What happens when you pass away? That's not a metaphysical, philosophical
or theological question. Rather, it's a practical query. I am really
asking: "What's going to happen to your body, your spouse, children,
your possessions, debts, and what happens to the sum total of all the
actions that have made up your life?" Seriously, it's about cremation
or burial, organ donations, the gifts and possessions that you would give
to your spouse or children, the debts you would leave behind, and the
legacy by which people remember you. Will your legacy be a good one?
Will you have anything to give to loved ones or will your debts exceed
your assets? Even if you have nothing and just have a life insurance policy,
you would still be leaving something behind. So if that insurance policy
was purchased in order to "take care of the family" how wise
is it to have a large insurance policy and then leave behind no plan for
that money to be used? The plan I'm talking about is called an estate
plan. You already have one, even if you do not have a will or a trust.
It's called intestacy. It's provided for you by the government.
If your probate possessions go to the government, it's likely intestacy.
A bad estate plan can leave a person intestate, can give gifts to the wrong
step-family, and can accidentally eliminate disability assistance or educational
plans. A bad plan can result in debt collectors taking most of the estate
away from surviving children and leaving the spouse with a financial mess
to clean up in probate.
A good estate plan can do a lot of great things for a family. A good plan
can direct large sums of money or property for the upbringing, support
and education of children over decades. It can make sure that the tax
burden on an estate will be minimized, that the handling of probate will
be easy (or eliminated), and that large insurance monies can be divided
among any number of children and spouses.
The probate of an estate is a legal process to appoint an executor or administrator
with authority to protect and transfer the decedent's assets to the
people named in a will or trust. Probate is easier with an estate plan
than without. A more complete estate plan anticipates that most people
will suffer incapacity at some time before death by appointing a trusted
person with temporary authority over legal or health care decisions.
It's the trusts and estates lawyer or probate attorney that can help
draft your estate plan and can answer the questions above. There are many
shysters (sometimes lawyers) that will take your money and charge too
much, draft documents that do not work, or will make estate plan documents
and tell you that they cannot give legal advice. Please understand that
estate planning entails life-changing documents that direct large amounts
of money and affect the future and health of your loved ones. You won't
know if the documents work until someone dies or is incapacitated –
unless you make or review your estate plan with a trusts and estates attorney.
Robert S. Meyring, of Meyring Law Firm offers free 10 minute phone evaluations
at 678-217-4369. The Meyring Law Firm is located 200 feet east of the
railroad crossing on Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta. More information at www.MeyringFirm.com.