingency plan in place in the event your beneficiary passes away.
You are having your first child
This is the most common time to make your first will is when you have a child. The main purpose for this will is to name a guardian and a trustee if you have one created for your child. It’s probably easier to tackle this before the child is born, when you aren’t too overwhelmed or sleep deprived.
Life is unpredictable. There are so many reasons you may need to revisit your will. If you need help creating or adjusting your estate plan, contact the team at Rhodes Law Firm today!
As we get older, we’ve got to start thinking long-term about the care we will need. It’s a fact of life that each of us at some point will need a bit more help doing things we used to do on our own like cooking and getting from place to place.
Before you reach that phase in your life, it’s essential to start thinking about your long-term care options today and start making plans.
What is Long-Term Care?
Long-term care is care provided to people who can no longer perform specific tasks themselves without help. The focus of long-term care is to help those in need maintain their current lifestyle and independence at any age.
The services provided to you will be specifically designed to meet your needs in the long and short term. For example, if you’re rehabbing an injury, you might only need care services for a short period of time.
However, if you’re living with Alzheimer’s or are getting older in age and have health issues, you might consider using long-term care services to help you in your daily life. Long-term care can take place in several settings, including:
- A person’s home
- Nursing home
- Senior community
- Adult day center
Each setting has its own requirements and level of care provided to the residents that live there. For example, an adult day center is where adults who require supervision will stay during the day and return to their homes at night.
A nursing home is where someone needs 24/7 supervision can remain independent and have help from staff with things like remembering to take their medication and getting to and from doctors’ appointments.
With that being said, here’s how to prepare for long-term care.
While it’s never too late to create a long-term care plan for your future, there earlier you start planning, the better off you’ll be. Life changes as you get older; you might have children, grandchildren, or acquire more assets.
It’s essential to consider these factors in your plans for the future. When you fail to plan, it could lead to future issues when you need to maintain a specific standard of living or help provide support to people in your life that need it.
As you begin to plan early, it’s essential to find the right legal team to help you get your affairs in order. An attorney can help you create a will that will detail how your assets will be dispersed upon your passing.
Doing this reduces the chances of problems occurring, and the attorney can enforce the will and your wishes.
Consider How to Pay for Long-Term Care
Long-term care can become expensive, especially if you don’t have the funds needed to cover the services you need. We recommend considering a long-term care insurance policy to cover your living expenses as you get older.
There are some forms of insurance such as Medicare that won’t provide full coverage. If you choose Medicare or Medicaid, your attorney can detail the requirements to apply for coverage.
Keep in mind with this form of coverage, applications are reviewed on a case by case basis, and even if you meet the initial requirements to apply, it doesn’t mean you’ll be approved for the coverage.
It’s essential to contact your insurance provider when you’re applying for your long-term care insurance policy and ask questions about what’s covered.
Doing this reduces the chances of being surprised if there is a portion of your services that aren’t covered by the insurance policy. Keep in mind long-term care will take a mixture of your insurance and out-of-pocket costs.
Again, your attorney can help you decide how much money needs to be set aside for the future by estimating how much your living costs will be.
Keep Your Family in Mind
We’ve mentioned before you need to think about your family as you move forward with long-term care planning. The reason for this is that often the weight of caring for you as you age will fall on the shoulders of your children and grandchildren.
There are several things to think about, including:
How does caring for you impact your family member financially? Will they have to take time off work to care for you?
Are there expenses you have that will be left up to your family member to pay? If the answers to any of these questions are a yes, you need to think about setting aside money to help them take care of you financially.
However, keep in mind your needs may change, increasing or decreasing the amount of money to be used for your long-term care. If things become too much for your family member, it may be time to start looking into some of the different care options we suggested above, such as a senior living community or nursing home.
Long-Term Care Options: Everything You Need to Know
There are several things you need to know when it comes to long-term care options, with the first being that starting to plan early makes a world of difference. It’s essential to work with an attorney to create a plan that will determine what happens to your assets and money when you begin to need a bit more help.
If you’re still seeking an attorney that is an expert in the field of long-term care planning and more, contact Rhodes Law Firm LLC. With our experience, you won’t have to leave anything up to chance.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, it may be useful to consider the upcoming quality time spent with your family as an opportunity to discuss any important financial issues. This may include estate planning, long-term care plans, or anything else you may be curious about. These are often uncomfortable conversations, and sometimes can sour the atmosphere. Approaching this with a respectful attitude can help open the floor for discussion.
This article lists some helpful steps for when it’s time to talk about finances with your parents.
- Adjust your attitude – Never approach this topic from a place of condescension or superiority over your parents. You are still their child, even though you may be transitioning into a new role in your family dynamic. Present some options to your parents as choices rather than telling them what to do.
- Focus on feelings – Approach the matter in a way that you think will work best for your parents. This may be an indirect approach to broaching the subject or bringing it up directly. Ask your parents what they are feeling about their financial situation and ask if they would like some help.
- Prepare to change the subject – This subject often can bring up feelings of anger, fear, or sadness. Your parents may feel embarrassed about their situation or worried, so it’s important to acknowledge these feelings and respect them.
If you would like to discuss financial or estate planning options, our team of professionals is here to help. Contact Rhodes Law Firm today.
They’re man’s best friend, so it’s only fitting that we make sure our pets are taken care of in the event of our passing. This article helps clarify the important steps in creating a Pet Trust for your furry friends. While it may be difficult to think about, there are a few common considerations to keep in mind when trying to create a plan.
- Any special care requirements (medications, health concerns, behavioral concerns)
- Where you would like your pets to live (do you want them to remain at your home or go live with a friend or family member or sanctuary?)
- What financial resources will you provide to ensure adequate care?
Each situation, and each pet, is different. It is important to think about who you will feel most comfortable taking care of your beloved animals, as well as how much money you can leave to help provide for their care. It is also vital to choose a trustee to manage the finances for your pets.
This is just one small part of comprehensive estate planning. If you would like to learn more about creating a Pet Trust to ensure your family pet is taken care of, contact Rhodes Law Firm today.
Putting your assets in a trust is the best way to protect them, but with so many different types of trusts it can be difficult to determine which is best for your situation. Trusts shield your assets from probate court and can reduce estate and gift taxes. They also allow you to apply conditions to your assets in regards to how they are distributed after your passing.
What exactly are the differences between a family trust and living trust? This article helps break down the pros and cons of both.
Key differences between Family and Living Trusts
- Living trusts allow a grantor to decide how assets are handled before and after death.
- Family trusts are intended to live beyond the grantor’s life, enabling it to distribute assets based on designated milestones.
- A Living Trust can distribute assets to anyone named a beneficiary when the grantor dies. This can include family, alma maters, charities, pets, and more. Family trusts are intended only to benefit the family members of the grantor.
If you have more questions about the different types of trusts and which is right for you, contact Rhodes Law Firm today to learn more!
A child with disabilities deserves just as many privileges as any other child. However, not every individual can become independent as they age into adulthood. They may have mental or physical disabilities that need ongoing support.
Guardianship for adults with disabilities is an option you should consider when your child turns 18. Not only does it give you more responsibility for them, but it also helps to protect them in the long run.
Here’s everything you need to know about legal guardianship and how to apply for guardianship.
What Does Legal Guardianship for Adults with Disabilities Include?
A legal guardian is anyone who has been granted full legal and physical custody of another person. For a parent, it means taking full responsibility for your child regardless of their age.
Without it, they would be treated as an independent adult once they’re 18 years old. If your child can’t make fully informed decisions on their own, they may make some questionable legal and financial decisions.
As a legal guardian, you can make all decisions regarding your child’s assets and healthcare. Legal guardianship is assigned by a court and can only be revoked if a guardian fails to meet their duty or someone petitions to remove them.
It’s important not to confuse legal guardianship with power of attorney. The latter is a legal document that grants a specific person the ability to act on another person’s behalf.
For example, you have the option to get power of attorney over a family member’s financial affairs. You may pursue this after they’ve suffered a debilitating injury, such as a stroke. You can also direct someone else to make medical decisions for you or act for you in specific situations like real estate.
Meanwhile, legal guardianship often entails a more comprehensive level of authority.
When to Apply for Guardianship for your Special Needs Child
Deciding to apply for special needs guardianship is never an easy thing, but it’s best to make the decision up to 6 months before your child turns 18.
You may need to apply for guardianship for adults with intellectual disabilities if your son or daughter has a tendency to wander off. There’s nothing illegal or concerning about an adult going for a walk on their own. If you have guardianship, the police have a responsibility to go looking for them to make sure they’re safe.
Legal guardianship can also speed up legal and medical proceedings. You make decisions regarding their health and finances, avoiding credit checks and the like. That also means your dependent won’t have to worry about their credit score when purchasing a vehicle or a house.
You should not apply for legal guardianship if you want your child to maintain some level of dependence and they have proven themselves capable. Instead, power of attorney may be enough to protect your child’s assets while letting them have more control of their lives.
How to Qualify
More often than not, if a special needs individual needs more support, a family member takes on legal guardianship. According to National Core Indicators, over 80% of legal guardians are family members.
However, you don’t need to be a family member to qualify. In some cases, a public guardian or public administrator takes on the responsibility.
An interested person petitions the court for legal guardianship. That petition should include why they’re the best choice to be the guardian and a doctor’s certification of a person’s level of functioning.
The judge will decide if there are any better alternatives and if the proposed guardian is fit for the role.
Taking on legal guardianship of your aging child means controlling various parts of their life. It’s important to know the different models available that offer different levels of responsibility.
Legal proceedings to determine guardianship follow an LRE model. The courts should try to place individuals in the Least Restrictive environment possible. That way, they aren’t stripping them of their rights without good reason.
Supported Decision-Making allows people with disabilities to keep the right to make certain decisions. Instead of a legal guardian who makes their decisions, the person with disabilities has a group of supporters. These supporters can be friends, family, and even a lawyer.
Alternatively, the court may decide that a power of attorney or a financial representative is sufficient. In those cases, an individual can still function independently outside of any financial matters.
Starting the Legal Steps
To apply for guardianship over your child, you must first file a petition with a local court. Hire an attorney to help draft your petition, and the court will appoint another one to represent your child. Your State and County Office of Development Disabilities should be able to send you packets to help with the legal process.
Get a report from your family physician regarding your child’s capabilities. This can include any kind of developmental therapist they regularly visit.
In addition, it helps to have a vision statement written out. Your child will let you know what they want out of life, and it’ll be your responsibility to help them reach their goals.
It’s also important to prepare for the potentiality of your death. Guardianship cannot be passed on through a will. You can recommend a future legal guardian for consideration, though.
Guardianship Made Simple
Legal guardianship gets a bad wrap for a number of reasons, giving off the illusion that it is taking away a person’s right and individuality.
However, guardianship for adults with disabilities may be necessary for protecting your child and ensuring their safety. There are also different levels of guardianship that are ultimately decided by the court.
Interested in learning more about your options? Contact Rhodes Law Firm, PC, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
If passed into law, your estate plan strategies could very well be affected by any of the three legislative proposals recently introduced. These proposals, introduced by the House Democrats, would significantly affect some of the more commonly used wealth transfer strategies. This article focuses on the three proposals to watch and how they can alter your strategies if passed into law.
- Reduction in the federal estate tax exemption – Essentially the current exemption would be cut in half. You may want to consider completing large gifts before year-end if this proposal becomes law.
- Alterations to grantor trust rules – Currently, irrevocable trusts may be created as grantor trusts for income tax purposes, which can be very advantageous in certain situations such as gifting. If the new proposal becomes law, trusts that are treated as grantor trusts for income tax purposes would be included in the grantor’s estate for estate tax purposes, also requiring the grantor to recognize gain on assets sold to this type of trust. If you are planning to create intentionally defective grantor trusts, you may want to complete these transactions as soon as possible.
- Limits on available discounts for nonbusiness assets – The proposed legislation would essentially eliminate discounts on passive assets. These assets are ones not used in actively conducting business. This would reduce the number of discounts available to transfers of closely held family entities, such as limited liabilities and partnerships which hold passive assets. If you are planning gifts of closely held businesses which hold passive assets, go ahead and plan to complete this soon.
If you need assistance with your estate plan per these new proposed laws, Rhodes Law Firm is happy to assist. Contact us today!
The U.S. population is aging at a rapid rate. Within the next decade, around 20 percent of the U.S. population will be over 65. This is one of the first times that older Americans made up such a large portion of the population.
As we get older, it’s more important than ever to start long-term care planning. Even though retirees need long-term care and estate planning in retirement, very few have this plan. Do you have a plan in place for your loved ones, or do your parents have one in place?
Why is this so important? A lack of planning can really impact your finances and put family caregivers in an uncomfortable situation.
Keep reading to learn more about long-term care as we take a look at living trusts.
The Complexities of Long Term Care
There is more to a long-term care plan than budgeting. You need to include information like the type of care you want, who should provide that care, permission for family members, and how to finance these costs.
Your basic estate planning starts with getting a will that deals with your property and also states the important decisions on the care of minor children (if needed). An estate plan also includes directives on advanced health care, so you can let your doctor and loved ones know what medical steps you are okay with and what you don’t want to happen in a life-threatening medical scenario.
If you have these things in place, you are off to a good start. But, let’s go a step further with the living trust.
What Is a Living Trust?
A living trust (also called a revocable living trust) is a legal document that permits the property owner to transfer their ownership of assets to a trust, which is a legal entity that contains real estate and other holdings. This document places all your assets like real estate, bank accounts, investments, personal property, and vehicles into your trust during your lifetime. You can then say where you want these items to go upon your death. It is called revocable because you can change or cancel anytime during your lifetime.
For example, a parent can take a house that they own and transfer the ownership into the trust. You can name yourself the trustee (and your spouse a co-trustee), and then you remain in complete control of these assets. Then the ownership of the home can transfer to the child when the parent dies or has a disability.
The living trust also names the trustee, which is the person that will administer the assets outlined in the trust. You can even take it a step further and name the beneficiary. This is the person that should receive the benefits when the grantor dies.
For example, the spouse is named as the grantor, and the child is named as the beneficiary. If you have everything spelled out, your beneficiaries will receive your assets without any court involvement.
Advantages of a Living Trust
So, why should you get a living trust? There are several reasons you should consider a living trust to benefit your loved ones.
One of the biggest reasons to have a living trust is to avoid probate, which is a court-supervised process that reviews the deceased individual’s estate and affairs. Probate does tie up loose ends, but the process can be time-consuming and costly for all involved parties.
This is why people turn to an estate planning attorney to draft a living trust to spare their heirs any court hassles.
A person’s personal and financial situations can change. This is why it’s pretty common for grantors to change the trust and change assets. You can even change the beneficiaries listed anytime during your lifetime.
Maintain Your Privacy
Because court records are public, probate can uncover unpaid balances, debts, and other details people may want to keep private. Anyone can look up these records and get this information. Because a living trust helps avoid probate, this information can remain private.
Addresses Minors Or Dependents
Grantors can also tailor the terms of the trust to make sure that loved ones get what they need. For example, if adult children have issues managing money or have an illness, the grantor can place conditions on the sale or use of assets within the trust. The grantor can also address dependent or minor children that have a disability by appointing a guardian to look after them.
Other Things to Consider
There are other legal decisions that you need to consider, and there are limitations on what a living trust can do. Before you determine your best course of action, you should consult an attorney specializing in estate planning. Here are things you need to address in your long-term planning.
Protecting Your Assets from Nursing Homes
A revocable trust does not protect your assets from offering nursing home costs. You’ll need to consider these potential costs as you age and need more care. You should work on your financial calculations to make sure you are set with your estate strategy if you need additional funding to cover this care, so most people look to long-term care insurance.
Avoiding Estate Taxes
You can really save on estate taxes. As long as you have these assets, they are considered part of your estate, which means the IRS collects the taxes.
Saving on Legal Costs
You will need to hire an estate attorney to help you gather and set up the living trust. This means there is an expense upfront, but it is a worthwhile investment from a long-term perspective.
Making Hard Decisions
You will still need to decide and discuss which beneficiaries will receive which assets and property. This topic can be extremely uncomfortable. You may even have to spend time together with your family to put together the paperwork and document your assets in detail.
Help for Estate Planning
A living trust may not be for everyone, but it can certainly help you if you have a lot of assets. It can be beneficial if you own property in multiple states or if you have extended family that can make more things complicated.
It’s not just about how much property or money you have either. This trust can give you the assurance that you can distribute your assets to your wishes. You also know that the process will be painless and smooth for your family.
Looking for more advice? Contact Rhodes Law Firm today. We are here to help make estate planning as easy as possible, so you don’t have to worry about putting strain on your family.
When a loved one passes away, you may be left wondering where to even begin with settling their estate. The thought alone can be overwhelming. This Kiplinger article offers a great starting point for executors of estates.
The first stage of the process includes finding the last will and testament, canceling the deceased’s credit cards, and procuring death certificates. Getting a hold of the original is important as it is needed to begin the probate process. You may also want to safeguard any valuables or property in these first few days following a death. In the next stages, you should consider hiring legal representation and getting all necessary signatures for legal documents.
The final stages include administering the estate, paying beneficiaries, and – finally – closing the estate. Probate is a lengthy process and can take months or even years to complete. It is a tough process, but our team at Rhodes Law Firm can help! Give us a call today if you need assistance.