Gifting Yourself Peace Of Mind With A Financial Power of Attorney

September 17th, 2020 | READ MORE

Preplanning is a gift. It’s a gift to yourself, it is a gift to your loved ones, and it is a gift to the things you care about most. It can give you peace of mind knowing your wishes will be carried out in your own way, instead of leaving decisions up to someone else. That, in turn, will make things much easier on your family should you become incapacitated.

By naming a Financial Power of Attorney you will be able to decide who can make decisions on your behalf, and maintain authority and control over yourself by documenting your wishes and instructions.

I tell many clients that a Financial Power of Attorney, in some respects, is actually more important than a will, because Georgia Law has a will written for you. If you die without a will, Georgia will still make sure your assets are distributed amongst your family. However, if you do not have a Financial Power of Attorney, a local judge will put someone in place for you. Most of the time, it will not be someone you would want to be able to make those decisions.

A Financial Power of Attorney is durable, meaning it is valid during your life, should you become incapacitated. However, it is NOT valid when you die. At that point, your will, or the state statute, or your trust will take over.

When you sign a Power of Attorney, you are the Principal. As the Principal, you appoint an agent, who will act on your behalf. You can authorize this person to handle several types of financial dealings for you including:
– financial and business type transactions

– real property

– tangible property

– stocks, bonds, commodities

– banks and financial institutions

– insurance

– annuities

– estates, trusts, and beneficial interests

– claims and lawsuits

– personal and family maintenance

– government benefits
– medicaid benefits, va benefits, and civil service or military pensions

– retirement plans

– managing taxes

This is a lot of responsibility and you may decide you’d like to limit your agent’s ability to deal with one or several of these things. That is why it is SO important to meet with a professional attorney who can help you set up the plan that is right for you.

As a wife and a mom, I know how important it is to get your plans in place for the future. If there is anything we can help you with, we’d be happy to work with you, please click on the contact tab to get in touch today.

Estate Planning: An Act Of Love

September 10th, 2020 | READ MORE

Most people who come to see us at French Law Group have a preconceived notion about estate planning. They’ll say “Oh, I just want to make a will” or “I just need a power of attorney.” They believe they don’t have an estate or that they don’t need to plan because they don’t have anything of value.

What they don’t realize is that estate planning is simply the act of thinking about who in your life is important to you, what you have that you want to protect, preserve, or pass on to someone else and how we put those two together. If you want to help your loved ones after your death, you need to plan properly. That is why estate planning is an act of love.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have much money, or if you’re a multimillionaire, everyone needs an estate plan. If you don’t make a plan, the State of Georgia has a plan they will use for you. And most of the time, Georgia’s plan will not line up with your wishes.

When we work with our clients, we break down estate planning into 4 main categories.

1. Will-Based Planning

This is a Last Will & Testament. Anything you own individually will be subject to probate court. If you have a will leaving your assets to your spouse, children, or even charities, it is subject to probate court supervision.

2. Trust-Based Planning

This is where you set up your own ball game. You set up the structure and make the rules. This includes any rules to protect you during your lifetime and rules that will protect your loved ones after you die. This document will help you avoid probate and minimize estate taxes.

3. Protection Planning
This type of plan will protect your house, money, or other assets from unknown creditors. You can also separate your business endeavors from personal endeavors through this plan. Long-term care is also addressed in this plan. This includes medicaid planning, and VA planning.

4. Powers of Attorney
This includes your financial power of attorney and your Advanced Health Care Directive. If you don’y have these things in place and you become incapacitated, the probate court will be responsible for appointing someone to take care of your medical needs and your finances.

The time to plan is now. Don’t put it off.  Show your loved ones you care by calling our offices today to start planning your legacy.  706.991.1701

Parents of College Age Students: According to the Law Your Child is an ADULT!

August 13th, 2020 | READ MORE

Here in Georgia, parents of college-age students have been surprised to learn that their children are adults. UGA has recently published guidance about college students, COVID-19, and sex, which has caught parents in denial about their children’s activities. Twitter and other social media has blown up over this guidance. And guess what may be news to Georgia parents? Once your child is 18 years old, your baby is an adult in the eyes of the law. This means that you don’t have legal authority to make decisions for your child any longer. So, it is important to plan ahead using powers of attorney.

Sending your kids off to college is a very emotional time, filled with excitement and understandable anxiety. Your baby is growing up and leaving the nest. And even though he or she is still your baby, as soon as your child is 18, you’ve got a legal adult. You’re thinking about things that may have never crossed your mind before and you need answers.

All of this means your child is allowed to make their own decisions without your permission or involvement. And unfortunately, that also means that if your adult child becomes incapacitated, you may not be able to make health care decisions or manage money for them absent a court order. This is true even if you are paying tuition, health insurance, and/or claim them as dependents on your tax returns.

So what can you do to make sure you don’t have to get a judge’s permission and court order to act on your adult child’s behalf? How can you continue to protect and guide your now-adult child? Have them sign two very important documents: A Financial Power Of Attorney, and an Advance Health Care Directive.

You might be thinking these documents are usually for the elderly, but every adult should have one. Accidents happen, are the leading cause of injury for young adults, so you must always be prepared.

1. Financial Power Of Attorney
This entitles a designated agent, or in this case, a parent, to make financial decisions on the student’s behalf if he or she becomes incapacitated. This document will allow the agent to access bank accounts, pay bills, sign tax returns, and make changes to financial aid, etc.

2. Advance Health Care Directive


Also known as a Medical Power of Attorney, this document allows an agent to make medical decisions on the student’s behalf in case he or she becomes incapacitated. The agent will also be able to access the student’s medical records and speak to doctors.

So even though you still think of your child as your baby, you need to be prepared for the law to treat him or her as an adult with rights. Signing these two documents will ensure you have more say in what happens to your child in case he or she becomes seriously sick or injured. If your child is headed off to college soon, then contact me to get a plan in place ASAP!

Avoiding Probate Court: Tips To Make Things Easier On Loved Ones

August 6th, 2020 | READ MORE

We have all heard terrible stories about the probate process. A disgruntled heir. A greedy beneficiary. A minor child or incapacitated person being under court supervision for years. Even the simplest probate cases can be a big pain for your family. Especially when a loved one didn’t make a will before he or she passed away, or failed to keep the will current.

But there are great ways to avoid probate and the hardships it can bring. Planning can make a huge difference when it comes to making things easier for loved ones left behind. But even with a will, your assets will need to go through probate, costing time and money, to settle your estate. It can cause lots of frustration and unnecessary conflict while trying to deal with all of the emotions that come with the death of a loved one.

But, did you know you can actually plan to avoid probate court, and make things even easier? It IS possible. Here are a few ways to keep your assets from going through probate.

  1. Revocable Living Trust. A Revocable Living Trust is one of the best ways to avoid probate court. Property titles and other assets will be transferred to the trust. While you are alive, you control the property. When you die, a person you designate as the successor trustee, will ensure the property is transferred to your designated beneficiaries without going through probate.
  1. Beneficiary Designations.You can also avoid probate by naming beneficiaries or pay-on-death recipients on your accounts. This includes bank accounts, IRAs, and similar accounts. It is fairly easy to get done by contacting your financial institution. When you die, all your money is transferred to that beneficiary without going through probate. This method is not without pitfalls, especially if you have minor children or incapacitated beneficiaries, so it is important to consult with an attorney.
  2. Establish Joint Ownership
    If you jointly own property with someone, that property is automatically given to the surviving owner. You can establish joint ownership in several ways: through a deed, business owner agreement, or jointly held financial assets. When you die, the property or money belongs to the surviving owner without any limitations.
  3. Gifting Property During LifeYou may have assets that you want to give away during life. While this approach avoids probate, it also can subject you to tax consequences, loss of public benefits, and unnecessary exposure of your hard earned assets. Gifting during life is an advance planning technique that should be undertaken carefully in a comprehensive estate plan.

What better gift to your family than to provide a straightforward, thoughtful process for them to follow after you’re gone?

No Will? Now what?

July 20th, 2020 | READ MORE

When someone dies without a will, things can become complicated. How do you split up the assets? If there is a child, who gets guardianship? When can you sell property?

The unfortunate truth is this happens all too often, and it makes the death of a loved one that much more difficult. Oftentimes, when wishes aren’t spelled out in a will, it can lead to families fighting over money and property.

So what do you do once you discover your loved one didn’t leave a will?

It’s actually much the same as if there was a will. Your first step is to contact a probate lawyer. Sure, you can settle the estate without a lawyer, but by hiring a lawyer you reduce the risk of making a mistake and any future litigation. Plus, using a lawyer can help speed things up.

Next, you’ll file a Petition for Probate in the county where he or she died, then you’ll need to attend a probate hearing. Once your petition for probate is granted, you’ll need to get letters of administration authorizing you to act on behalf of the estate.

You’ll then be able to take inventory of your loved one’s assets including finances and personal property, then pay off any outstanding debts. After that, you can report the final assets to the court. Since there is no will, the court decides who will inherit and how the assets are divided.

Now you will be able to pay yourself as the Executor of the Estate and your lawyer, then divide the assets per the court’s order and close the estate.

So if there is no will, you don’t have to worry too much. Yes, it can make things more complicated, but you will still be able to settle the estate and begin to heal your grief.

If your loved one left no will and you need help with probate, I’d love to help you navigate the system and get it settled as quickly and simply as possible. Click the contact page to set up a consultation.

Planning During The Pandemic

July 16th, 2020 | READ MORE

 

We’ve all seen the terrible impact COVID-19 has had. The Coronavirus has taken lives of people otherwise considered to be in perfect health. It’s hospitalizing people every day with ICUs maxed out and a growing need for ventilators. People have lost their jobs and are now trying to figure out how to feed their families.

And unfortunately, in many places, social distancing guidelines are being ignored. Cases continue to grow across the US. The undeniable truth is that no one is safe from the Coronavirus and we don’t know if or when things will get back to normal

You’ve heard the phrase “out of an abundance of caution.” That phrase applies to the coronavirus in several ways.

Yes, getting good health coverage, wearing masks and staying home when possible is extremely important, but what people don’t think about, that is also very important, is taking preparations for you and your family should you contract the virus and become incapacitated.


If you haven’t already, now is the time to create an Advanced Directive for Healthcare, a Financial Power of Attorney, and a Last Will & Testament. But how can those help you during the pandemic?

Advanced Directive for Healthcare

Also known as a living will, this document goes into effect only if you are incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. In this document, outline the type of medical care you want in the event of a serious illness or injury.This will help doctors know your preferences and relieve your family of the burden of having to make potentially life-changing decisions.

Financial Power of Attorney

In this document, you grant someone, often called an agent, the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf. This person will be able to handle your finances, bills, and property should you become incapacitated.

Last Will & Testament

This document will express your wishes after you pass away, including funeral arrangements, care of children, and dividing your estate.

If you’re ready to get started planning for this uncertain future, click on the contact tab. I’d love to help you protect your family.

 

 

Why you REALLY need a Will

June 22nd, 2020 | READ MORE

If you have kids, you know what it feels like to be so protective of someone, you would literally do ANYTHING to make sure they are taken care of, happy, and healthy.

Most parents know if it came down to it, they would die for their kids, but what happens to their kids AFTER you die.

Now that you are no longer there to protect them, do you know where they will end up? Who will be the ones to protect them now? Will they get any of your assets?

Unless you have a  Last Will And Testament, there is no way you can answer those questions with certainty.

 

I know, it’s really depressing to think about dying. But the hard truth is, no one lives forever, and you don’t know when your time on this earth will be up!

So let’s start with the basics. What is a Last Will And Testament anyway?

 

A will is basically a legal document listing out your wishes in the event of your death. Think of it as insurance for your assets. What happens to those thousands of dollars you managed to save over your lifetime? If you know who you want to receive that money, it needs to go into a will.

You can also use a will to name guardians for your children. Who do you want your kids to live with? Grandparents? Aunts, Uncles? Maybe an older sibling who is a legal adult? Write it in a will.

So what happens if you DON’T have a will?

Thanks for asking this VERY important question. If you die and you do not have a will, intestate succession laws determine who will receive your assets and how they will be divided. Meaning, if you don’t tell people what you want, the law decides for you. If you do not have a will and you have no surviving relatives, your assets go to the state instead of your best friend Betsy.

If you have kids and do not have a will, the courts will also decide where the child will go.

Having a will also prevents family members having to go to probate court to decide who gets what. I know Thanksgiving dinners can be exhausting with the inevitable arguments, but think about how awkward it would be if your brother and your sister both believe they should get the lion’s share of your assets.

Now if you’re thinking drawing up a will is a hassle and will require time and money you don’t have, consider the situations named in this article. Ask yourself, what do you want to be your legacy? If you’re ready to start drafting today, click on the contact page and let’s set up a time to chat!