Attorney Miles P. Hurley Discusses Wills, Trusts and More
on August 31st, 2017 in Grayson, Grayson Ga. | No Comments
As we reach our Golden Years, the reality that we will not be here forever begins to set in. However, we can still be here to support our loved ones long after we have left this world. It all begins with having the right provisional documents in place. We recently sat down with attorney Miles P. Hurley to discuss these documents, as well as the confusion that often comes with them.
Miles is certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation, the only organization approved by the American Bar Association to offer certification in the specialization area of Elder Law. Here’s what we had to say:
1. What legal documents are most important for seniors? Which ones are often overlooked?
Every senior should have, at the minimum, a will, a power of attorney for finances, and an advance directive for healthcare. Most people understand the importance of a will, but far too many overlook the advance directive for healthcare. Or, some confuse it with the power of attorney for finances. In Georgia, we have separate forms to deal with financial matters as opposed to healthcare matters. Both are very important for every senior to execute.
2. What is the difference between a will and a trust?
Both documents can help transfer assets after death. The main difference is that a trust can also be used to help manage someone’s affairs while he/she is still living. The trustee of a trust can control the assets in the trust while the trust maker is still living. This is useful in many different situations. Also, a trust can be used for asset protection planning purposes and can be customized as needed. Seeking experienced legal counsel can help you determine the right tool for you and your situation.
3. When should you start a will?
Well before you ever need it! At least once a week our office receives calls from a concerned family member of someone on his/her death bed. They fear that with only a few days or hours left to live, their dying loved one must now complete a will. Oftentimes, it is too late. The dying person may no longer have the mental capacity to create or execute a valid will. Too often, once you need a will, you can no longer create it. They should be considered, created and executed during a time of relative calm in your life.
4. How much does a will cost?
Prices vary depending on the complexity of the will and the expertise of the legal counsel being hired.
5. What happens if you have no will or trust at the time of your death?
If you die without a will, the state of Georgia will apply “intestate succession” laws to determine how your estate will be divided amongst your family members. This division may or may not be in line with what the deceased person wanted.
6. How can you avoid asset disputes after your death?
The only guaranteed way to avoid this is to die owning nothing! With no assets to fight over, there will be no dispute. Some families decide to give away everything before they die. The next best thing is to talk to your family about your wishes and your plans — leave no room for surprises — after you have hired an experienced attorney to create and help you execute a will that meets current Georgia law.
7. What happens to unpaid debt?
Creditors have to get in line to file a claim against the estate. When a will is probated, a notice to creditors is published in the paper notifying the creditors that they have 90 days to collect their money from the estate. The estate is eventually divided up in order of priority: the surviving spouse and children under 18 are entitled to a year’s support; funeral expenses; costs of probate; expenses of the last illness; and then other debts and taxes all get paid before any assets are given to the heirs listed in the will.
8. What is probate? How long does it take? How can you speed it up?
Probate is the legal process of handling a deceased person’s estate and transferring their assets that have no other way of being transferred. The process can take a year or more to complete and can be sped up by being organized and proactive. Having the deceased person’s important papers accessible and understood reduces much of the difficulty. Also, transferring assets through beneficiary designations or even prior to death can even help you to avoid probate altogether.
9. What happens if you have multiple wills?
Only the most current and correctly executed will is accepted. The old ones are null and void once a new will is properly executed.
10. What legal advice would you give to someone transitioning into assisted living?
As with any major life change, you should update or complete a new will, power of attorney for finances, and advance directive for healthcare. It is also important to understand the options for paying for long-term care. The cost of assisted living can be high; exploring all options for paying for that care is imperative to affording the care you need for as long as you need it.
Get Help with Your Legal Documents Today
To learn more about elder law in Georgia, be sure to visit Miles’ site and blog. The staff at Dogwood Forest can also help you find an attorney who can create and/or review your will, trust and other important documents. This is just one of the many services we provide. If your loved one is ready to move into an assisted living community in Atlanta or the surrounding area, contact us today to learn how we can help you make the transition.