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Griffin Georgia Law Blog

Digital assets and estate planning

When preparing an estate plan, some Georgians may overlook their digital assets. Many people don't even think of themselves as having digital assets of any worth. According to a study by McAfee, however, the average American has $55,000 in digital assets. This figure assesses the potential worth for people who value the assets, not the resale amount.

Digital assets include anything that belongs to a person online. Social media accounts, email, photos in the cloud, websites and more are all types of digital assets. There are a few reasons to protect these. One is simply that it can be painful for family members to see others posting to social media accounts when they are unaware the owner has died. In addition, these accounts could become more vulnerable to identity theft.

Who qualifies for a VA Pension?

If you, or a loved one has served in the military, you may be qualified for a veteran’s pension. The VA Pension program can help veterans and their spouses pay for assisted living home care, nursing homes and independent home care. Veteran pension programs are a way to help veterans and their loved ones enjoy the golden years of their lives.

The program does not apply to all veterans. Recently, the rules governing eligibility changed. While this does not affect anyone who is already enrolled in the program, the new qualifications are extremely important to understand for anyone wondering about enrollment.

When is it appropriate to update an estate plan?

Creating an estate plan can cause feelings of relief and completion. Many people create their estate plan, check that item off the to-do list and then promptly forget about it. However, an estate plan is not something that should be forgotten about.

There are several circumstances when it is appropriate or even necessary to review and update your existing plan. Three common circumstances that warrant an estate plan update include if you move to another state, if your relationships change or if your financial situation changes.

More home buyers look toward exurban communities

When people in Georgia consider buying a home, location can be a major factor in deciding where to live. Many people are once again buying homes in the exurbs, especially newly built houses in communities significantly outside major cities. As a result, they may face extended commutes of an hour or more in order to get to work. At the same time, rising real estate prices inside the nation's downtown areas have pushed many people to seek more space at a lower price by traveling further from the borders of a major city. In addition, homes in the exurbs often include large yards, a boon for people with kids or pets.

People looking for a more affordable lifestyle as well as those looking to buy a home for the first time have looked again to the exurbs. People can often obtain a newly constructed home with lower maintenance needs for the same or even less money than an older home closer to the city. In 2018, 7 percent more single-family homes were built in these areas than one year before, outstripping the overall rate of new-home construction growth by 4 percent.

Mistakes to avoid with beneficiary designations

Some Georgia residents may think that creating a will is enough to ensure that assets are passed down to the right loved ones. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some assets, such as retirement accounts and life insurance, pass by beneficiary designation. There are a number of common errors that can be made with these assets.

One frequent mistake is failing to make a beneficiary designation at all. If this happens, state law decides what becomes of the asset. However, this usually involves more time and expense for heirs and can have tax implications. Another error is not taking special circumstances into account. Whether those circumstances are minor children, irresponsible heirs, heirs with special needs or something else, there are strategies for safeguarding the inheritance, but it must be done with a properly created trust.

Selling a home may avoid a foreclosure

A lender in Georgia has the right to start foreclosure proceedings as soon as a homeowner fails to make a single mortgage payment. However, this is doesn't mean that the home is going to be taken back. A homeowner has the option of selling the property or asking the lender to agree to a short sale. If an individual owes less on the mortgage than the home is worth, it can generally be sold like any other property.

This would involve the owner hiring a listing agent, listening to offers and closing on the deal in a timely fashion. In this scenario, the lender would not need to give its permission for the sale to go through. If a property owner owes more on a mortgage than the house is worth, it can be a good idea to ask the lender to agree to a short sale.

Special needs kids and estate planning

Georgia parents of children with special needs often have significant concerns about what will happen to their kids after they die. Due to this concern, many parents take special steps when planning their estates to ensure that their children are adequately provided for.

Not all people with disabilities are unable to provide for themselves. However, certain disabilities may make it difficult for an individual to maintain gainful employment and manage day-to-day living tasks. Adults with disabilities may be supported by financial contributions from family members, government benefits or a combination of both.

Revocable trusts provide estate planning advantages

Revocable trusts help Georgia estate owners maintain control of their assets prior to death. These estate planning tools could ease burdens on relatives if the trust creator becomes incapacitated. While the estate owner is alive, they can be the primary beneficiary and trustee of a revocable trust.

A successor trustee must also be named so that a trusted appointee is ready to step in upon the primary beneficiary's death or physical or mental disability. If the primary beneficiary has suffered a medical crisis, the successor trustee could draw funds from the trust to pay for the person's care. A revocable trust that seamlessly transitions decision-making power to a successor trustee spares close relatives the need to petition a probate court to appoint a guardian or conservator. In addition to avoiding probate fees, the trust allows the original trustee and primary benefactor to determine who manages funds instead of leaving the decision to a judge.

About long-term care planning

Having to deal with the financial issues associated with arranging long-term care can be overwhelming for Georgia residents. However, there are effective ways to create an efficient plan while addressing financial and estate issues.

Many people may have preconceived notations about long-term care. For example, they may believe that all of their long-term care expenses will be paid for by Medicare. It is also a common belief that adult children will handle all the care. Some people may plan to gift away their assets so that they may qualify for Medicaid. There are even cases in which people believe that they will never need long-term care.

Divorce and selling a home

Deciding what to do with the family home during a divorce may be difficult for many Georgia residents. In many cases, each party in a divorce has different ideas about what should happen to the home. However, one of the most popular options is to sell the home and split the proceeds between the two former spouses. In order to do this successfully, it will be necessary for both parties to work with one another.

Having a real estate agent with experience selling a home for clients who are in the middle of a divorce is important. This is because the real estate agent will most likely be dealing with two parties who are at odds with each other. The real estate agent will have to be able to provide objective advice regarding the sale of the home and has to be able to avoid being forced to choose sides.

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