As we gather around the table (or Zoom) for Thanksgiving dinner, many of us will feel thankful for family. But does your estate plan fully protect the ones you love? If you’re unsure or if you don’t have one in place, consider these benefits of a tailored estate plan:
Protection From Avoidable Hassles
My grandpa thought he had his affairs in order because he had a Will. When he passed away, even though his Will left everything to my grandma, she couldn’t access his bank accounts or sell their home to downsize until she went through probate. Probate is a court-supervised process that wraps up a person’s affairs after they pass.
Here’s what happened: My grandma tried to draw funds from one of my grandpa’s bank accounts. The banker said, “I can’t give you access to that account because it’s unclear if we’re allowed to give you access.” My grandma showed him the Will, but the banker responded, “We don’t know if the Will is valid. Banks don’t validate Wills. Only a judge can do that.”
Despite being named in the Will as the sole beneficiary and executor, any financial institution would have said the same thing: “You need a court order.”
Obtaining that court order is part of the probate process. When you’re grieving the loss of someone you love, the last thing you should have to deal with is probate court. For my grandma, the process dragged on for nearly a year and cost her thousands of dollars – all to access her late husband’s assets that he left to her in his Will!
My grandma learned the hard way that a Will alone is insufficient. She didn’t want to put our family through the same ordeal. An experienced attorney advised her to set up a Revocable Living Trust, a simple way to completely bypass the probate process. She did.
When she passed, my family was so grateful we were able to honor her life and grieve together without suffering the hassles of probate court. Her foresight and planning saved us time, money, and unnecessary heartache.
My grandma’s experience is the reason I chose to focus my practice on estate planning. What my family went through after my grandpa’s passing is far from unique but is easily avoidable with a proper estate plan.
Protection of Your Children’s Inheritance
Even if you have a wonderful relationship with your son or daughter-in-law, you may not want your hard-earned assets to end up in their hands if there was a divorce. A Trust is a simple way to protect your children’s inheritance not only from divorce but also from creditors and lawsuits.
A Trust gives you protection and control. Your children can spend their inheritance freely or you can set parameters. For example, you can specify that the inheritance is held in Trust until the child turns 25 years old, but allow for particular expenses, such as education or a down-payment on a house.
I’ve seen the hazards of estate plans that fail to address the very wishes and circumstances of the families they are designed to protect. An estate plan misses the mark if it isn’t tailored to your unique situation, values, and goals.
Complimentary Consultation for AJT Readers
I feel strongly that every family should enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a tailored estate plan. I also care deeply about the Atlanta Jewish community (as a member myself). I’m happy to combine these passions and offer Atlanta Jewish Times readers a complimentary consultation to discuss how best to protect your family. To schedule, call 678-784-4150.
Stephanie Nullman Eban is a partner at Thrift McLemore and the best-reviewed female estate planning attorney in Georgia on Avvo.com. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts in English from Brandeis University, she went on to earn her law degree from Emory University School of Law.