Savannah Estate Planning Lawyer Advice for Second (or Third) Marriages

Estate planning lawyers in Savannah work with clients at all different stages of life. For example, many couples realize the importance of meeting with an estate planning lawyer before getting married. While things are rarely straight forward (every situation is unique, after all), they can get pretty complicated in cases where one or both of the parties involved has been married before.

Who Owns What

When you enter a second or subsequent marriage, you’re likely bringing quite a bit of “stuff” with you. You probably have various accounts that are all in different names: his, hers, and theirs. The same is true of assets. And then there are kids to consider. Some accounts and assets might have the children’s names on them, too.

Creating an estate plan is an excellent idea in these situations. For one thing, it helps untangle some of the confusion over who has access to what. Not only that, but just because you intend for certain assets to go to your children, without an estate plan directing what will happen, the courts will have to make decisions based on the law, not on your intentions.

Updating Beneficiaries

In reviewing your assets with the Savannah estate planning lawyer, you’ll want to take a look at all of your (and your spouse’s) various accounts to make sure they have the correct beneficiary designations. Keep in mind that you very likely might have your ex-spouse named as a beneficiary on any variety of accounts. Chances are, you’ll want to make some changes.

Develop a Strategy and Avoid the Pitfalls of Not Planning

The estate planning lawyer will be able to go through, item by item, to help you determine the best approach to distributing your estate according to your wishes. This might involve creating a simple will that names your spouse as the primary recipient of your assets, with a certain percentage going to your children. On the other hand, you and your spouse may prefer to actually set up completely separate trusts that reserve your pre-marriage property for only your own biological children.

An important thing to note is that if you pass away without a legally binding estate plan, some of your assets could be given directly to your new spouse. Upon his or her death without a will, those assets—the ones that were originally yours—would be inherited by the spouse’s children, not yours. This is a pretty big deal and is something that is better addressed between you and a Georgia estate planning lawyer than between bickering, resentful step-siblings later.

Who Would Care For Your Pet If Something Happens To You? Savannah Estate Lawyer Answers

So many Americans are pet owners, and estate lawyers in Savannah have various ways of helping their clients to care for these pets. To be honest, it’s pretty common to overlook the potential need to plan for a pet after your death, but it’s something that more and more people are recognizing as an integral part of their own estate planning process.

Most of the time, a person just assumes that their children or a friend will simply take the pet into their home, but that may be an overly-optimistic plan. Instead, it might make better sense for pet owners to spend a little time with the estate planning lawyer to put plans in place for the animal’s long-term care and happiness.

The methods for setting up this kind of plan can vary. You and your attorney may feel that it’s reasonable to simply outline your wishes in the will. On the other hand, you may prefer to create an actual “pet trust” that not only lays out your wishes but also funds them.

Choose a Guardian

Probably the most important aspect of estate planning for pets is to choose a guardian. This is the person or people who will care for your companion animal if you die or become incapacitated. It’s really important to talk to this person in advance and ensure that he or she is willing to take on the responsibility. You wouldn’t want to leave your sweet pet to someone who resented it or didn’t care for it properly. One approach is to create a reciprocal agreement with a friend in which you both agree to take the other’s pet should the need arise.

If you don’t have an actual person in mind to become your pet’s guardian, you might want to contact the local humane society. Some of them have entire programs in place to help your pet get adopted into a good home after your death. To take advantage of these kinds of programs, you need to enroll in advance, so talk to your estate planning lawyer to find out what kinds of organizations might offer these services in Savannah.

Paying for the Pet

As mentioned above, you may choose to leave money in a pet trust in order to care for the needs of your pet. This money would be used for food, bedding, toys, and vet services, as you estimate they would be needed for the lifespan of your animal. Some pet owners also choose to include a small stipend for the person who takes on the responsibility of caring for the animal. This is a personal decision, however, and not a necessity.

Finally, make sure that your friends and family are aware of your plans for the pet. That way, the animal can get to his or her new home right away, without either being left alone or ending up in a different family than you intended.

Learning More about Wills and Trusts Lawyers in Georgia

Residents of Georgia often find themselves procrastinating, even if they know the importance of meeting with a wills and trusts lawyer. The whole subject just seems so complicated, and there are certainly more enjoyable ways to spend one’s time then pondering death and taxes. The fact that things can be really confusing seems to give us all the encouragement we need to just tell ourselves that we’ll take care of the estate planning stuff “later.”

Of course, you know what I’m going to say next! You never know when “later” is going to make an appearance, and if you’re not set up in advance, all the legal advice about wills and trusts in the world won’t be of any help. Yes, this truly is something you need to do in advance. Perhaps demystifying some of the terms involved with wills and trusts will give you the confidence you need to take the next step.

Will vs. Living Will

Most people probably get that “will” and “living will” are two different things, but a whole lot of them couldn’t actually tell you what exactly makes them different. The term “will” is likely most familiar, as we’ve all seen them discussed on TV and in the movies. It’s that document that is used to tell the courts what should be done with a person’s assets after he or she dies.

In the movies, there’s usually a dramatic reading of the will with close-ups of shocked widows and angry siblings who have been unceremoniously cut out of the family fortune. While wills and trusts lawyers in Georgia do see their share of hurt feelings and miscommunications, things are rarely as dramatic as they are on the big (or small) screen.

While a will is used after death, a living will is not. It’s actually a document that includes a variety of instructions to be followed if you are alive but unable to speak for yourself for some reason. This is usually referred to as being “incapacitated.” You could be too ill to communicate, in a coma due to an accident, or some other variant that renders you unable to let doctors and others know what your wishes are regarding healthcare and other major decisions.

Trust vs. Living Trust

You may see a bit of a pattern here. A trust is generally used as a way to disperse assets after the owner has passed away. A trustee is put in charge of following very specific instructions that have been put in place to direct how the money and other assets in the trust are to be used.

A living trust, on the other hand, is used to protect many different kinds of assets during the owner’s lifetime. A Georgia wills and trusts lawyer may recommend a living trust for many different reasons. For example, this kind of trust can be used to allow the individual to stay in his or her home while transferring ownership.

Each of these types of wills and trusts is something that should be discussed with a knowledgeable attorney in the state where you reside, as laws will differ throughout the country.

Estate Planning Lawyer In Savannah Talks Conservatorships

Every once in a while, we see situations where some celebrity seems to be going off the deep end, and someone—usually a parent—is named as their “conservator.” But, what exactly does this mean, and are out-of-control starlets the only ones who need conservatorships? As a Savannah lawyer, it is sometimes necessary to get involved with creating conservatorships for a variety of reasons.

What Is a Conservatorship?

Most commonly, conservatorships are used to give a person authority to make financial decisions for another who is unable to make sound decisions on their own. The conservator is bound to act in the best interest of the ward and is often monitored by a court investigator who reports back to the court. We’ve seen this play out publicly and spectacularly in situations such that of Britney Spears a few years ago.

Who Needs a Conservatorship?

While the cases of young Hollywood stars make the big headlines, these are not necessarily the people lawyers in Georgia are working with when it comes to conservatorships. Often, they are given when seniors are having difficulty caring for themselves and their finances.

Obviously a conservatorship is not something to be considered lightly, but they are available for good reason. Someone who is unable to manage their personal affairs any longer may well need someone else to step in and take on those responsibilities.

There are some telltale signs that might let you know a conservatorship should be considered:

• Bills are piling up

• Considerable amounts of unopened mail

• Utilities have been shut off

• Property taxes are unpaid

• The house is no longer kept up

Many of these signs coincide with the onset of dementia, and as a person’s memory fades, the ability to keep up with daily responsibilities also deteriorates. Lawyers in Georgia understand that there are times when it is in an individual’s best interest to have a conservatorship in place for his or her own protection.

As mentioned, it isn’t just the elderly who may require a conservatorship. There are a wide variety of reasons that a younger person might be in need of this kind of guidance and oversight, too. In order to keep this power from being abused, conservatorships must be granted by a court of law.

If you have questions about conservatorships and whether they would be applicable in a situation you are facing with a loved one, the best place to start is with a Savannah conservatorship attorney. He or she can advise you of your rights and walk you through the legal steps you will have to take to start the process.

We are available to help you answer such questions. Simply call our Savannah law firm at (912) 352-3999 and ask to schedule a complimentary Planning Session with the mention of this article.