Unfortunately, there are many myths surrounding estate planning that often can prevent people from getting involved in the process or updating their existing plans. From assuming that a will is all you need, to thinking that estate plans are only for the wealthy – there are numerous misunderstandings regarding the importance of the planning process. This article lends some clarity and debunks some of the confusion surrounding estate planning.
You may think that you aren’t wealthy enough to create an estate plan for your assets, but that is simply not true. If you own any type of property or assets or are depended upon financially or physically by loved ones, you should have an estate plan regardless. A good, thorough estate plan – not just a will – can help protect the ones you love in more ways than one.
A will is a great start to any estate plan, but it simply doesn’t cover everything. It’s important to work with an estate attorney to discuss other legal documents that protect the rest of your assets not covered by a will. These include a power of attorney, a living will, and a trust.
Another misconception regarding estate plans is that you never need to revisit or make any updates. Any time you experience a change that impacts your life – marriage, divorce, new child or grandchild – your estate plan needs to be updated. It’s crucially important to periodically review and update your documents and beneficiaries.
Above all, communication is key in planning your estate. Make sure your loved ones or a trusted individual knows where your legal documents are located, where your banking accounts are held, and important passwords. This is all important information that can help ease those affected in the event of your death.
If you’re ready to get your estate plan in order or have questions regarding your current plan, call Rhodes Law Firm today!
Own a Business? Start Exit Planning as Early as Possible!
If you are a business owner, being prepared for your inevitable exit from your business is crucial to a successful retirement. By making these plans early on, you may avoid or minimize any issues that can arise from your departure and help make the transition as smooth as possible for both your employees and the buyer.
This article by Forbes New Your Business Council offers some insight on important steps to take in preparing a plan – and even a backup plan – for your retirement.
It’s important for your business to be in top shape when you go to sell it. You can take steps now to ensure that you’ll be able to sell it for a good price when the time comes, such as updating your operating agreement, your buy/sell agreement, and employee contracts as needed. It may also benefit you to incentivize key employees to stay once you’ve left the company.
If you have intellectual property, it might be a good time to look into protecting it as a trade secrets or a patent. This will also enhance the value of your business to prospect buyers.
Above all, it’s important that you work hand-in-hand with a team of advisors from the beginning of the planning process. This includes a Certified Exit Planner, a business attorney, financial advisor, and others.
If you’re ready to start planning for your financial future, call Rhodes Law Firm today!
No one knows what the future holds, but for 70 percent of those over 65, we do know this: long-term care is on the horizon.
As we age, our bodies change, and we start needing extra help. But some of us will require more than a helping hand. Whether it’s a long-term disability or the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, long-term care is there.
Unfortunately, long term care planning needs to start well before you reach the point where you or your loved one needs it. Early planning helps you make the most of your years by finding the right facilities and making financial plans. It also offers more choices and allows you to remain at the center of all the decisions that affect your life.
1. Staying in Your Home: Learn the Options
Almost everyone wants to stay in their home for as long as possible. You can make sure you’re there for as long as you want to be with a little planning.
First, you need to think about your home’s design. Size and space make a huge difference when significant life changes occur, so here are a few things you’ll want from your home’s design:
- Step-free entrances
- Open plans
- First-floor bedroom and bathrooms
- Wide hallways and doorways
These make a huge difference whether you take a fall and need temporary help or if you develop a disability. These are the most essential features that you need to plan early for, particularly if you have an older home because they require more expensive modifications.
Other things to think about include making friendly changes like adding handrails, brighter lights, and easy-to-use door and cabinet handles.
In addition to your home, you’ll need to think about your community. While everyone today delivers to your doorstep, you still want to live in a place where you can get out and about by car, foot, or public transport.
Then, there’s extra help. Whether it comes from a relative or a professional, almost all of us will need it at some point. You’ll want to think about where your help will come from and how you’ll pay for it. Doing this now not only prepares you and your family, but it protects you from unsavory characters who prey on older people.
Are you getting older and wonder what’s available to you? Get in touch with your local Area Agency on Aging for more information.
2. Think About Advanced Directives
Advanced directives are legal paperwork that shares your medical care wishes with your family, friends, and healthcare team. The document dictates explicitly your end-of-life wishes.
End-of-life directions may seem to be too much if you’re living in your house. But these are less designed for making decisions 30 years from and instead direct your loved ones if something tragic and unexpected occurs in the near future.
An advanced directive is there for you in the event of a heart attack, stroke, or even a car accident. You’ll provide instructions on issues like:
- Organ and tissue donation
- Do-not-resuscitate (DNR) directives
- Dialysis instructions
- Tube feeding instructions
It also provides a power of attorney in case you become incapacitated.
3. Start Financial Planning
Whether you need extra help at home or more skilled care, you’ll need to think about how you will pay for it.
It’s good to build this into your retirement care plan, if it’s early enough because the cost of medical care is increasing.
As you age, some care will cost you money. Medicare or health insurance may cover other care (usually only the essentials).
Some people find that the combination of cost of living with care is more expensive than moving into an assisted living home. It all depends on your age, location, care needed, and your finances.
One way to plan is to invest in programs dedicated to long term care. Long-term care insurance is one way to prepare for the potential of expensive care and protect your retirement income. You might also choose to use a long-term care savings plan to put aside money.
Remember that you will benefit from Medicare and Medicaid, but you often don’t receive the full benefit until your financial resources are depleted.
You can read more about using Medicaid for long-term care in Georgia here.
4. Consider Local Care (or Further Afield)
If you are close enough to a point where you believe assisted living, or nursing home care is on the horizon, then start looking for facilities early.
You’ll want to decide where you want to go: do you want to stay in your neighborhood or be near family (if they live elsewhere)? You may also find that your preferred facilities have waiting lists and applications, and these are good to know about in advance.
5. Share Your Thoughts with Your Close Family and Friends
Your trusted family and friends should know about your long-term care plans. They’ll be an instrumental part of helping you make the transition to a new living space, but they may also need to give you the push you need to get there.
Acknowledging a change of such magnitude is hard. When you can talk about it with people you love and trust, it will be easier to come to even the most challenging decision.
Long-Term Care Planning Starts Now
Starting your long term care planning now may seem premature or even daunting, but it will ensure you feel less overwhelmed and more ready to help your family and friends in the future. If you are retired or nearing retirement age, now is the best time to start planning for the next phase of your life.
Do you want to learn more about the estate planning process?
If you are considering planning your estate, it might be beneficial to look into a trust instead of a will. While both wills and trusts help with distributing property and assets after your death, a trust is much more private and specific. They also can make things easier on your family and friends after your death.
This article by Fatherly offers some great points as to why trusts offer significant benefits over wills.
Save Time and Money
Keep your loved ones out of probate with a trust. Wills can be less expensive initially to create, but can become more expensive when you consider the added court filing fees and attorney hours over a couple of months in probate. A trust is effective immediately and even can minimize income taxes that are due at death.
Keep Things Private
Wills go through the probate process, therefore anyone in the general public can go to the county court and access it. This could include anyone who is looking to snatch some property up at a cheap price, or even a long lost relative who feels entitled to property or assets. A trust, however, is a completely private document.
Protect Your Loved Ones
If you are concerned that your beneficiaries wouldn’t be able to handle money due to age or due to special needs or in capacities, trusts can be ideal to help with the distribution of money or assets. You can specify exactly how much and how often money and assets can be distributed.
Rhodes Law Firm can help you protect your loved ones by setting up a trust today. Give us a call or come by our office for a consultation.
There comes a time in our lives where we have to plan for the future. People write a will to make things easier for their loved ones. However, this isn’t always the case, and estate planning can be a lot harder than it may seem.
Read on to find out what it means to probate a will and when do you need to probate.
How and Why to Probate a Will
Probate of the will refers to a process that validates a deceased person’s will at court. Probate of a will involves identifying the deceased person’s assets, fulfilling their last debts, identifying the proper heirs, and distributing the property.
Probating a will means getting the court to recognize a particular will as the last and valid will of a deceased person. In the probate, the deceased person also specifies the executor of their will. Probate requires the notifications of heirs at law and giving them the opportunity to context, thus turning the probate into a full blown law suit. Different states have different probate laws, but the process does not vary much across the nation.
Letters of Probate
After the probate of a will, the court will assign special documents to the executor of the will. These documents include the letters of probate, which prove their authority to execute the will. These letters empower the executor with the authority to distribute the deceased person’s estate.
The executor will need the letters of probate to transfer assets, settle disputes, and recover any money third parties might owe to the deceased person.
Depending on the value of the estate, the letters of probate will incur different fees. In general terms, you should expect the fees to be $5 for every $1,000 of the estate. In most cases, the estate pays the fees, as well as any associated legal costs involved.
When Should You Probate Your Will?
Not every person needs probate of their will. The choice depends on the nature of your assets and the size of your estate, as well as the number of your beneficiaries. In most cases, a simple will is enough to allow the executor of the will to handle the distribution.
Most states set a minimum estate value to be eligible for probate. Under that amount, heirs can claim their share of the estate with a typical, simplified version of probate.
Moreover, estates with individual retirement accounts (IRAs), 401(k) plans, and certain pension plans don’t require probate of the will. In these instances, the plans list the beneficiaries. That way, the assets transfer automatically to the listed beneficiaries without the need for a probate.
However, if your estate has complex administration or your will is complicated with multiple beneficiaries, it might be best to give the executor more legal power through probate.
Identifying Probate Assets
During the probate process, the executor will identify the assets. This means gaining access to bank statements, insurance policies, and other financial documents. Most states require executors to outline the deceased person’s total assets.
The executor also documents physical property that might have value, including art, collections, and vehicles.
Outstanding Debt and Taxes
It is the executor’s responsibility to contact the creditors of the deceased person. The creditors will have a specific time that varies by state in which to make claims on the deceased person’s estate. The executor may choose to accept or challenge these claims. In case of a dispute, the court will resolve the issue.
The executor will have to pay off all outstanding debts before dividing the estate and transfer it to the beneficiaries.
The above also holds true for pending taxes. The executor will have to pay the deceased person’s final taxes from the estate funds within nine months from the deceased person’s death. Estate taxes are different according to state and can be as high as 40% in some states.
Probate Estate vs. Taxable Estate
Probate estate and taxable estate are two different concepts. Most of the assets you own at the time of your death represents your probate estate. However, your estate taxes might include non-probate assets.
For example, life insurance will pass on to your beneficiaries as a non-probate asset. However, the value of the life insurance will count towards your taxable estate amount. So, your estate might have to pay extra for assets assigned through non-probate procedures.
Leaving No Will
When a person dies without leaving a valid will, their estate goes into a condition known as intestacy. When an estate is in intestacy, the court appoints an administrator for the estate. This administrator is not the usual executor, but it can be a member of the family or a close friend.
The administrator is then eligible to apply for the letters of probate, known as letters of administration in this case. With the letters of administration, the administrator will fulfill all financial obligations, and distribute the estate according to the Devolution of Estates Act.
In case there is no eligible administrator, the court may appoint a Public Trustee to administer the estate.
Enjoy Trusted Estate Planning and Elder Care Law Services
Now that you know what it means to probate a will, it is time to plan your estate the right way. Here at Rhodes Law Firm, PC, we are devoted to Elder Care Law and the many estate planning components that it involves. With more than three decades of experience in estate planning and charitable planning, we are a firm you can trust.
We have the experience and the expertise you would expect of someone you trust with your end of life planning. We are here to provide every service you need for lifetime and death time planning.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us online or give us a call during business hours. We will be happy to help you in any way we can!
In the U.S., individuals donate almost $400 billion every year to qualified charities that are in need, helping people from all over. By doing some charity planning and making an effort to track your giving, you can ensure that you get the most tax benefit that you can from your giving. While you shouldn’t give only for the tax benefit, getting relief on your taxes is a welcome benefit to most Americans.
Here are five ways to ensure you get the most from your next contribution.
1. Itemization Required
If you really want to maximize your charitable donations, you need to itemize all of your deductions. This is the only way that you can ensure that you make the most out fo things on your tax return.
Most people start off with the standard deduction on their tax return, but by itemizing deductions, you can sometimes deduct even more. When itemized deductions end up being higher than standard deductions, that’s when you’ll find your charity works in your favor. If, when itemized, you end up with a lower number than the standard deduction, charity ends up meaning very little, at least in terms of tax benefits.
One of the most common ways for people to have enough deductions to itemize is by deducting home mortgage interest. For homeowners, this is a valuable tool. For people who don’t own a home, it’s hard to donate enough to make it worth your while.
If you work freelance or have a lot of other business-related expenses to deduct, you could end up getting a lot back thanks to your charitable donations.
2. You Need Substantial Donations in a Given Year
When you’re thinking about making charitable deductions work for you, planning is important. While it seems obvious to some, there are charitable pledges that come up throughout the year that people forget about. When you pledge to give in future years, it doesn’t count towards your current tax year.
To count towards a tax return, the actual cash or the property that you donate needs to be forfeited in the year of your tax return.
If you want your donation to qualify, keep all of your receipts or keep a record of your donations. If you make a commitment to donate in the following year, set a reminder so that you can ensure that you get documentation next year. Don’t mix your documentation for the upcoming donation with the donations that you’ve already made.
3. You Can’t Just Donate to Anyone
While you might want to donate cash or property to someone or some organization that you think needs it, it won’t count unless they’re qualified. For you to consider what you’ve given as a charitable donation, the cash or property needs to be given to an organization with 501(c)(3) status. Any group that takes a donation from you otherwise is simply receiving a gift.
The IRS only recognizes what’s given to a 501(c)(3) or a religious organization as a charitable donation. Anything else that’s donated won’t qualify and the tax deduction won’t count legally.
If you want to claim a donation on your return, find out whether or not this organization has the right status. While it isn’t necessarily a waste to donate otherwise, it’s not going to give you the benefits that you might be looking for.
If you can’t find the information online, your tax professional can usually help.
4. Individuals Don’t Count
While you might think that the donations that you give to individuals mean the most, they mean little to the IRS. Although you might not necessarily be wrong that giving someone a car is more powerful than donating a car to a non-profit, that organizational apparatus matters. Without that organization set up, your donation won’t matter all that much.
Giving to homeless people is nice or giving money to a friend’s GoFundMe campaign is a good thing to do. However, these aren’t going to matter when it comes time to do your taxes.
There is a loophole, however. You can help people with their personal, medical, or education expenses so long as you don’t give the money to the individual. Giving money to the individual keeps you from being able to write things off.
When you pay a hospital directly, you can write off your expenditure. Paying an academic institution rather than the student who is going to school makes the payment deductible.
5. Property Has Limits
If you’re contributing a non-cash donation that’s worth more than $500, you have to use Form 8283. This form covers furniture, clothes, property, or even automobiles. This form takes all of the vital information that lets the federal government know what exactly you donated.
Non-cash donations are a little bit harder to track. They can be faked or manipulated, so the government requests a little more documentation to prove their veracity.
Make sure that you keep good records for everything that you’re aiming to deduct. Documentation not only protects you from issues but it also ensures the government that you’re being honest with them. In case you get audited, having good records and receipts ensures that you won’t have to pay back anything you claim.
Charity Planning Gives You the Maximum Benefits
If you’re not charity planning your next major charitable contribution, you could be failing to get what you deserve for it. You should be able to get a reasonable amount of benefit from whatever you donate, so keep good records and verify that your giving counts.
For more about why charitable planning matters, check out our latest guide.
Having a will and estate plan in place are very important steps toward securing the future of your assets. However, it is almost equally important to update your estate plan in the event of a large milestone or change in your life, such as a divorce or retirement. This article recommends that once a person begins accumulating assets and going through life changes, they should also have an estate plan in place that is continuously kept up to date.
If you’re thinking about getting married and starting a family – it’s important to have financial conversations with your partner. Before you begin having children, it’s important to get a plan in order. Who would you choose to raise your child in the event of your passing? Which of your assets will go to your children? These are tough questions, but it is vital to have these plans in place.
If you’ve recently divorced your spouse, be sure to update your estate plan to reflect this and to change your beneficiary designations. If you neglect to do this, your ex-husband or ex-wife could benefit financially from your death.
Contact Rhodes Law Firm today if you need to reassess your estate plan!
Don’t Wait – Plan Your Estate Today
Estate planning is different for everyone and it’s an extremely personal process. It’s also not just for married couples with children – single individuals and couples without children still need to have an estate plan in place. Without one, you might be inadvertently putting your loved ones in a tight spot if something should happen to you. If you don’t make a plan as to who inherits your assets, the laws of your state will do it for you. This article lists a few considerations you should make when working on your estate plan.
According to the article, one important piece of this plan is having an advanced directive for health care and a power of attorney that can make legal and financial decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated or incapable of making such decisions. If you do not have these documents, your relatives will be forced to enter a court proceeding known as a guardianship.
The article also suggests that you should also consider setting up a trust, which helps avoid probate once you pass away and allows you to give an inheritance in a private and protected manner. A trust allows you to appoint a person who will be in charge of your estate after you’re gone. A trustee will be in charge of ensuring your assets are distributed the way your Trust states.
One thing you don’t want to overlook is your beloved family pets. Who will take care of your pets when you’re gone? You can appoint someone in your estate plan to take care of your pet at your death.
If you’re ready to start making an estate plan, Rhodes Law Firm is here to help you! Give us a call today at 706-724-0405.
Estate planning is essential to ensuring your assets make it to the right people, yet many people neglect this important step. In fact, 60% of Americans have not yet completed an estate plan.
It’s understandable that people don’t like discussing this subject. People don’t like thinking about their deaths. If you don’t plan though, you can leave plenty of trouble for your loved ones after you’re gone.
Even people that complete an estate plan make mistakes that can cause trouble. These mistakes are easily avoidable though. There are 10 common mistakes you want to watch out for.
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning involves protecting your assets for your loved ones. An estate plan includes legal documentation to ensure that your property will get handled the way you want.
Your estate plan leaves full instructions for how your property and other assets get divided between your beneficiaries. These documents include wills, trusts, and charitable gifts.
Estate Planning Mistakes
Estate and trust planning works for everyone, no matter the value of your assets. While the process doesn’t prove complicated in itself, it’s easy to make mistakes if you’re not careful.
You want to make sure you know what you’re doing before you get started with an estate plan. It’s especially important to avoid the most common mistakes.
1. Not Creating an Estate Plan at All
The biggest mistake you can make involves avoiding the estate plan altogether. This mistake occurs for the majority of Americans.
Even celebrities neglect this important process. Notable celebrities such as Aretha Franklin and Prince are known to have died without any type of will in place.
Without a proper plan in place, you leave confusion and complications for those you leave behind. Without clear instructions, people can bicker and fight, or even sell important family heirlooms. The official plan cuts down on these issues.
2. Not Working with a Professional
To save money, many people attempt to complete their estate planning on their own. They wade through the documentation attempting to make sense of it all on their own.
This leaves the estate plan open to missed or wrong information. A professional, such as an estate or tax attorney, can help you make sense of everything involved. They can help you understand all estate and tax laws to ensure you don’t miss anything.
3. Not Paying Attention to the Details
It’s easy to let an estate planner handle all the documents and just sign on the line. This will prove a mistake. You want to check to make sure you understand everything involved.
You also want to ensure there are no mistakes with the completed plan. You want to understand how it works and how to implement the plan. Make sure you ask questions about anything you don’t understand.
4. Failure to Officially Add Assets
When you set up a trust, many assets, such as personal items, are easy to transfer with simple listing. Other items need more official documentation to add them.
- Financial records
These and other items require you to add the trust as an owner to make it official. This ensures the assets can get transferred without issue.
5. Not Understanding Ownership
Personal items are easy to establish ownership with. Other assets, including assets with dual ownership, become trickier when it comes time to transfer ownership.
It’s important to review the ownership of all assets in your name. Make sure you understand how access to these assets works. Update your estate plan if changes to laws or changes to your situation occur.
6. Failure to Understand Retirement Plans
Tax laws can make retirement plans tricky. Many people don’t understand how these tax laws work and end up leaving loved ones paying hefty fees to access the money.
If you add a retirement plan to a trust, you need to understand the tax laws that affect this. You need to word the plan to ensure excess taxes aren’t taken out. You might even consider naming individuals instead of the trust if necessary.
7. Forgetting Gift-Giving
Wills and trusts still get taxed before everything gets transferred completely. People often look at leaving as much as possible without considering how much money their loved-ones lose due to taxes. Giving gifts through the trust can reduce taxes on the estate though.
You can make gifts to individuals for up to $14,000 per year. You can also make gifts to businesses and charities through the trust. Charitable gifts give you the opportunity to reduce taxes while helping others.
8. Ignoring Power of Attorney
Many people forget to add someone to ensure everything gets completed correctly. Ignoring the power of attorney can lead to more confusion.
You need people to act as power of attorney for your estate plan. These people ensure your financial and medical plans get carried out. You also need to make sure this information stays up-to-date and easy to find.
9. Not Updating Beneficiaries
Things happen, and beneficiaries can change. Births, deaths, divorce, a change of mind, all these situations can lead to changes to the people you want to leave assets to.
It’s important to review your documentation and make sure everything stays up-to-date and any changes get made. Make sure your assets get to the right people.
10. Not Taking New Situations Into Consideration
Every major family and life event needs consideration for an estate plan. You might not think of this right away, but you really need to review the plans to ensure nothing gets missed.
When your situation changes, check your plan and make sure life events don’t require changes to the trust. Changes can include assets, property, or even work status.
Finding Help for Estate Planning
If you understand the common estate planning mistakes, it’s easier to ensure your plans get completed correctly. It’s always best to get help from professionals to ensure your assets get divided correctly.
An estate planning attorney can help you manage everything. For more information, contact us to discuss your needs.
Successful Estate Plan Must-Haves
How would your current estate plan hold up in an unfortunate turn of events? Would your family members have access to your assets? Do you have a designated guardian for your children?
This article highlights several factors that go into creating a successful estate plan that won’t leave things up to chance. Here are some key points:
- A will or trust should be a main component of your estate plan, but isn’t enough on its own.
You will need a will or trust to ensure your property is distributed according to your wishes or to help limit estate taxes. While a will or trust is essential, it is only the beginning. It’s important to take further steps to create a solid estate plan.
- Draft a Durable Power of Attorney.
Without a power of attorney, the fate of your assets could be left up to a court. This document can give your agent the power to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf.
- If you have minor children, designate a guardian and a backup guardian.
If you have children or are considering having children in the future, picking a guardian is a very important piece of your estate plan. Without a chosen designation, your children could end up living with a family you would not have selected, or in an extreme case, become wards of the state.