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    Who needs estate planning?

    Thursday, May 8th, 2014

    You should have a plan if you want to make sure you stay in control of your financial and healthcare decision making in the event of your disability. You should also take the time to plan if you want to make sure your wealth goes to who you want, when you want, the way you want. If you have children who are minors (under the age of 18), parents who are aging, or are married or have a life partner, or anyone else depending upon you,  it makes sense to make plans in the event something happens to you. Finally, if you or your spouse have a chronic condition which may require nursing home care you may want to do a special kind of planning called Medicaid Planning.

    One misunderstanding about estate planning is it only needed if you are very wealthy or if you are old. This is not true. Even young people have responsibilities, can become disabled, or die. Even if you do not have family, or are just starting out, you still need to have “advanced directives” – a Durable Financial Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, HIPAA Release and Living Will in place. Even a person who has not accumulated a lot of wealth will want to leave what they have to specific persons.

    So, you can see having a plan for if you were to become disabled or for when you die is truly important for everyone over the age of 18!

    What is estate planning?

    Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

    Estate planning should be a life long process of taking steps to provide for you and the people you love.  You never know when disability will strike. When most people think of estate planning they think about transferring what they own at their death. Another equally important part of planning is thinking about making transfers during your life. Lifetime gifting can have important asset protection advantages and allows you see the impact of your giving on your loved ones.

    A good plan begins with understanding your family, what you own and how you own it and thinking about your goals.

    After A Divorce, Make Sure to Reevaluate Your Estate Plan

    Thursday, December 12th, 2013

    Your ex or soon-to-be ex-spouse may still have authority over your medical and financial affairs after your divorce. This should send shock-waves through most people knowing their ex-spouse may still have so much control over them after they part company in a divorce. This is why it is important to update your beneficiary designations and other estate planning documents to prevent your soon-to-be ex-spouse from inheriting money or remaining in positions of authority.

    Estate planning is the creation of documentation to maintain and effectively control your financial and health care security. Using legal documents such as wills, trusts, powers of appointment, and powers of attorney , including the durable financial power of attorney , the durable medical power of attorney, and a living will, estate planning helps you protect your assets and ensure your loved ones are cared for following your death or incapacity.

    Ordinarily, wills, trusts, healthcare directives, etc. are typically the last thing on your mind if you are going through a divorce . There are enough legalities to sort through and plan for while handling a divorce, which can cause estate planning to feel like an added burden during an already difficult time.

    Still, you may be surprised to learn that your most important legal and financial documents are not automatically made null and void during or after a divorce ; that is, divorce may not nullify the beneficiaries named on your accounts /documents or those to whom you have given authority roles.

    If you do not update your estate plan documents and you become incapacitated during or after the divorce proceedings, your soon-to-be ex-spouse may still have authority over your medical and financial affairs. In the event of a serious health care crisis or future disability, it is critical to have someone you trust in a position of responsibility.

    Your healthcare directives (also referred to as a living will and healthcare power of attorney ) name the person who can make medical decisions on your behalf in an emergency. If you do not amend this document, your ex-spouse (or soon-to-be) may bear the responsibility of making life and death decisions for you and managing your future healthcare needs. Also, most people would wince at the idea of their ex-spouse (or soon-to-be) having the ability to pay bills, access accounts and sell assets on their behalf.

    Or, if you should pass away during or after the divorce proceedings without updating key beneficiary designations, your soon-to-be ex-spouse may still stand to inherit from your estate. Most insurance policies , bank accounts , retirement accounts and investment account include the designation of a beneficiary. This is the person who will receive some or all of the money from that policy or account upon your death.

    To summarize, when experiencing a divorce , you should reevaluate your estate plan. Key provisions in your will, trust, powers of attorney , retirement accounts, life insurance policies, etc., must be updated to ensure your soon-to-be ex-spouse is no longer named as a beneficiary or in a position of authority over your personal affairs. You may also need to select a new personal representative (that is, an executor), power of attorney and health care surrogate whom you trust to oversee your finances and uphold your medical desires if the unthinkable happens.

    About the Author:

    The Managing Attorney of  Robert M. Goldberg  Associates, Bob Goldberg is a licensed attorney and counselor at law in the State of Georgia, as well as a member of the Georiga Bar Association, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and Wealth Counsel.

    Robert M. Goldberg & Associates is a unique law firm with offices in Atlanta, Griffin and Peachtree City, Georiga who understands your particular needs and situation, and will generate value for you; services include comprehensive estate planning, elder law and probate services.

    This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

    How To Get Resistant Aging Parents To Talk About The Future

    Monday, September 23rd, 2013

    Do your aging parents resist talking about the future or giving you any of their financial or legal information?  You’re not alone.

    “The Talk” about the future is off limits for a lot of parents. They are fearful of losing control of their lives.  Many adult children avoid pushing because their parents may even get angry when the subject is raised.  Then, when a crisis happens, the adult children are frustrated and angry because the burden of dealing with it, operating in the dark as it were, is so unfair.

    Carolyn Rosenblatt has designed a few techniques to help. It’s part of her Crisis Action Plan seminar she put together to address this specific problem.  To even have a plan, you have to start by asking questions.  That can be tricky.  Here is one way to approach the issue indirectly.

    Instead of flat out asking your parents to tell you  their personal information, it may work to talk about emergency preparedness instead.

    Natural disasters happen and talking about them can serve as a bridge to the subject of being prepared for personal health emergencies.

    So, I agree that you should bring up emergency preparedness as a roundabout way of getting to the information you need.  When the headlines tell us of the latest fire, hurricane, earthquake or tornado, you can use that opportunity to open the subject of what you would do in case a disaster created a health emergency for your aging loved one.

    There are some basics everyone needs to have.  Your agenda, hidden or not when you talk to your aging parent, needs to be to get these basics and keep your own records of them.

    The specifics:

    Have a discussion with your aging parent about what they would want you to do if there were a disaster. It’s less threatening to think about than some other kinds of medical emergencies because it’s happening to someone else, maybe somewhere else.
    You can ask, ” Mom, what would you want us to do if you were knocked off your feet by a (tornado, earthquake, flood, etc.,) and had to go to the hospital for awhile?

    If the answer is “ I’m never going to be in a hospital, so forget it”, you can’t stop there. You can point out that natural disasters happen all the time and you would be the one to get the phone call if it affected Mom. It’s not fair to leave you without any idea of where to find anything, so Mom needs to help you out.

    Ask your aging parent about how you would pay their bills if they were left unconscious as a result of a disaster. If your parent resists talking about this, you might point out that if the bills weren’t paid on time, the electricity would be shut off, the phone service would stop and if there’s a mortgage, the house could go into default.  Insurance policies could be cancelled if premiums weren’t paid, and many losses could occur.  This can help you get to and to make a record of the bank accounts, checking account. If your parent doesn’t have a Durable Power of Attorney for finances, this is an ideal time to get that done.

    Ask what your aging parents would want you to do if they got badly hurt and were in a coma.  The scenario you describe as the cause could be whatever natural disaster is most common where you live. Here in Georgia that might be a tornado or a hurricane.  Whatever it is, use headline news of these events to your advantage in bringing up the subject. It is fresh, talked about, scary and real at that moment and it can help you get to what you need to know: your parents’ wishes.  Again, if your parent does not have a Health Care Advance Directive or any document in which his or her end of life  wishes are written down, now is a good time to get that done, too.

    If you can get the names of the primary care doctor, the lawyer and the financial advisor if they have these, that’s even better.  It can all be part of the same discussion.  Another excellent addition to your record of information is the name of a neighbor, friend or someone nearby who could help if your parent were in distress and could not, herself, get to a phone.

    Store all you are able to get from your parents in a mobile device or on paper.  Keep it where you can get to it if you need it fast.

    Although your real reason for wanting the information is because anything can happen to an elder, especially in failing health, the presented reason is also legitimate. What would you do if you really did get the phone call that a disaster had struck and your aging parent was affected directly?  It may be easier for your parent to give you what you need to know if you pose it in these terms rather than in terms of the parent losing capacity from aging or developing dementia.  They can ignore those possibilities, but it’s harder to ignore things they see happening right now on TV.

    Planning for emergencies is something everyone needs to do, but we may overlook the need for it with aging loved ones.  Take the first step and find a way into the subject.  As they age, anything can happen.  You’ll feel a lot more confident if you have the information you need when the time comes.

    Is It a Good Idea to Add my Son or Daughter to my Bank Account?

    Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

    As a Peachtree City Estate Planning Attorney I often meet with clients who want their adult children to be able to access their bank accounts to help them out with writing checks or paying bills for them. However, this good intention can create a very serious risk of liability if carried out incorrectly.

    Many times, a parent will go to the bank and ask the teller to add the child onto the account. When this happens, the adult child is now a co-owner of this account. This action may create problems for the parent. For example, if the child gets into an automobile accidents, has creditors, later files for divorce, has a failed business or files for bankruptcy, then the jointly owned asset may be vulnerable to the claims against the child, putting the parents money at risk. This could force the parent to lose some or all of that account to pay the child’s debt.

    Instead of adding the child as a co-owner on bank accounts, your child could use a properly drafted Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) to help you deal with your finances should the circumstance arise. A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you designate who you want to make legal and financial decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself.

    I recommend an extremely comprehensive DPOA that allows your agent to handle virtually all legal and financial matters for you. I also usually recommend a DPOA that goes into effect the moment it is signed (rather than one that “springs” into effect upon the principal’s incapacity–called a “springing power”). This means your agent can use it even if you are not disabled. This is often necessary for the DPOA to be accepted at many financial institutions. Therefore, it is very important that you pick only people you trust to be your agent on your Durable Power of Attorney. Every Durable Power of Attorney should have a primary agent and an alternate agent who would act only if the primary agent is unable to act for you.

    Designating the adult child as a Power of Attorney allows the child to access the account, write checks, pay bills and do everything the parent needs without connecting them personally to the account or exposing assets to the child’s creditors, predators, or divorcing spouses.

    Estate Planning and Divorce in Fayette County, Georgia

    Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

    When a divorce—also called “dissolution of marriage” —is imminent, meeting with an  estate planning attorney is not likely at the top of anyone’s list of things to do.  But, it very well should be.  Keep in mind divorce can take a fairly long time (months or even years) to complete.  It makes sense to consider what would become of your assets, or even your physical self, if you should become incapacitated or die before the divorce has been finalized.

    If you do not take steps to change your estate plan in light of an impending divorce, then your soon-to-be ex may still be entitled to everything that was agreed upon when it was originally drawn up (or as the courts deem appropriate if no estate plan is in place).  This means that if he or she has your medical power of attorney, all of your medical decisions will be in the hands of someone who may not have your best interests in mind.  Likewise, if you are incapacitated and your spouse has power over your finances, it’s possible you will not be happy with the outcome.

    Another concern comes up if you and your spouse are co-trustees on various trusts or other accounts.  Again, if you become incapacitated, the spouse could access and use all kinds of property you would not want him or her to have access to.  This becomes a real worry when you realize this person could actually buy or sell property or even take out loans without your consent.

    And, if you have inherited or stand to inherit from your parents, another potential problem arises.  Should you pass away before the divorce is final, your inheritance may legally pass directly to the person you were in the process of trying to get out of your life.  Even if you have assets that would be passed directly to your minor children, without a proper estate plan in place, the courts will likely put your ex in charge of any money or other property that you leave them.

    In order to protect your interests during a divorce, it makes good sense to talk with your estate planning attorney.  An experienced estate planning in can offer advice on where you may be vulnerable.  You may need to work with him or her quickly in order to revoke the appropriate documents, and keep in mind you might need to contact various institutions personally to ensure they are aware of the revocation.

    Once a divorce has become final, there will probably be some accounts and situations in which ex-spouses are no longer beneficiaries, but there are others where you will need to make deliberate changes.  An estate planning attorney who is familiar with the laws specific to Georgia is the best option for ensuring that you are protecting yourself both during and after dissolution of marriage.

    Robert M. Goldberg & Associates has over 14 years specializing in estate planning and elder law with offices in Atlanta, Griffin and Peachtree City, Georgia.

    Are you or a loved one transitioning to an Assisted Living Facility?

    Monday, August 5th, 2013

    No doubt you have a lot on your mind while turning this page in life. There are a lot of steps in order for this transition to go smoothly. Have you considered reviewing you or your loved one’s Estate Planning documents as one of the crucial steps in this transition? If not, maybe it’s time to re-consider.

    Often times you or your loved one may have had an Estate Plan or Will drafted years ago. Those documents likely reflected your wishes and met your needs at the time. Moving forward time passes things change and what was once a current Estate Plan may no longer fill the need or reflect current wishes. Not only that, failure to review now can prove to be both stressful and costly later.

    Consider the example of Doris and Harry, a married couple of 50 years. When they did their Estate Planning, Doris made Harry her Agent in her Durable Power of Attorney. Several years later, Doris was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She eventually had to transition to an Assisted Living Facility. Having previously signed a Durable Power of Attorney as part of her Estate Plan, her family thought that everything was properly in place. Shortly after Doris settled into the Assisted Living Facility Harry became ill and passed away.

    What a review of their Estate Plan would have revealed, was that Doris’ Power of Attorney did not name a successor Agent. Therefore, when Harry passed away there was no one legally able to handle Doris’ affairs. Suffering from late stage Alzheimer’s, Doris was unable to appoint a new Agent. The children had to go through the “Living Probate” process: the lengthy and costly process where the court is petitioned to appoint a Conservator and Guardian in order to handle Doris’ living and financial matters for her. In this case Doris’ children were appointed by the court to handle their mother’s affairs. In some cases however, County Conservators and Guardian’s are appointed, leaving the children and other family members powerless to assist.

    Taking the time now to meet with an experienced Estate Planning attorney can help you review the documents you currently have in place, and ensure that they withstand the “worst case scenario” test before you find yourself in it!

    Robert M. Goldberg & Associates has specialized in Elder Law and Estate Planning for 14+ years and has helped over 2,000 families prepare for the worst.

    We have offices located in Atlanta, Peachtree City, and Griffin. If you would like to check off another step in this transition process please

    call Laura at 770-229-5729 and set up an Estate Plan review today!

    Health Care Advance Directives are the Foundation of Estate Planning

    Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

    Be prepared when tragedy strikes and your loved one has to go to the hospital. We all have the right to make decisions about our own health care. But what happens if we cannot speak for ourselves? Advance Directives are legal documents stating your wishes for the doctors and rest of your healthcare team to follow when you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Take a look at http://seniorcarecorner.com/health-care-decisions-dnr-advance-directives to learn more.

    Estate Planning is More than just a Will

    Thursday, July 5th, 2012

    3 Legal Documents Every Graduating Senior Needs to Ensure Parents Can Act On Their Behalf In An Emergency

    Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

    It’s graduation time, which means your “baby” is all grown up and preparing to head out into the real world.

    But before your son or daughter packs up for summer vacation or even their first semester of college, I want you to think about what it means having a child who is an “adult” in the eyes of the law.

    From a legal standpoint, I can tell you that it means you’ll now need written permission to make important medical or financial decisions on his or her behalf.
    For example, if your daughter is having a problem registering for fall classes because she she’s missing medical records, you can no longer just reach out to her doctor access them without explicit permission.

    Even worse—imagine your child was seriously injured in an accident or became ill hundreds, or even thousands of miles away from home.
    If you didn’t have specific legal documentation in place that gave you permission to make important medical and life-saving decisions, the hospital or doctors could easily bar you from being involved in your child’s care (and they rarely bend the rules on this either—it goes against privacy laws).
    So to avoid all this, I encourage parents of graduating seniors to take some time this summer and create 3 simple documents with their “adult” son or daughter.

    They consist of the following:

    1. Advance Health Care Directive- This document allows a young adult to appoint someone they trust (the parent) to be their health care agent should they wind up in a coma or become otherwise incapacitated in a serious accident. It also specifies the type of long-term care or life support the child would want should they become incapacitated or left in a permanent vegetative state.

    2. Financial Power of Attorney- Having a financial power of attorney is necessary to give someone (preferably the parents) permission to access any bank accounts and act financially on the adult child’s behalf if an emergency occurs. Such activities covered under the power of attorney include paying bills, buying or selling assets, applying for social security or other government benefits and the opening and closing of accounts.

    3. Signed HIPAA Form- Parents should have their adult child pre-sign a HIPAA form to ensure they can immediately communicate with physicians and access important medical records.

    Finally, for added protection, I would also create an ICE Card (In Case Of Emergency) to be kept in the child’s wallet listing the names of all approved emergency contacts, health insurance information and all known allergies.

    Remember, it’s a natural instinct to want to jump in and help your child in an emergency. Yet without these documents in place, you could be a helpless spectator of your child’s care if he or she is unable to communicate.

    So make it a point to create these 3 legal documents before summer officially begins. It’s the peace of mind you and your child deserve if the unthinkable happens.