Wills: The Gift of Preparing

Jane is a 75-year-old widow living her very best life.  After losing her husband to cancer, she vowed to her son that she wouldn’t become a “bitter old widdy woman”.  At a recent small family dinner, Jane’s son Russell, asked her about her Will. Jane proudly removed her Will from her fireproof safe and confidently informed him that she was “all set”.  Russell took a quick look at the Will and said, “Mom according to your Will if something happens to you, I have to live with Aunt Rose – I’m almost 50”!!!!!

Does this scenario sound like it could happen in your family?

Are you wondering if your aging parents have updated Wills, GA Advance Directives for Healthcare and Financial Powers of Attorney? Have you taken care of creating your own estate plan? If you or your parents don’t have these important documents in place, and periodically reviewed and updated, then it is time for you to make this a priority in the New Year.

If someone dies without a Will (intestate) then state law will dictate who gets the property.

In Georgia, the intestate rules for heirs are:

  • Spouse, no kids – spouse 100%
  • Spouse + two children – each 1/3
  • Children only – share equally
  • No spouse or kids – parents 100%
  • No spouse, kids or parents – siblings share equally

Is this what you would choose for your family?

Do you want to have your spouse share property with your children before his/her death? What happens if you have an estranged child or a child in a difficult situation such as alcohol or drug dependent? There are all sorts of scenarios that would cause many of us to choose a different distribution of our property.

Dying without a Will also causes confusion for loved ones during a crisis and doesn’t give you an opportunity to protect them properly. A significant elder law concern is that assets may go to disabled or elderly individuals and disrupt public benefits programs causing big financial issues for the family.

For those of you with Wills- good job!

But…have you had any changes in your life since you prepared your Will? For instance, have you or a named beneficiary experienced a death, significant diagnosis, divorce, displacement (moved to a new state) or added or lost a dependent? If so, these are reasons to review and update your estate planning documents. Unfortunately, estate planning is not a “one and done” task.

At Hurley Elder Care Law, we meet with clients daily to discuss their estate plan. Some questions we like to consider are:

  •             Should your children share equally in your estate?
  •             Do you wish to include grandchildren or others as beneficiaries?
  •             Would you like to leave any assets to charity?
  •             How will you handle any ownership in a business or rental property?
  •             When and how should the recipient inherit the assets?

We know that taking care of your own estate plan is hard but often having a conversation with your aging parents is even harder. These discussions are extremely important and can be thoughtful, non-threatening and loving if done with patience and forethought. We will explore ways to have these sensitive discussions with aging parents and family members in our blog next week. So, stay tuned!

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