they are not just finding out about your finances to sell you
products that you may not want or need. Many people prefer
“fee only” financial advisors who do not receive commissions
on the product recommendations.
You should look at financial planning in the broadest possible
way. Estate Planning is one of the areas of financial planning.
A Will is just one of the documents you need to “put your affairs
in order.” The Will not only helps you dispose of property in
the way you desire when you or your spouse or significant
other passes away, it should shine a light on what your present
assets are and what you may need to do to maintain and/or
Now that estates under $5.43 million are not subject to estate
tax by the federal government and married couples can get
a total exemption of almost $11 million for 2015, income tax
planning has become even more important while you are
alive and when you pass away. It is an advantage if your
financial advisor has a deep understanding of income tax.
Some states, unlike Georgia, do have estate or inheritance
taxes that have to be taken into consideration if you have
property, such as real estate, situated there.
If you do not have a Will, state law will determine how your
probate property is to be distributed. More importantly,
your Will can provide who will be physically and financially
responsible for children if something happens to both parents.
You can also provide for children by setting up trusts for them.
If you have a disabled child, you may need a Special Needs
Trust. You would need to choose a trustee to administer the
trust. You would also need to choose an executor to administer
your estate once you are gone. Plan well so there is less of
a chance that there will be disgruntled heirs. It will lessen the
chance of a challenge to the Will and additional expenses.
There are other considerations if an elderly person needs to
qualify for Medicaid.
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Real property (real estate) can also be passed to someone
else by a deed. In most cases you want to make sure the deed
to your home passes to your spouse with right of survivorship.
Otherwise, your children could inherit 2/3 of the family home,
which causes many costly complications. Joint bank accounts
are another way for money to be transferred to another person
when someone dies.
When you go to an estate planner, he or she normally will
suggest that you should have a financial Power of Attorney
and a Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care. You should
also get a power of attorney from your banking institution
because they often do not recognize a broad power of
attorney. It is important to carefully choose the agent for the
Power of Attorney because the agent can financially act for
you if you are not able to act for yourself. Unfortunately, it is not
uncommon for some agents to take advantage of the situation,
especially if the one who granted the power is vulnerable.
An Advance Directive is an especially important tool to “state
your treatment preferences if you have a terminal condition or
if you are in a state of permanent unconsciousness.” You can
also choose your health care agent, the person who would
make those “health care decisions for you when you cannot…
make health care decisions for yourself.” Additionally, the
Health Care Agent has powers over the decedent’s body
after death. The Advance Directive also provides for a
Guardianship choice. You can “nominate a person to be your
guardian should one ever be needed.” (Quotes are from the
language of the Advance Directive.)
Jackie Saylor serves on the Board of Directors of the Estate
Planning and Probate Section of the Atlanta Bar Association.
She is a partner at The Saylor Law Firm LLP whose attorneys
and attorney-CPAs represent individuals, families and
businesses regarding estate, tax and other financial and
THE ATLANTA LAWYER