Talking to Your Parents about Meeting with an Estate Planning Lawyer in Savannah

Just as everywhere else in the country, folks in Savannah often put off their estate planning for many reasons. Whether it’s facing your own mortality, or that of your parents, the prospect of needing a will or trust isn’t something that many of us want to think about. The reality, though, is that when we continue to put off the estate planning process, things only tend to get more complicated.

Considering a parent’s need for estate planning may not be a pleasant thought, but it is so very important in ensuring that they are taken care of. After all, it’s not just about what they will leave behind after death, it’s also about how those Golden Years can be spent. Estate planning lawyers in Savannah certainly handle wills and trusts, but they also help with planning for retirement, moves into retirement communities, and more.

It may be up to you to start this conversation with your aging parents, especially if they have not yet started their estate planning. But, how do you approach the “elephant in the room?” One of the best approaches is to have a good amount of information that you can bring to them about the benefits of planning. Sure, having their plans in order will make your life easier later, but it’s also about giving Mom and Dad a say in their own futures…and you want to make that known from the start.

Having Their Say

If your parents don’t take care of estate planning now, many choices will eventually be taken out of their hands. In some cases, a parent might think that’s fine because they trust you to make decisions, but what they might be overlooking is the fact that the courts may decide you are not the person that should be in charge of your parents’ well-being. Medical decisions and financial management are just a couple of the areas that could be designated to whomever the courts feel is appropriate. That person may not be you, and that person may not have your parents’ best interests at heart.

Let’s be honest, even though you love your parents, there are some choices you would really rather not have to make, too. By getting them in to meet with an estate planning lawyer, you can give them the opportunity to make the choices—in advance—that they might be unable to make later.

For example, a living will would give them the opportunity to determine what courses of action they do and do not want taken in a medical situation. It’s also completely reasonable for them to have a say in which nursing home or retirement community they would prefer. If these choices aren’t made in advance, there’s a possibility of losing the ability to make them later when physical or cognitive abilities have declined.

Woven in to all of these considerations is the fact that your parents will likely want to leave some sort of legacy. A legacy doesn’t have to be a multi-million dollar trust fund; in fact, it rarely is. Instead, the legacy could be a combination of important items, money, and a set of values that they want to pass on to future generations. A Savannah estate planning lawyer can help them find realistic ways to make this happen.

Business Planning Lawyers in Savannah Recommend Estate Planning

A small business is a part of your identity, not to mention your livelihood. Business planning lawyers in Savannah look to protect both aspects of this should you die or become incapacitated. Advanced planning is one of the smartest things that you can do to ensure that your small business meets the goals you have for it, whether you are at the helm or not.

• Make sure that your wishes are followed • Ease transition for the company • Protect the business from being dismantled • Save considerable money

When you think of your estate, you would probably include your home, your personal assets, and your bank accounts. But your small business is also considered as part of your estate, even though you likely don’t want it to be treated the same way as the other property already mentioned. There are a lot of decisions to be made, and a business planning lawyer is the perfect person to consult.

There are several things you’ll want to consider, and a Savannah business planning attorney can help you draw up documents that are legal and binding according to state laws. For example:

• Do you want the business to keep running after you pass away? • If so, who should be in charge? • What happens to your shares in a business? • Do partners need to buy your family out of the business or does ownership transfer to one of these parties?

You will also want to have your lawyer explain the various tax implications that come along with your different options. It’s not unusual for a small business to implode after an owner’s death, not because there was no one to take over, but because the estate taxes just take so much that there’s not enough left to continue operations.

Advanced planning for your business can help avoid this type of huge tax burden. Specific sections of the tax codes have been designed to assist with the transition of businesses by limiting the taxes on heirs’ stock or to pay estate taxes over the course of 15 years. These two seemingly small things can make the difference between keeping the doors open or shutting down.

To get the most out of the tax codes that have been put into effect for folks like you, there is nothing quite as helpful as meeting with a qualified business planning lawyer in Savannah. To schedule a free consultation, give our Savannah law firm a call at (912) 352-3999 and mention this article.

Working with a Probate Attorney in Savannah to Understand the Steps of the Process

Even if someone has a will in place, it’s still quite likely that his or her estate will need to be overseen by a good probate attorney in Savannah. These professionals understand the incredibly complex process that goes along with closing out someone’s estate after he or she has passed away. Those who have worked with an estate planning lawyer can sometimes avoid probate through the use of tools like revocable living trusts, but if you are in a situation where the estate in question needs to go through the legal process, it makes sense to get a qualified probate attorney on board.

One of the things the lawyer will do is to help you better understand the steps of the probate process in Georgia. Knowledge is power, and having a reasonable expectation of what to expect can make probate a little less intimidating.

While every situation is different, a typical probate process in Georgia will look something like this:

  1. The validation of the will. The will needs to be proven valid and filed at the country probate court.
  2. The court will appoint an executor. The will usually nominates someone for the position, but the executor will not have legal authority to take actions until approved by the court.
  3. An inventory is made of all the assets, as well as a determination if the estate is owed money by any other parties. At this time, a special checking account may be created to take care of the estate’s obligations.
  4. The outstanding debts of the decedent and the ongoing expenses of the estate will be identified and paid. These debts should be uncovered in the previous steps.
  5. The remaining property will be distributed to heirs based upon the wishes outlined in the will and according to the laws of Georgia, after approval by the court.

This is obviously a simplified look at what happens during the process, but even from this brief list, it is possible to see why it is so beneficial to have an experienced probate lawyer in Savannah involved. He or she not only oversees the legal aspects of probate—filing paperwork and keeping things moving forward—but also guides the executor on what duties need to be fulfilled. Ideally, the probate process will take only a few months, but to the time it takes to obtain court hearings and the built in waiting periods to ensure creditors are paid, this timeframe is typically stretched out to take a year. If any issues arise or there is disagreement among the heirs the timeframe is even longer. A probate lawyer will help to avoid as many pitfalls as possible so that the estate can be closed efficiently and in a timely manner.

Discuss Your Social Security Options With An Elder Law Lawyer in Savannah

For many elder law clients in Savannah, Social Security benefits represent a very large portion of their post-retirement income. Because of the way that the system has changed since it was originated in 1935, it is extremely complex. Literally hundreds of amendments have been made in the nearly 80 years since the Social Security Act. It may just take an experienced elder lawyer to wade through the options with you.

And just what kind of options are you looking at? There are a lot of them to consider. While there is certainly good information to be learned from others who have already been through the process, it could be a big mistake to simply take someone else’s word about what is the best approach to take. After all, what is right for one family or individual may not be best for another.

For example, did you know that you might not have to quit working entirely in order to begin collecting Social Security benefits? A lot of people are not aware of this, and it can have a huge impact on their income levels. There are at least four ways that a person can take his or her Social Security, and that’s just for those who are not married. Married couples find that they have a total of 16 different options. Again, having an elder lawyer go over all of the options is a good way to maximize the options available to you.

Speaking of married couples, chances are that the wife will survive the husband and then be eligible for his Social Security benefits. This is very important, as almost a quarter of widows and other single female seniors live below the poverty line. For this reason alone, the responsible thing is for a couple to spend a little time with the elder lawyer or estate planning attorney in Savannah in order to put together a comprehensive plan that will cover either spouse in the event that the other passes away.

While self-sufficiency is certainly an important part of our culture, decisions regarding retirement and estate planning are some that really should be informed by a knowledgeable professional. Elder law lawyers in Savannah are well-versed on how Social Security works and are able to provide solid advice on how to get the most of what you deserve. In this day and age, it’s pretty simple to get on the Social Security Administration’s web site and start submitting requests without having enough background information and knowledge to make the best choices.

When it comes to Social Security and things like Medicaid benefits, there is too much at stake to risk not working with a qualified elder lawyer and financial advisor. Whether you will be living strictly off of your Social Security benefits, or they will be used in other ways as a part of your long-term retirement plans, this is not an area to take lightly.

If you have questions about the benefits available to you, please reach out to our firm and we will refer you to a qualified financial advisor in the area who can help. Simply call our office at (912) 352-3999 for immediate assistance.