Did you know that 67% of Americans don’t have trusts or estate plans? This means your assets and loved ones are left unprotected after you pass away. To help make sure this doesn’t happen to you or your family, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about estate planning, durable power of attorney, and more.
In this article, we will discuss the most common types of trusts and how they help in planning for/protecting your children. We’ll also explain why it’s important to talk with an estate planning attorney. Let’s jump in and see which type of trust makes sense for you and your family.
What is a Trust?
Trusts are tools designed to help you manage your assets and protect them for your beneficiaries. There are different types of trusts that can be used with different goals in mind. A trust is a contract between the person who creates it, the one who controls it, and the beneficiaries.
The Grantor is the person who creates the trust. The Trustee is the one who controls it, and the beneficiaries are the ones who are entitled to the benefits of the trust. This is often a spouse, children, or grandchildren.
Trusts are also used to handle plans for a business after the owner passes. Businesses, assets, property, and more all come with a plan for your partners and family members.
Benefits of a Trust
The benefits of a trust are almost endless. Without one, this leaves your assets unprotected after your death. Your assets, children, or grandchildren are left confused, unprotected, and without a plan.
A trust gives you asset protection, planning for a child with special needs, and asset management in the case of young children or those who aren’t equipped to handle money. In a 2nd marriage, you can also protect assets after your death.
A trust will also give you privacy. Without a trust, your affairs are open to the public in probate. This allows for no court intervention, and your trust is handled by your trustee. You get to lay out all your wishes after your passing or a disability.
Revocable Trust or a Living Trust
A revocable trust is a legal entity that you create and control. You can change the terms of your trust at any time, making it ideal for people who want to keep their finances private. A revocable trust is also known as a living trust.
A revocable trust allows you to name someone else as trustee. The trustee is the person who manages the assets. You can also have a co-trustee alongside another person.
A revocable trust is also used in some cases as a will substitute. This keeps you in total control over your assets while you’re living. After your death, you would have given instructions for your assets and beneficiaries.
What is an Irrevocable Trust?
An irrevocable trust is one that cannot be changed once it’s been set up. This means that you can’t remove assets from the trust or change any of its terms, such as who will receive distributions and how much they’ll receive. Speak with your attorney to determine which trust works best for you.
You might use an irrevocable trust if you want to provide lifelong support for your children or grandchildren. This is a great option if you don’t want them to have access to their inheritance until they reach a certain age.
You could also use an irrevocable trust if there’s a possibility that someone might try to take advantage of your generosity by asking for money early on in life. This happens during a divorce, job loss, or if another child faces an emergency.
The Difference Between a Trust and a Last Will and Testament
Without a will, your assets get distributed according to state regulations. In this case, your loved ones won’t always receive your assets. If you have certain assets that are in your name alone, those assets may pass to your loved ones after your death when you leave a will.
You always want to use an attorney to make sure your will is written correctly. Protect the ones you love by creating a trust within your will. This protects them from tax liabilities and creditors. A written will gives you and your family protection and makes your wishes known.
Unlike with a trust, your will goes through probate. This process uses the court to divide your assets and property. This saves your family a lot of time and money wasted in court.
Why Do You Need a Trust?
One of the biggest benefits of using a trust is to avoid probate. When you pass away, your estate will be subject to probate court before it gets distributed to your heirs. Probate is a long and costly process that involves court hearings, attorney fees, and other expenses.
Without a trust, there’s no guarantee that all of your assets have protection during this probate time period. By contrast, when you leave an asset in trust for beneficiaries, the trust avoids probate because it’s considered private property.
A trust also keeps your assets protected from creditors or lawsuits against you. The trust also protects the beneficiary’s ability to manage their inheritance. You can pass assets without tax implications on death, which is a huge money saver for your loved ones.
Hire a Trusts Expert Today and Protect Your Family and Assets
Deciding what to do with your assets after your passing is a big decision. If you want to learn more about the different types of trusts, contact us today. We are here to answer any questions you may have and help you make the right decision for your situation.
You don’t have to go through this process alone. Let our experts help with trusts, wills, power of attorney, and more. Make a plan for when the unimaginable happens.
Fill out the contact form here to get in touch with a local trust attorney at Rhodes Law Firm, PC. Don’t put off this important life milestone any longer.
Divorce can be tough for children to cope with. They’re suddenly having to shuttle back and forth between both parents, splitting their time and energy in new ways. What happens when a stepparent is introduced into the equation?
An estimated 50% of US children aged 13 or younger live with one biological parent and that parent’s new partner. The emotional impact of a parent’s second marriage will vary based on a variety of factors, as will the long-term financial impact.
If you’re getting remarried, it’s time to start thinking about protecting your children. This may include efforts like improved communication and family counseling. It should also include financial planning.
Read on to learn how to protect your children with estate planning when you’re getting remarried with these seven tips.
1. Consider a Prenuptial Agreement
No one wants to think about their impending marriage coming to an end, but the divorce rate in second marriages is statistically higher than it is in first marriages. When you’re entering a second marriage with significant premarital assets, you may want to consider creating a prenuptial agreement with your new spouse.
If a divorce leaves your former partner at a financial disadvantage, you may be expected to pay alimony. A prenup will ensure that you remain in possession of your premarital assets so that you may then use them to support your children as you see fit, even in the face of alimony.
2. Review Guardianship Designations
If you began the process of estate planning during your first marriage, you may want to review any guardianship designations you made for your children. Who did you previously name as the guardian of your children in the event of your death and the death of their other parent? Does that designation still stand?
Guardianship designations for children of divorce can become tricky when both biological parents are in disagreement. For example, you may want your new spouse to become the legal guardian of your children in the event of your passing and your former spouse may not approve of this plan. An attorney can review your will and provide legal guidance to protect your best interests.
3. Update Account Beneficiaries
It is common for married individuals to name their spouses as their beneficiaries on retirement accounts and other assets. When children are involved, the expectation is often that the spouse will use those assets to provide for the children. However, this may not be the reality when your spouse is not the biological parent of your children.
With the help of an attorney, review all documents that name your beneficiaries. Determine which assets, if any, you wish to go to your new spouse and which assets you want to go directly to your children. It is best not to operate on the assumption that either your new or former partner will use assets left to them to support your children.
4. Create an Airtight Will
As estate planning attorneys, one of the biggest issues we see in clients who are getting remarried is a simple will that leaves room for error. While it may seem straightforward enough to use language like, “I leave everything to my children,” vague and overarching statements are often considered open to interpretation. What about property and assets owned jointly with your second spouse?
An airtight will specifies who will receive each of your assets that do not have a named beneficiary (e.g., cars, liquid funds, and high-value belongings) and under what circumstances they will receive them. Not only should you revisit your will before a second marriage to modify any statements regarding your former spouse, but you should also create an airtight outline of everything your children and new spouse will separately inherit.
5. Create a Trust for Your Kids
Depending on the age of your children, you may need to set up a trust in order for them to receive their inheritance. While minors can receive an inheritance, they cannot manage that inheritance until they are at least 18. That means that someone will have to manage it for them and by creating a trust, you can determine who that person is, whether it’s your spouse, a relative, or a professional financial advisor.
When creating a trust, you can also determine when that trust no longer requires third-party management. The earliest that this can occur is when your child turns 18, but you can also set a later date if you’re concerned about your child’s ability to manage their inheritance at such a young age.
6. Close Joint Accounts from Previous Marriage
When parents think about protecting their children when getting remarried, they typically think about their new spouse’s involvement. However, you should also take into consideration your former spouse’s involvement with your current assets.
Whether or not your first divorce was amicable, it’s recommended that you close all joint accounts from your previous marriage. This will eliminate the possibility of becoming responsible for any debt your previous partner may accrue after your divorce.
7. Prevent Probate
Your ultimate goal is to provide enough legal protection over the assets you’re leaving to your children to avoid probate. Probate will occur if there is good reason to contest your will, which can happen if:
- You were deemed incompetent at the time of writing your will
- It can be argued that you were coerced to write your will a certain way
- Your will was not notarized and there were no witnesses to your drafting and signing of the will
If you die intestate, meaning that you left no will, probate is a guarantee. When your estate goes into probate, your children may have to fight other parties for their right to an inheritance.
Prioritize Protecting Your Children in a Second Marriage
When you’re getting married for a second time, you’re creating a blended family. While the impact of a second marriage on children varies from one family to another, one thing remains consistent. Protecting your children requires financial management.
Rhodes Law Firm is here to review your will and estate planning to ensure legality and airtightness. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to learn more.
Having your last wishes in place is an important part of the wealth-building journey. The motivation for many is to have a legacy that they can pass down to future generations. With this in mind, many people are simply unprepared.
Approximately 64% of people today have not drafted a will. If you’re among those who either have not created a will or other legal arrangements, it’s important that you get started. Knowing the most important legal terms will help you tremendously.
This article will teach you all about estates, wills, and trusts so that you have a better idea of what to expect when getting your final affairs in order.
What Is a Trust?
Having to put your affairs in place is a sobering reality, but one that you must face with diligence and discretion. Understanding what a legal trust is will help you as you navigate this journey.
A legal trust is a type of arrangement that is put into writing to list how assets should be passed on once a person dies. Make sure that you learn which variables make the biggest difference when creating trusts:
The Types of Trusts
Before anything, get to know the types of trusts that people generally enter into. The two main types you should know are revocable and irrevocable trusts.
A revocable trust is a type that lets the person who created the trust control the assets. They can make changes to it in their lifetime as long as they are of sound mind to do so.
With an irrevocable trust, the creator hands over rights that they otherwise would have had. The trust is pretty much set in stone once it is created, and it will be handled based on the terms, without modifications.
Consider the Types of Assets to Include
Perhaps the biggest piece of the puzzle to consider is what types of assets you wish to include in your trusts. There are a variety of asset classes that people include in these arrangements, such as stocks, liquid funds stored in bank accounts, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, precious metals, and other sorts of assets.
Make sure that you consider the types of assets that you want to include at the creation of the account so you can designate how it is handed out to your beneficiaries.
Know the Benefits of a Living Trust
So, what makes a living trust such a great idea?
For starters, having a solid trust helps you avoid probate so that your affairs are carried out exactly to your liking. You’ll be better able to skip the legal process so that you don’t run into lawsuits and other issues that might compromise your plans.
This process is also helpful because you can avoid estate taxes that you would otherwise pay. Many people like the autonomy that trusts bring and that they find them more financially advantageous.
Determine Your Trustees and Beneficiaries
Once you are ready to create a trust, the most important part is to decide who you would like to be your beneficiaries. These are the people that you will pass your assets down to and can include any number of relatives, including your children, grandchildren, survived spouse, and other people.
Consider the needs that they will still have after your passing and how the assets that you pass on can help them out. From there, you can also determine the amounts and when they will be able to receive their proceeds.
What Is an Estate?
An estate is one of the most important legal terms that you need to understand. In simple terms, this is the wealth that you leave behind upon your passing.
It is calculated so that decisions can be made on how it will be divided, and which beneficiaries will receive which parts of the estate.
Understand What Comprises an Estate
Your estate will consist of any wealth that you accumulate prior to your passing. It is your net worth, which consists of a combination of liquid funds, stock equity, real estate, personal property, and a host of other assets.
It can also include future earnings, such as royalty payments that you are entitled to.
Decide on the Legal Structures
Estate planning comes down to deciding on which legal structures you prefer. This can include a combination of wills/trusts of different kinds that help in planning for your passing and protecting your children.
A legal professional can provide you with legal help so you can decide which combination makes the most sense for you.
Consistently Manage Your Estate
Make sure that you are staying on top of your estate so that you know how to handle it. For starters, figure out the key legal terms you need to know so that you can remain abreast of your legal standing.
Appoint an estate manager to help execute decisions upon your passing. This can include a family member along with an estate lawyer to oversee it. You can also appoint a durable power of attorney that can assist you in the event you are medically unable to make decisions.
Make changes to your living will and trust whenever necessary. You might do this when you accumulate new forms of wealth or enter higher tax brackets. Do everything in your power to stay current and set your estate up in a way that helps everyone involved.
Perhaps most important, learn the estate laws where you live. This will help you to arrange your estate in a way that skips the probate process and lets your wishes be carried out how you choose.
Learn About Trusts and Estates
This article lets you know the ins and outs of trusts so that you can make the right decision for your final wishes. Now all you need to do is get in touch with professionals that can assist you through the process.
For help with any kind of estate planning, get in touch with us online or call (706)724-0405 for our Augusta branch or (803)649-6060 in Aiken.
Medical and legal experts recommend patients with declining mental or physical health examine their end-of-life arrangements to ensure it is up to date and your wishes will be carried out. This National Institute of Aging article shines light on the different documents you may need, as well as the next steps to consider while getting your affairs in order.
There are several documents a lawyer may recommend, such as ones that help communicate the wishes of the person who can no longer make health care decisions as well as financial and estate management documents.
Advanced Directives should be prepared while the person is still able to legally execute them. They may include a durable power of attorney, a living will, as well as a DNR order (do not resuscitate). Having these documents in order can help ensure your wishes are properly respected.
Above all, it is important to begin these discussions early. The rate of decline is different in each case, so act while you still can. If you or a loved one needs legal and financial planning assistance, Rhodes Law Firm is here to help.
Did you know that probate, despite its noble intent of orderly asset distribution, can potentially erode 5% or more of your estate’s value? Not an ideal parting gift for your loved ones, is it?
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. The daunting prospect of probate can be circumvented.
Yes, you heard it right! We can sidestep the laborious probate process through some well-executed maneuvers.
So, let’s delve into the essentials of estate planning to avoid probate and better preserve your legacy.
1. Revocable Living Trusts
Revocable living trusts serve as an effective instrument to sidestep probate. With a trust, you transfer ownership of your assets into this entity.
The clincher? It entirely bypasses probate since technically, the trust – not you – is the legal owner of these assets.
However, it’s crucial to note that you’re not ceding control in any way. You’re in the driver’s seat of this trust throughout your lifetime. You hold the power to manage assets, effect buying or selling, or even dissolve the trust, should you change your mind.
In essence, the trust serves your interests, maintaining control, while ensuring a smooth transfer when the time comes.
2. Joint Ownership
Joint ownership works much like a relay team. You share ownership of assets with another person, often a spouse. When one partner passes, the baton of ownership passes seamlessly to the surviving partner, and not into the hands of probate courts.
There are two variants of joint ownership, namely joint tenancy with the right of survivorship and tenancy by entirety. Though they sound quite complex, their underlying principle is simple and efficient. Joint ownership forms a sturdy bastion against the onslaught of probate.
3. Payable-on-Death and Transfer-on-Death Designations
With payable-on-death (POD) and transfer-on-death (TOD) designations, asset transfer becomes a breeze. It’s almost as if you could point to a person and state, “This is yours when I’m no longer around.” And that’s practically what these designations facilitate!
POD works wonders for bank accounts. You retain control over your funds, and on your passing, the assets transition directly to your chosen beneficiaries.
On the other hand, TOD applies to securities such as stocks and bonds. Following the same principle, you hold sway over these assets during your lifetime. The assets only transfer upon your demise, neatly sidestepping the probate process.
Gifting is an age-old tradition of passing wealth, and it could also be an effective strategy for avoiding probate. The idea is simple but potent – if you don’t own it when you pass away, it doesn’t go through probate. So, consider giving away some of your assets while you’re still around to see the recipients enjoy them.
But before you start wrapping things up in shiny paper, it’s worth taking a moment to understand the potential gift tax implications. There are rules about how much you can gift tax-free each year and during your lifetime.
The last thing we want while trying to sidestep probate is to land in hot water with the IRS. So, it’s always a good idea to check in with a financial advisor or an estate planning lawyer before making significant gifts.
5. Small Estate Provisions
When it comes to the probate process, smaller estates often have a unique advantage. They can take refuge in something known as small estate provisions.
A Ray of Hope for Small Estates
These are special rules established by states to offer a more simplified process, or even a total exemption from probate, for estates that fall below a certain threshold. This is the law’s way of acknowledging that not all estates, especially the relatively modest ones, need to be put through the full rigor of probate.
Navigating Small Estate Provisions
But while small estate provisions can make things considerably easier, they come with their own set of complexities. For starters, the definition of a ‘small estate’ varies from state to state. Some might set the limit at $50,000, others at $100,000 or more.
Moreover, certain types of property may not be counted towards an estate’s value. So, while your estate may seem small on paper, it could still be subject to probate if you’re not careful.
Consult the Professionals
The smart move here is to consult with an estate planning lawyer. They can help you understand how small estate provisions work in your state and whether your estate qualifies.
Even if you can’t entirely avoid probate, these provisions could potentially save your heirs a lot of time and trouble. Remember, understanding and utilising small estate provisions can be a potent weapon in your arsenal to fight probate.
6. Estate Planning Lawyer
In the labyrinthine world of probate laws, an estate planning lawyer serves as an invaluable guide. Their proficiency in probate law makes them the ideal ally to navigate this complex landscape. These professionals are well-versed with every intricate detail of estate law, each loophole, and each strategy.
Engaging the services of an estate planning lawyer is like having a custom-designed blueprint for your estate’s journey past probate laws. They ensure that every minute detail is accounted for, thereby sparing you and your family from future headaches.
7. Beneficiary Designations on Retirement Accounts and Life Insurance Policies
Your retirement accounts and life insurance policies can be potent tools in your probate-avoiding strategy. These instruments come with built-in beneficiary designations that bypass probate.
Retirement Accounts and Life Insurance Policies: Unsung Heroes
For retirement accounts like IRAs or 401(k)s, you can designate beneficiaries who will inherit these directly upon your death. Similarly, life insurance policies offer a direct payout to named beneficiaries, free from the clutches of probate.
But remember, it’s crucial to keep your beneficiary designations current. Major life events can drastically alter your estate planning landscape. With a proactive approach, these financial tools can bolster your estate planning strategy, ensuring your assets transition smoothly to your loved ones.
Now You Know How To Avoid Probate
So, there we have it. Seven solid strategies to avoid probate.
Remember, a little planning now can save a whole heap of trouble later. Take control, explore these options, and keep your hard-earned assets right where they belong – in the family.
Because who wants to give more to the probate courts when you can leave more for those you care about? Get in touch with us today to find out more about how we can help.
You may not have been aware of this, but sixty-six percent of Americans have no estate plan in place. This is a glaring problem, as many people feel that estate planning is an important thing to do.
When you hire an estate planning lawyer, one of the first things they may suggest is to perform a title search on your house. This is a smart move, as problems can pop up with property titles all the time.
If you would like to know what issues you might see and how a lawyer can help with title problem resolutions, then all you need to do is keep reading.
Common Property Title Issues
The problems that can creep up with property titles can sound incredibly scary. Luckily, a good lawyer will be able to identify many of these problems via a title search and resolve them easily.
Below, we have identified a few of the most common issues with property titles. Don’t assume you are immune to any of these – your property could have a history that you know nothing about.
If you would like to avoid these common problems, then you should consider homeowner’s title insurance. This gives you an extra layer of protection in case any property title issues come up.
One of the biggest problems that you could encounter is liens. This is when an entity is given the right to keep possession of someone’s property until a debt is paid off.
There are three main types of liens– property, mechanics, and judgment. These liens can be placed for different purposes. It’s important to be aware of any liens you might have.
Each lien will prevent you from selling your home or transferring ownership until the debt has been paid. It also prevents the title from being transferred, which can complicate things when planning how your estate will be divided.
If your property is on a condo, co-op, or part of a homeowner’s association, then legal actions against it are a common problem you might face. Legal actions can be anything from construction without the needed permits or a dispute against a board of homeowners.
A lawsuit isn’t necessarily a showstopper when it comes to arranging the things that you need to do, but it can make the process more complicated.
If you’re looking to make things easier on whatever process you’re completing, double-check to make sure no legal action is being brought against one of your properties.
With any property, you’re bound to experience disagreements over where the property line actually lies and who a section of land belongs to. You’ll especially run into this issue if you’re trying to do something such as cut down a tree or build a fence.
Luckily, this issue is a fairly easy one to fix. All you need to do is order a boundary survey to determine where the property line is.
Even then, you may still run into a few boundary challenges. However, having a property survey will head off the worst possible problems.
Heirs and Wills
This is another situation that shows the importance of title insurance.
A title search might reveal heirs who were previously unknown or a new will that could make ownership of the house difficult. Sometimes the will didn’t make it through probate before then. Sometimes the heir misunderstood the deceased one’s wishes.
No matter what the circumstances are, that instantly complicates your situation. If you don’t have a homeowner’s title insurance policy, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a difficult legal battle.
An easement is a right to use, come onto, or cross a property that doesn’t belong to you. If you have an attorney do a title search, you might discover that the homeowner before you had an easement with someone else. Easements are typically found on your public title record.
Having an easement might make building on or otherwise changing your property difficult. It can also be difficult if you no longer want people to cross your land.
Another, slightly less common problem, is that you might need an easement for a neighbor’s property that had been foreclosed or otherwise extinguished.
Sometimes, despite all efforts to make sure things go smoothly, errors with the paperwork happen in one way or another. Humans make mistakes.
The clerical error can be any number of things. Many times, part of a deed’s documentation is simply missing. It could also be something such as the fee wasn’t paid, or the deed was recorded outside of the county.
You should consider having an owner’s policy and title insurance. Those two things will prevent serious financial damage. It’ll also ensure the legal costs of fixing up the mistakes are covered.
How an Attorney Can Help
When you hire an estate planning attorney, if they do suggest performing a title search, they will be able to review documents connected to the property. This will allow them to identify any issues connected to the title.
An attorney will likely be able to help you settle these issues, whether it’s finding a boundary line or re-filing the necessary paperwork.
Hiring an attorney to help you with your property is one of the best things you can do. They’ll save you time and effort to make sure you have a clean title.
Reach Out to Rhodes Law Firm
Now that you’ve learned all you need to know about property title issues and how attorneys can help you, you’re ready to make sure there are no issues with your own title.
Where better to find an attorney than Rhodes law firm? We’re experienced with all kinds of law from estate planning to planning for taking care of someone with special needs.
If you have any further questions or would like to schedule a consultation, simply reach out to us here.
Don’t wait- contact us today to make sure there are no issues with your property title!
While it can be an uncomfortable process, planning ahead and creating your estate plan now can save you and your family money down the road. It also can help mitigate added stress on your family while they grieve your loss.
This Tennessean article discusses a few ideas to consider while creating your plan, one of which is a Spousal Lifetime Access Trust (SLAT). These trusts are great for couples who have particularly large estates, especially since lifetime exemptions are set to decrease in 2025.
Currently, individuals who pass away with up to $12.92 million in assets ($25.84 for married couples), owe no estate taxes. For any assets over this amount, however,taxes are owed at a max rate of 40 percent. As of December 31, 2025, however, this increased exemption amount is set to expire, so it could be wise to take advantage of this rate by making gifts before it drops back down. One way to do this is through a SLAT.
A SLAT is an irrevocable trust where one spouse gifts assets to the other beneficiary spouse. They are a valuable tool as it allows taxpayers to gift assets while retaining limited access to the funds through their spouse.
To learn more about SLATs and how it could benefit you and your family, contact our team at Rhodes Law Firm today.
67% of Americans do not have an estate plan in place, which can cause many problems for the loved ones they leave behind.
After a loved one has passed, plenty of complications fall behind to the grieving family. From planning out the final resting arrangements to figuring out how to divide the assets that have been left behind. Without a clear-cut plan, these complications can seem overwhelming.
When estate planning is in place, dealing with the aftermath can be a guided situation. Hiring an estate planning attorney is an asset during any loss. Several benefits come with having an estate planning attorney help with the legal process.
1. Estate Planning Is Their Specialty
Many families do not have any background in how to go about taking care of an estate. Figuring out how to handle dividing up assets and loose strings can set a family apart. Legal help can make this process run smoothly.
For many estate planning lawyers, this is their specialty. They know how to handle these situations, and they’re ready to help you and your family through this difficult time. Understanding the process comes easy for them, and they will take their time to guide you and your loved ones.
2. A Good Portion of Their Practice
Estate planning takes up a good part of their practice. They are familiar enough to talk you through the difficult points and the red tape that may seem overwhelming. The best lawyer is ready to begin handling those difficult situations right alongside you and your family.
Take into consideration how much of the lawyer’s practice is estate planning while you’re deciding which is the best fit for you. A lawyer that spends a good portion of their practice in estate planning will be more familiar with the processes in front of you.
3. Upfront Regarding Payments and Fees
Legal fees, when it comes to the death of a loved one, can be a hefty amount. With an estate planning lawyer by your side, those fees can be organized, carefully explained and paid. You know what you’re looking at and the breakdown of where those amounts come from.
Your lawyer will work with the family to show where the funds need to come from and why each of the charges is being made. Your family can be walked through all those bills and fees that may not have been taken into consideration prior.
4. Willing to Provide a Written Agreement
One of the best things about future planning and legal help is having an advisor to write everything down in detail and document it in the event that information needs to be referenced. Having a good lawyer involved means that they are willing to provide those documents as part of the services they provide. All that documentation is kept together and maintained for reference.
A great lawyer has everything, including any fees and prices sorted out and marked down as you continue through the estate process for your loved one.
5. Compassion for the Situation
Compassion is a big factor in making the decision to hire an estate lawyer. The best lawyer will understand and be able to meet you on your level of grief and understanding. Having compassion and understanding for a grieving family is part of the process when it comes to laying out any final plans and taking care of a loved one’s wishes.
A good lawyer will be able to validate your grief while also walking you through every part of how to handle tying up loose ends that need to be figured out in the estate process. Be sure to hire a lawyer that is willing to move at the pace of the family.
6. Allows the Family to Feel Validated and Comfortable
One of the areas that your legal representative should be able to fulfill is making you and the family feel comfortable with the process. Dealing with loss, or pending loss, is a situation that causes a lot of different emotions. Your lawyer will be able to walk you through those emotions and should be of comfort to you and your family.
If you don’t get the feeling of understanding and comfort, it means that the lawyer may not be the right one to take your case. You should always feel at ease and as if communication can go both ways with the legal proceedings.
7. Explaining Laws With Clarity and Understanding
Your lawyer will be able to break down any legal language that is hard for the family to understand. Going through and reading legal jargon can feel like an unknown language, especially for a grieving family. A good lawyer will walk you through the specifications with clarity.
There are years of experience under your lawyer’s belt when it comes to going through the future and estate planning process. They know how to break down the situations in ways you will better be able to understand.
Estate Planning Is Never an Easy Task
When it comes to dealing with the loss of a loved one, family members who are dealing with grief need someone who is going to assist with difficult situations. Estate planning, when assisted by a professional who understands the laws and is compassionate to the situation, is an asset. The difficulties that arise can be worked through.
If you are looking to take the steps in securing an estate plan or dealing with the loss of a loved one and need legal help, there is a great team waiting to assist you with your needs. Contact us today to begin the process of settling your loved one’s estate.
67% of people don’t have estate plans. Trust us, you don’t want to be one of these people. When a person has no estate plan, the government will decide what happens to their money and belongings.
What the government decides may or may not follow your wishes. And it could leave your family members without what they need. Or they may need to fight hard to get what they need.
Estate planning can save your surviving family members a lot of stress, time, and money. It can also give you peace of mind. Read on to learn how to tackle this challenge.
What Is Your Estate?
Your estate includes every last tangible asset you own. This can include your personal belongings. It also includes intangible assets such as patents, licenses, and copyrights.
When you die or can’t take care of yourself, these assets will need to go to someone. An estate plan will help you assign assets to different people.
What Is an Estate Plan?
Physically, an estate plan is a collection of legal documents. These documents outline what should happen should you die or can’t take care of yourself.
In the case of the former situation, the documents can outline what will happen to your assets. The guidelines usually explain who will get your assets. In some cases, you may want certain assets destroyed.
In the case of the latter situation, the documents will explain what kind of medical care you want. They will also say who will need to take care of the estate.
Who Needs an Estate Plan?
Everyone needs an estate plan. You may think that you’re too young or that your family will know what to do. Neither of these are true.
You’re Not Too Young
Death comes to everyone, no matter how young and/or healthy. If you have any kind of money or property or both, it needs to go to someone.
Plus, getting your affairs in order sooner than later can save you money. Some people may want to get a life insurance policy on top of their estate plan. It’s cheaper to get one of these in your 30s than in your 50s and 60s.
Your Family Can Act Erratically
You may think that you know your family well. They’ll just let your assets go to your spouse and/or children. Or they’ll follow your verbal instructions to donate all your assets to your favorite charity.
The problem is that people can act differently around money and property. They can fight with all their might to prove why your assets should go to them. Things can get very nasty.
It’s best for people to have legal instructions that they need to follow.
What Happens to Your Estate?
When you die or become unable to take care of yourself, your estate may go through a thorough a probate process. This is the process of verifying the legality of your will and ensuring your final wishes are carried out.
Even if you have a will, your estate will still go to probate court. If you have a will, the court involved with the process will use it as a guide. If you don’t have a will, the court will use local laws to decide how to distribute your assets.
The probate process should go by quickly if you have a small estate. However, if someone contests your will, the process can drag on for months.
If you don’t have a will, the probate court will appoint someone to handle your estate affairs. If you do have a will, you should have appointed a person as an executor. They will manage your tax bills, paying off debts you owe, and distributing assets.
People often ask a close relative to handle their affairs, but you can appoint anyone. Just make sure you have some backup executors as well. Nominated executors can decline their position.
Your executor will take care of any taxes that your estate owes. If your estate earns an income, your executor will need to file an income tax return, deal with property taxes, etc.
If your estate is very wealthy, your executor will also need to deal with estate taxes. These are taxes that an executor must pay before distributing anything to your heirs.
If you have less than $12.92 million, you shouldn’t have to worry about an estate tax. But this exemption can be lower depending on the estate. Be sure to check up on your local laws.
Steps for Estate Planning
So how do you go about getting your affairs in order? Try following the steps below:
Make a List of Your Assets
Create an inventory of everything you own. This should include the following:
- Bank accounts
- Real estate
- Digital assets
- Personal property
- Insurance policies
- Debts you owe
Make Your Estate Plan
Use the record of all your things to create an estate plan. Think of the beneficiaries you want to pass your assets along to. Think of back-up beneficiaries you want to give your assets to if your initial beneficiaries have predeceased you.
Using a professional to create your estate plan will make certain that your plan is 100% legal and bulletproof.
Execute the Plan
For many people, you may just need to sign a few documents. For others, you may need to sell property, change the names on titles, etc.
Keep Updating Your Plan
It is important to review your estate plan every few years to make sure your plan stays up-to-date with life events.
Estate Planning Assistance
The bottom line is that if you have assets, you need an estate plan. If you don’t, you will have no control over where all your assets will go. You owe yourself the peace of mind that comes with estate planning.
Do you need help with planning your estate? If so, consider using our services. We have helped citizens of the Augusta, GA and Aiken, SC, areas with lifetime and death planning for over 30 years.
Contact us today for more information.
Supplemental needs trusts are estate planning tools trustees use to pass down assets to children and relatives with special needs. They fall under the overarching category of special needs trusts (SNTs).
The benefit of a supplemental needs trust is that the inheritance of the person with special needs will not impact their disability benefits. Most public disability benefits programs place asset limits on beneficiaries.
If you have a child or relative with special needs, you want to ensure they are set up for the future. A supplemental needs trust can help. Get your questions about these unique estate planning tools in this guide.
Supplemental Needs Trust FAQs
Special needs trusts (SNTs) can be first- or third-party. First-party trusts are also known as self-settled trusts, meaning the disabled person owns the assets in the trust.
Third-party trusts are also called supplemental needs trusts. In this case, the asset owner is someone other than the beneficiary. The assets in the trust may come from parents, grandparents, or even the person’s life insurance policy.
Does a Special Needs Trust Affect Social Security Benefits?
No, as long as the trust’s assets are distributed according to social security regulations, an SNT will not affect social security benefits. SNT assets will not impact Medicaid benefits, either.
Special needs trust violations can result in the cancellation of a beneficiary’s social security and Medicaid benefits. That is why it is essential to hire a qualified and experienced attorney to draw up the trust terms.
What Is the Difference Between a Supplemental Needs Trust vs. a Special Needs Trust?
All supplemental needs trusts are special needs trusts, but not all special needs trusts are supplemental needs trusts. SNTs also include self-settled trusts.
The disabled person puts their own assets into a self-settled trust. Relatives of the disabled person (e.g., parents or grandparents) or the disabled person’s life insurance provider contribute assets to a supplemental needs trust.
What Can You Use a Supplemental Needs Trust For?
Disabled people can use supplemental needs trusts to pay for necessities. Necessities include rent, mortgages, personal care items, entertainment, transportation, and more.
How Much Should You Pay for a Supplemental Needs Estate Plan?
The cost of an estate plan depends on the attorney’s fee structure. Some lawyers charge hourly rates, while others charge a flat fee for their services.
It is important to ask lawyers about their payment structure during your initial consultation. We will talk more about the best questions to ask during your consultation next.
How to Find the Right Estate Planning Attorney
Now that you understand a bit more about special needs trusts, it is time to start looking for lawyers. It’s always a good idea to schedule consultations with multiple attorneys. That way, you can find the one who is right for you.
Here are the top questions to ask prospective attorneys during the consultation.
How Long Has the Attorney Practiced Probate, Trusts, and Estate Planning Law?
Experience is everything when it comes to attorneys. And this holds especially true when working with estate planning lawyers.
In addition to general experience with trusts, you want to ensure your attorney has worked on supplemental needs trusts in the past.
What Percentage of the Practice Is Devoted to Probate, Trusts, and Estate Planning Law?
You don’t want to hire a lawyer who focuses on criminal law if you need a special needs trust. Instead, only work with legal professionals whose primary focus is on estate planning and trusts.
Will the Attorney Provide a Written Fee Agreement?
A written fee agreement is an essential part of the attorney/client relationship. Fee agreements outline how much you will pay the attorney for their services.
Additionally, fee agreements help set expectations for both you and the lawyer. The agreement should detail the services you will receive in exchange for expenses charged.
Does the Attorney Require a Retainer?
A legal retainer is a flat fee some attorneys ask for upfront. This fee acts as a down payment for legal services. After the retainer, your estate planning lawyer will bill you at an hourly rate.
All of these details should be outlined in the written fee agreement. He or she should also provide an itemized record of hours billed and work done.
Is the Attorney Knowledgeable and Interested?
Contrary to the legal dramas we watch on TV, most lawyers can not recite laws off the top of their heads. However, your lawyer should be able to answer basic questions about estate planning law without looking them up.
Additionally, a good attorney should seem interested in your case. If a lawyer seems distracted or dismissive during your first consultation, it is probably best to look elsewhere.
Does the Attorney’s Manner Put You at Ease?
Many people find lawyers intimidating. But you should never feel intimidated by the lawyer you choose to execute your trust. You may not want to ask questions or share personal details if you feel ill at ease with your lawyer.
That is why it is critical to choose a lawyer who makes you feel comfortable. No matter how complicated or personal the conversation gets, you should feel like you are talking to a trusted friend.
Does the Attorney Explain Estate Planning Laws Clearly?
Estate plans, trusts, and probates have complex laws surrounding them. It can be difficult for a layperson to understand these laws. This is where your lawyer should step in.
Your attorney should clearly and patiently explain the answers to all your questions. If you feel like an attorney brushes you off or leaves you feeling confused, this could be a red flag.
Need a Special Needs Trust Attorney in Augusta?
A supplemental needs trust can ensure disabled beneficiaries do not lose disability benefits when they inherit assets. The right estate planning lawyer can help you set up an airtight special needs trust for your loved one(s).
Are you looking for an estate planning attorney with expertise in executing special needs trusts? Rhodes Law Firm has the experienced lawyers you need in Augusta, GA. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.