The Atlanta Lawyer January/February 2015 - Page 5

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE 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 increase them. 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. We’re Social The Official News Publication of the Atlanta Bar Association 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 business matters. Join Us! January/February 2015 THE ATLANTA LAWYER 5