With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, many of us have been thinking about love, relationships, and the important people in our lives. At Brian M. Douglas & Associates, your loved ones are also a priority to us. Estate plans are meant to protect an individual and their life’s work, but plans are also designed to protect your family members and loved ones. This Valentine’s week, we’re taking a look at how estate planning can help provide protection and peace of mind during the different stages of a relationship.
If you’re single and do not have any children, you might think that an estate plan is not necessary. But this is not true! Estate planning documents such as a will, power of attorney, or advance directive for healthcare can be just as essential for single people as it is for those who are married. A will provides your family and friends with instructions on how you’d like to manage your personal affairs and distribute any assets – this document can save your loved ones time, money, and undue stress. A power of attorney enables someone to act on your behalf in an emergency; they can help with financial, legal, and real estate issues if you’re otherwise unable to. An advance directive memorializes a person’s healthcare wishes and names a medical decisionmaker who can help make medical decisions in an emergency. For those who are single, a friend or loved one typically cannot help with these critical issues unless they’re named in the power of attorney or the advance directive.
Engaged or Newlywed
February is National Wedding Month. More than 2.4 million US couples get married in February every year – 16,000 of them on February 14th alone. While this month is a popular time for nuptials, if you’re newly married or planning to get married, it is also a good time to work on your estate planning. If you already have a plan in place, you want to update your documents to ensure they include and protect your new spouse. Make sure your new wife or husband is included in your will and that the document reflects any special wishes or provisions. Double-check that they are included in your beneficiary designations. At this time, you should also update your power of attorney. Under Georgia law, a spouse cannot act on your behalf on any financial, legal, or real estate matters unless they have the legal authority to do so. Georgia law does allow a spouse to help make medical decisions and consent to treatment in an emergency; however, it is still a good idea to name your husband or wife in your advance directive paperwork, just to be on the safe side.
If you and your significant other have recently divorced or are planning to divorce, you should revisit your estate plan to make sure it reflects your current lifestyle and wishes. You want to make sure that the appropriate people are protected and provided for and that you’re not inadvertently including someone that you no longer want to. In Georgia, these updates are not automatic after a divorce; you need to adjust your estate plan yourself. Take a look at your will and determine whether you still want to leave any property or assets to your former spouse. Make sure to double-check your beneficiary designations and remove individuals as desired. You may also want to change your power of attorney from your former spouse to another family member or loved one. Also, if you would prefer someone other than your ex to be making medical decisions for you, you should update your advance directive so it reflects your current medical choices.
If you are planning to get remarried, you should revisit your estate plan to make sure that your will, power of attorney, advance directive, and beneficiary designations are up-to-date and accurate. Make sure that your current medical decisionmaker is someone you trust and who is comfortable dealing with different family dynamics. With second or subsequent marriages, there can also be the issue of blended families. To ensure that your children from previous marriages are protected, you may want to make special provisions for them in your will or create a trust for their benefit.
Have Additional Questions? Contact Our Estate Planning Team
An estate plan protects you, your life’s work, and your loved ones. No matter what type or stage of relationship you’re in, you want to make sure that your estate plan reflects your current lifestyle and wishes. If you have any additional questions about estate planning or would like to speak with someone on Brian M. Douglas & Associates’ estate planning team, please contact us at (770) 933-9009 or via our online contact form. We would be happy to help.