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Around the Web: Preparing for Estate Tax Changes

Mass Media

Estate planning can be overwhelming for anyone, but for high net-worth folks it is important to regularly update your estate plans to ensure your strategy is still appropriate. 

Since we are in a new presidential administration, it’s wise to review your existing plan soon due to proposed new law changes. This article by the South Florida Business Journal offers insight on the proposed changes to the federal gift, estate, and generation-skipping transfer tax exemptions and how it may affect estate planning.

Essentially, if the estate tax is reduced in the near future, a much greater number of people would now be subject to estate tax. Therefore, according to the article, individuals and families will need to consider whether gifting in the remainder of 2021 makes sense in their situation.

Whether you need information on the benefits of spousal planning or you are weighing your options regarding holding assets until death, our team at Rhodes Law Firm is here to help guide you through the many legislation changes to come. 

Contact Rhodes Law Firm today to see what is best for you. 

Around the Web: Consider the Importance of Prenuptial Estate Planning

Mass Media

Many folks may not consider the importance of prenuptial estate planning, but it can be detrimental to your future partner if something happens to you before you’re married. This Watertown Public Opinion article offers some insight on why it is important to consider drafting up a will before and after you are married.

In the article, the author shares the story of a successful personal friend getting engaged and not making the time to draft up a will before getting married, and was later diagnosed with cancer. He passed away before they were married and his fiancé could not inherit his assets as he wished.

If you are engaged to someone and planning to spend the rest of your life with this person, you may want to ensure they are taken care of if something should happen to you. Legally, they would have no right to your assets before you are married. You may think that it can wait until you are married, but unexpected illnesses and accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. 

Contact Rhodes Law Firm today for assistance with your prenuptial estate planning needs.

What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Mass Media

personal injury lawsuitThere are over 37.9 million visits to the emergency room for injuries.

Personal injury can be debilitating and frustrating. You may have mounting medical bills and be unable to work. If someone’s negligence caused your injuries, you will very likely have a personal injury lawsuit case.

If you have decided to seek the help of a personal injury lawyer and want to know more about personal injury claims, take a look at this vital information.

What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

A personal injury case will arise when you suffer injury or harm from an accident. A personal injury case usually occurs because you have suffered this injury at the hands of someone else.

The insurance company of the one responsible for your injury is often asked to pay you money. This financial compensation is usually for your medical bills, loss of wages, or any pain you may have suffered.

In some cases, a personal injury lawsuit happens because you need help to pay for your ongoing medical bills. Personal injury lawsuits against doctors are possible.

If you feel that your doctor has in some way harmed you due to medical malpractice you can sue them for compensation.

When medical malpractice comes into play, you will likely need to deal with the attorneys at the hospital and an insurance company. If your doctor has a private practice you will have to deal with their personal attorney.

Often personal injury cases can settle outside of court. It is when the dispute goes unsettled, because of the failure of the insurance company to give you a reasonable settlement your lawyer will take the case to court.

How are Personal Injury Cases Filed?

As mentioned before most of these cases are normally settled outside of court. When they are not settled through negotiation they are brought before the civil court.

The purpose of the civil court case is to make someone legally at fault for your injury. When someone becomes legally at fault for your injury they will have no choice but to compensate you.

When your attorney makes a formal complaint in civil court against someone, a business, or a government agency for negligence this action is known as filing a lawsuit.

Filing the lawsuit is the first step. There are also several other steps that your personal injury attorney will have to go through to win your case.

Going to Trial

At the trial, all the evidence that was collected is presented before the court. This means that all your medical reports, witness statements, police report, and any other important details that have been collected about the case will be presented.

Once all the evidence has been examined by the judge they will decide your case. The judge may either decide that you have a valid case and give you a lawsuit settlement or they may side with the other party.

Once a verdict is in your favor you should get compensation. However, if the verdict is rendered against you, you will have the ability to appeal it.

If the verdict went against the defendant they will also have the chance to appeal the case in court.

Statutes of Limitations?

There is often a statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuit cases. This means that you have a limited time in which you can file a lawsuit against the person who injured you.

The statute of limitations also applies to cases of medical malpractice. If your doctor has harmed you in some way, you have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit against them and get compensation.

The statute of limitations begins when you were injured or when you first discover your injuries. The sooner you can find a lawyer to start working on your case the better it will be for you.

If you don’t try to get compensation within a certain amount of time you may find that you cannot get any compensation for damages at all. When you file a lawsuit you will no longer be subject to the statute of limitations.

This means that you will have an unlimited amount of time to present your case before the court and get the compensation you deserve.

Statutes of limitations by the lawmakers in each state. The statute of limitations on your injuries varies. It depends on the state that you live in and also on the type of personal injury that you have suffered.

In some states, the statute of limitations will be as much as two years. For some cases, it may be as much as five years but for others, it may be as little as one year. It is always a good idea to find all the statutes of limitations in your particular state so that you do not miss your opportunity to get the compensation that you deserve.

Get Compensated

Suffering a personal injury can be very devastating. This is especially true if it prevents you from working to earn a living or if it leaves you in severe pain.

Often getting compensation for your injuries is the only way you may be able to afford all the bills that are piling up.

When the negligent person has an insurance company that does not wish to cooperate or has an insurance company that tries to give you less than you deserve, your personal injury lawyer will take the case to court.

If you would like help with a personal injury lawsuit, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Around the Web: Are You Ready for Retirement?

Mass Media

In this article by Kiplinger, you will see that if you are retiring or getting ready to retire in the near future, it is critical to identify goals for your assets and get a plan together. It’s important to do this in a way that is tax efficient to help the success of your estate plan. This article lists some recommendations for optimizing your estate plan for retirement in a tax-efficient manner. 

First, plan for both core assets and excess capital. When reviewing your investments and income, your stable sources of income may be supplemented by taxable investment distributions. Your core capital should include enough to cover annual expenses as well as enough reserves to address unanticipated medical care or episodic expenses. 

Once your core capital is identified, it may be a good idea to separate your excess capital for wealth transfer, as it may not be managed effectively for tax or investments in the future. It may be wise to plan separately for IRA and tax-deferred assets to ensure tax efficiency. 

If you would like to learn more about planning for your retirement and making the most of your assets, contact Rhodes Law Firm today.

Do You Need an Estate Planning Attorney?

Mass Media

estate planning attorneyIn the US, the mortality rate is nearly 3 million per year. And many of these individuals pass away without an estate plan. The good news is that an estate planning attorney can help you strategize for the future.

Future planning is a complicated and lengthy legal process. But without it, your loved ones may not be able to live normally after your death.

And don’t think you can DIY your estate plan. Online forms and software systems don’t have the same legal bearing as an estate plan drafted by an experienced attorney.

Need more to convince you that you need a lawyer to help with planning your estate? Then keep reading.

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is the process of making arrangements in case of someone’s death. Arrangements include the divvying of assets to heirs and determining how the government enforces estate taxes. Estate plans may also encompass:

  • Setting up trusts
  • Establishing any donations to charity
  • Naming beneficiaries
  • Organizing funeral arrangements
  • Guardianship of children who are minors

Usually, the estate owner specified the above arrangements in his or her will. In the will, the estate owner may also name an executor who will ensure the will’s terms are properly enforced.

The estate executive will be the person who submits the will to a court upon your death. Without a will or an executor, a court will decide how to divvy up your assets among all possible heirs.

The Benefits of Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney

Estate planning is a legal process. And writing a will requires knowledge of Federal and state laws. These laws lay out what can and cannot go into a will.

Failing to get your estate plan done the right way can mean bad news for your loved ones. That’s one reason why hiring an estate planning lawyer is so critical.

Here are a few more benefits of using an attorney to create your estate plan.

Estate Planning Lawyers Offer Convenience

Estate planning is complicated and time-consuming. It requires specific language that non-lawyers can easily misinterpret. And as we’ve mentioned, getting your will wrong could impact your heirs’ inheritance.

You could set up a trust and write a will yourself. But as you’ll see next, DIY estate plans have some serious drawbacks. It’s always easier (and cheaper) to just hire an attorney the first time.

DIY Wills Aren’t Necessarily Legally Enforceable

You can find DIY will forms online. They may be legal to use, but they aren’t necessarily legally enforceable. In other words, a court of law may not uphold the requests you make in your DIY will after your death.

Estate plans should be indisputable. If yours isn’t, your family may have to pay out of pocket to fight in court. An estate planning lawyer has the expertise to make your will hold firm, so your heirs don’t suffer the consequences.

If You Have a Will Already, an Estate Planning Attorney Can Update It

Laws are always changing. So, if you have an estate plan already, you may need to update it. You should also update your estate plan after any major life events.

You should always have your will updated after marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the purchase of assets. An estate lawyer can help you update your will in case of these events and many more.

Who Needs an Attorney for Future Planning?


You Don’t Have Any Heirs

Estate owners without any heirs (children, legal spouses, etc.) may have to forfeit their assets to the state of Georgia. With an estate plan attorney, you can help ensure your assets stay out of the state’s hands.

You Have a Family

Do you know how your spouse and children will be provided for when you die? If not, an estate plan can set out terms for how and what each member of the family will inherit.

You Possess Foreign or Out-of-State Assets

Passing on out-of-state or out-of-country assets can be sticky. Each state has its own laws surrounding inheritance and wealth taxes.

An attorney can ensure your will complies with the law in the states in which you own property.

You Own a Business

Who will operate your small business when you pass? And if you’re an executive of your company, who will your successor(s) be? An estate planning attorney can help you decide what will happen to your business after you pass.

Your Estate Is Taxable

Estate taxes incur from property passed down after a person’s death. A lawyer can help your loved ones manage and understand how to file estate taxes after your death.

In 2021, the federal estate tax exclusion is $11.7 million, meaning your loved ones must pay an estate tax if your estate meets or exceeds this value. There is no state estate tax in Georgia.

Looking for the Best Estate Planning Lawyer?

An estate plan is a legal document outlining what will happen to your assets upon your death. Getting an estate plan attorney to take care of your future planning will ensure your will is enforced the way you wanted it to be.

Searching for an estate planning attorney near me? Contact us to find out how we can assist you with your estate plan.

Around the Web: New Plan for Inherited Real Estate Could Impact Many

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Blog, News

President Biden has unveiled a new plan that involves increasing taxes on inherited properties in order to help fund the American Families Plan. This CNBC article delves into the possible outcomes of this new plan, explaining that financial experts suggest the new plan may impact more families than just the more affluent ones. We’ve broken down the key points that you should know when it comes time to review your estate plan.

Currently, heirs are able to defer taxes on any inherited home gains until they sell the property. With Biden’s new plan, however, home inheritances would be treated like a sale where heirs would pay for gains that occurred before they received the property.

There are ways to minimize the possible impact of this new plan, starting with a home appraisal and meeting with an estate-planning attorney. Another option would be to gift a property to your heirs while living with a qualified personal residence trust.

One more option would be to save on taxes by increasing the home’s basis by improving the property in order to reduce the profit. You can do this by adding a new roof or any other renovations to increase value.

If you are ready to discuss your options, give us a call today.

The Types of Power of Attorney, What They Mean, and What to Know

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types of power of attorneyIt’s sad but true: estate planning continues to be a major form of personal protection that Americans overlook. When it comes to power of attorney specifically, just over half of all U.S. adults have one in place.

Though it’s tempting to plug our ears and hope we’ll live forever, the truth is that a power of attorney is a critical document to create. With it, you can protect your medical and financial well-being in case the unexpected happens.

However, these documents aren’t always as straightforward as they appear, and it’s easy to get lost in the nuances of different types of power of attorney. Let’s take a look at the importance of these legal documents, as well as what to know about your options.

What Does Power of Attorney Mean?

Before we consider the different options, let’s take a look at the basic power of attorney meaning.

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows a specific person, called an agent, to act on your behalf. This can be critical in cases of incapacitation or illness, especially when these conditions are unexpected.

Without a power of attorney, your loved ones might have to struggle through extensive legal proceedings to appoint a guardian for you. This is why it’s always a good idea to set out a power of attorney well in advance. Fortunately, the process is easy, private, and affordable with the help of a lawyer.

Depending on the type of document, your agent may be able to make legal, medical, or financial decisions for you. They may be able to do so for a short period, or they may be able to do so until your death. The document may become active right away, or it may be triggered by a specific event.

Below, we’ll take a look at the major differences between the most common power of attorney options.

What Are the Types of Power of Attorney?

It’s important to keep in mind that there are several different types of power of attorney to fit different needs. Choosing well can help ensure that you have the right kind of protection in the event of an emergency.

General Power of Attorney

As the name suggests, a general power of attorney arrangement gives your agent the ability to make decisions on your behalf in a range of situations. They may decide the outcome of everything from your personal finances to your legal decisions. With this option, you’re giving away extensive control over your affairs, so you must choose your agent wisely.

Limited Power of Attorney

In contrast to the option above, this agreement gives a specific agent the ability to act on your behalf for a limited purpose. For example, you might sign a limited power of attorney agreement to allow someone to cash checks for you, or to sell your home on your behalf.

Durable Power of Attorney

Abbreviated DPOA, can be general or limited in scope. You may also choose whether you want your DPOA to be immediate or springing. An immediate DPOA becomes effective as soon as you sign it and remains in effect if you’re incapacitated. A springing DPOA only goes into effect after a specified event, usually incapacitation. This allows an agent to make financial, health, and legal decisions for you as needed.

Medical Power of Attorney

Also called an advance directive, this allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions for you. This can include everything from medical treatment to organ donation, according to what you have specified in your living will or do-not-resuscitate order.

What to Know About the Types of Power of Attorney

When choosing between the options above, there are a few key points to keep in mind.

First, talk with your attorney about your current needs and situation, as well as your anticipated future needs. As mentioned above, some of these legal documents may suit your needs for short-term situations, while others can protect you in the long term. Keep in mind, of course, that there is no way to predict the future with accuracy, so it’s always a good idea to make a thorough plan.

In addition, you’ll want to make sure you read the document in full and work with your attorney to ensure that you understand the details. For example, under what circumstances can your agent use your springing power of attorney? How can you ensure that your agent can take control of your financial assets?

Next, for all of the options mentioned above, it’s critical to choose the right agent. Make sure you’re choosing an agent you can trust for the long term. Don’t forget that you can also appoint an alternate in case your agent is incapacitated or passes away.

Last, don’t forget that your power of attorney dies with you. To control what happens to your assets after your passing, you’ll need the additional protection of a will and trust.

Protect Yourself Today With a Power of Attorney

By now, it should be clear that everyone needs some form of power of attorney. This document can help you protect yourself in the case of incapacitation or illness, and it will also offer great peace of mind. It’s crucial, of course, to choose the right option according to your situation—which is where an experienced lawyer comes in.

To navigate the available types of power of attorney, or to start the process of creating yours, get in touch with us today. We’re here to help our clients with every aspect of the estate planning process, and our expert team can guide you through this critical decision.

Around the Web: Preparing Estates After New Tax Proposal

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In a recent article published by Kiplinger, the article stresses the importance of wealthy individuals acting quickly to prepare their estates after details of Bernie Sanders’s Estate Tax Proposal.

After Sanders’s Estate Tax Proposal, a bill known as the “For the 99.5% Act,” among other proposed changes to estate and gift tax policies, anyone with an estate of $3.5 million or more should consider contacting an experienced estate planning professional, like the estate lawyers at Rhodes Law Firm in Augusta.

Sanders’s “For the 99.5% Act” would cut the federal gift and estate tax exemption amount from the current $11.7 million to $3.5 million. The reduction would not occur until Jan. 1, 2022. The same timing applies for the bill’s proposed reduction of the gift tax allowance to only $1 million, which means that people will not be able to gift more than $1 million after 2021 without paying a gift tax.

The current maximum federal estate tax rate is 40%. The 99.5% Act proposes to increase the estate tax rate to 45%, once a deceased person’s taxable estate exceeds $3.5 million and 50% and higher when the amount subject to tax exceeds $10 million, maxing out at 65% for estates over $1 billion, but that increase would not apply until 2022. In addition to the above exemption and tax changes, gifting of up to $15,000 per year per person would be limited to $30,000 per donor per year for gifts to irrevocable trusts or of interests in certain “flow through entities” beginning in 2022.

Essentially, estate plans and strategies could change drastically and some of the things we’ve grown accustom to knowing may not be the same if President Biden signs the 99.5% Act bill into law. Learn more about the proposed estate tax law and how it can affect your estate plan by contacting the estate planning lawyers at Rhodes Law Firm in Augusta.

What is Estate Planning? And Do You Actually Need It?

Mass Media

what is estate planningMore young Americans have been creating an estate plan due to recent world events. After all, you never know what’s going to happen.

Estate planning is the official process of arranging and anticipating what will happen in a person’s life if they are incapacitated or after their death. This involves passing down assets to heirs and planning for uncertainties to reduce taxes and other expenses.

Are you interested in estate planning, but don’t know where to start?

Here is everything you need to know about what is estate planning and how to maximize the value of your estate.

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is the act of writing down everything you want to happen to all your assets and belongings after you die. You are legally documenting who you want to make all your financial and medical decisions during your lifetime, especially if you are too ill or incapacitated to make them by yourself.

What Is Involved in Estate Planning?

Your estate planning checklist may contain wills, trusts, durable power of attorneys for financial care, advance health care directives, beneficiary designations, as well as instructions on how to tie all of your assets to this estate plan.

These vary for each person. For example, a person living alone without dependents may have a simple estate plan compared to someone with multiple homes and children from different marriages.

By creating a formal plan, you can enforce valid documents and legally bind them to determine what happens to all your assets.

This is helpful for your family by not putting all the burden on them to make these decisions. They can grieve your loss instead of quarreling over who gets what without your instructions.

This is a process to protect and care for your loved ones. By creating these documents, you ensure that they will always be supported even after you are gone. If you do not make these decisions, a system of laws will make them for you.

State intestacy law can decide who gets to have your assets. Then a court can appoint a conservator of their choice to control and manage your finances if you are incapacitated.

The state law can then let your spouse have all the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are hospitalized after an accident. Although these laws seem fair, they do not take your personal wishes into consideration.

The decisions made by the court may not adhere to your beliefs and family’s needs the way you want. Therefore, it is necessary to get in touch with an estate planning attorney to start the process before it is too late.

Beneficiary Designations

Some aspects of estate planning are quite straightforward. For instance, if you own a checking account, you have a right to decide who should inherit your bank balance after your passing.

You will need to state this in your estate plan. However, you can also fill out a form at your bank. This is known as a pay on death or transfer on death designation, depending on the type of account.

On this form, you will need to write down your full name, birth date, and your relationship with the person you want your money transferred to. You should also name a beneficiary or even a backup to inherit your account if the person you stated first dies before you.

If you want the money transferred to multiple people, you can name more beneficiaries by choosing how much percentage each person should inherit. Your other accounts can also go through the same process of beneficiary designations.

Your retirement accounts and life insurance policies will also need a beneficiary. Your retirement account company and/or insurance company should have already asked you to name primary and contingent beneficiaries.

However, if a lot of time has passed, your choices may have changed. Estate planning gives another chance to name different beneficiaries.

Writing a Will

Writing a will can initially be an inexpensive process, but requires more work to be complete upon your passing. You will need to check the requirements for each state to go through the guidelines. It is always best to work with an estate planning lawyer.

After your death, your estate’s executor can proceed to take your will to court where it will enter probate. This is a court-supervised act to declare your will’s validity. Your creditors and taxes will be repaid, and the remaining assets and funds will be given to your heirs.

Depending on the state, if the estate exceeds a certain amount, it will enter probate. This is a court-supervised act to declare your will’s validity. Your creditors and taxes will be repaid, and the remaining assets and funds will be given to your heirs.

Without probate, it would take a long time before your loved ones get their inheritance. If electing to use a Will, your Executor will also face all fees associated with the probate process, which vary from state to state.

Living Trusts

If you choose to place your assets in a trust, they become legally owned by the trust. Then there is no need for probate proceedings. Your trustee will then distribute all your assets as instructed by you.

This is the quickest and most inexpensive process that also grants a lot of privacy.

Durable Powers of Attorney

Wills do not let people automatically make medical and financial decisions for you. You will need another power of attorney for each of these factors.

Your financial power of attorney will let someone make money-related decisions on your behalf if you are in hospital. They can pay your property taxes, mortgages, and bills with your money.

Always delegate this responsibility with care because many people can make unethical decisions regarding money. Pick someone you trust to carry out these duties truthfully.

Advance Health Care Directives

An advance health care directive is needed to state your wishes regarding life-sustaining medical treatments, especially if you wish to receive them or not.

This decision is too difficult for family members to make, so it is always beneficial to have an official document with your choice. This notarized document can guarantee that your final wishes will be honored.

Contact an Estate Planning Attorney

Having all these documents can be a daunting experience, which is why you should get in touch with an estate planning lawyer.

Contact us for more information about what is estate planning, and we can help accomplish all your goals.

Around the Web: Estate Planning and Home Ownership After a Death

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In a recent article written by nwitimes.com, this question was asked in regard to estate planning. “My father passed away recently, how do we remove his name from the title to the home? Can we record a death certificate or have mom sign a new deed?”

This is a normal estate planning question, and the answer is simple. The first thing you need to determine however is how the homeowners held title to the home. There are two options here, did your parents own the home as husband and wife, legally known as tenants by entirety? Or did they own the home as Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship?

If they owned the home as husband and wife through tenants by entirety, it creates ownership interest in which the spouses own the property jointly as a couple and not as individuals. This creates the rights of survivorship so that the survivor owns the property as a matter of law at the death of the first spouse.

If they owned the home through joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, then some of the legalities will differ as long as both the spouses are still alive, but it doesn’t affect the end result of this question.

Assuming that the parents owned the home as tenants by entireties or as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, the surviving spouse owns the house as a matter of law at the time of death. We would notify the recorder’s office of the death by preparing a surviving spouse affidavit or surviving joint tenant affidavit. That puts the recorder and the public on notice that one of the homeowners has died and the survivor of them now owns the home.

Since we submit the affidavit, there’s no reason to record a death certificate because the affidavit makes important recitals that can prove the change of title. There also won’t be a deed since the surviving spouse owns the property at the moment of death. The affidavit will demonstrate proof of transfer of title in place of a deed.

If you’re unsure what kind of title you hold on your home as a married couple, or you have additional questions regarding ownership of your home, contact the estate planning lawyers at Rhodes Law Firm. At Rhodes Law Firm, we assist you and give the peace of mind you deserve.