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Learn more about our estate planning, probate and personal injury services. 

Are You Protected? 

3 Documents You Should Have in Place 

April 8, 2020

Estate planning isn’t just for the wealthy or the elderly - an estate plan is an important tool to protect your family and loved ones in case the unexpected or inevitable happens. In today’s health and economic crisis, more families are looking at the plans they’ve made - or haven’t made - and rushing to the phone to contact their attorneys. Each state has its own laws covering what is a legally binding document - what is legal in Missouri may not be legal in Georgia.

If you own a business, are a health care worker, work in the food industry, are over 60 or have underlying health problems, the unfortunate reality is that you are most vulnerable to the long-term impacts of the coronavirus right now. There is no such thing as a perfect estate plan - things change and evolve. But having an estate plan in place will give you peace of mind today, and protect your family tomorrow.

3 Estate Planning Tools You Need Today

1. Will

A will or trust is a legal document that states your final wishes and who is responsible for carrying them out including:

  • Who will inherit your assets (Who gets your stuff or doesn’t)
  • Who will care for your minor children
  • What arrangements you want for your funeral or memorial

If you die without a will in Georgia, that is called intestate. When you die intestate, the state laws determine who will inherit your assets depending on whether you have a spouse, children or other living relatives. Even if you are separated, your spouse will get your stuff without a will!

If your will hasn’t been updated in a long time, or you’ve had major life changes such as births, deaths or a divorce, or moved to another state, it’s time to consult a lawyer to update your will or trust.

2. Advance Healthcare Directives

You need a legally binding document to explain who you want to make your healthcare decisions in the event you become temporarily incapacitated; these documents are called advance healthcare directives. Every situation is unique, and you may give your healthcare proxy to an adult child, a domestic partner, a parent or a close friend.

Your health care directive authorizes someone you trust to instruct your medical team on how you want to be cared for, what treatments you do or don’t want, and what your end-of-life decisions are. If you become ill, you are not in the best frame of mind to make those decisions. Plus, with #SocialDistancing and #ShelterInPlace orders, if you are hospitalized it may be physically impossible to enact a health care proxy or directive.

3. Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney lets a trusted person whom you choose make legal and financial decisions for you if you are incapacitated. A POA is temporary, not permanent, and you can put very specific conditions on what situations the power of attorney would go into effect. The person you give your POA to is legally acting on your behalf, so it’s important to pick someone whose judgment you trust and who is available to help you.

Your Power of Attorney agent can handle your financial, tax and legal matters if you are not able to do so.

As your trusted legal partner, our team at SmithTaire Legal is here to help you when you need it most. During this difficult time, our virtual office is open and we can help you via telephone, email, FaceTime, Zoom, DocuSign and tools. Schedule an appointment with us today to discuss your situation.

Helping You When You Need It Most:
SmithTaire Legal’s Virtual Office is Open for Business 

April 3, 2020

With the well-being of our staff, our clients and our community as our top priority, the team at SmithTaire Legal is working from home while we practice social distancing. Our virtual office is open for normal business hours and you can schedule a consultation with an estate planning, probate or personal injury attorney to discuss your case.

We will conduct consultations by phone or video chat until further notice, using secure legal technology including email, FaceTime, Zoom, DocuSign and other tools. Our legal team has the technology and resources to work remotely and continue to serve our clients during this time. We will assist our clients and provide tele-lessons to help you get online if needed.

Plan For The Inevitable’s 2020 survey says only ⅓ of U.S. adults currently have estate planning documents such as a will or living trust – and only 16% of adults under age 35 have a will. 

Our estate planning law firm will remain open to help you protect your family during this unprecedented global and local crisis. At SmithTaire, we have seen first hand what happens when you do not plan for the inevitable. One question our clients ask is,

How are virtual legal services different than online legal services?

What are Virtual Legal Services?

It is not always easy or even possible to meet in person with an attorney. People travel, have health restrictions or may be housebound due to weather. Virtual legal services allow someone to work with an attorney remotely using technology such as a phone, email or video to electronically execute a legally valid and enforceable:

SmithTaire Legal Virtual Services

  • Estate Planning
    • Last Will and Testament
    • Adult and Minor Guardianship/Conservatorship
    • Trusts
      • Family Trusts
      • Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts
    • Power of Attorney
      • Durable Power of Attorney
      • Springing Power of Attorney
      • Advance Healthcare Directives
    • Elder Care Planning
  • Probate
    • Appointments
      • Appointment of Executor
      • Appointment of Administrator (No Will)
      • Emergency Appointments
    • Estate Administration
    • Estate Litigation
    • Guardianships
      • Adult and Minor Guardianship
      • Guardianship Terminations

FAQs About Virtual Legal Services

1. Can I Simply Create an Online Will or Trust?

Online legal documents are standardized templates to cover typical scenarios and are not legally recognized and enforced in every state. Moreover, in most cases when you draft your documents using online services there is a disclaimer specifically stating that the services are not a substitute for legal advice and according to sites like Legalzoom, they are not a law firm and do not represent you. 

Virtual estate planning is conducted by a trained, licensed experienced estate planning attorney who represents you! Online wills and other DIY estate planning templates do not offer the same protections and oversight as working directly with an attorney who understands your unique situation and needs. 

2. Is Virtual Estate Planning Legal in Georgia?

Virtual estate planning documents are legal and enforceable in Georgia, provided they are executed following Georgia laws and regulations. 

3. State Estate Planning Laws Vary

A valid will in Tennessee may not be valid in Georgia. Each state has different laws and legal precedents on probate law. A local estate planning attorney will know the state laws on virtual wills, health directives and powers of attorney and understand how local courts interpret those laws. 

3 Important Facts About Online Estate Planning

Virtual estate planning is NOT the same as DIY online estate planning. A DIY can cost your heirs money and add additional stress. A will that does not meet your state’s legal requirements or does not use smart asset management strategies can cost your loved ones time and money – exactly what you are trying to avoid.

1. DIY Legal Documents Don’t Always Save You Time or Money

Not understanding state probate laws and beneficiary designation rules or how to designate an executor and your wishes if your designated executor dies before you do important considerations. For example, in Georgia, you must have two witnesses to your will who are not interested parties. Not following your state’s probate laws can invalidate your will and leave your estate being designated intestate - or without a will.

2. Generic Templates

Online wills are generic templates that can’t accommodate unique circumstances or complicated estates. A will should be customized to meet your exact situation.

3. Additional Fees Monthly Consultation, Storage and Maintenance Fees

A low price for an online will or other online estate planning document is often misleading. Typically there are additional fees for services such as:

  • a consultation with an estate planning attorney
  • storage fees
  • revisions such as if there is a birth, death or divorce that impacts your will.

How Can SmithTaire Legal Help You Today?

Jammie Taire offers over 20 years of legal experience. Whether it concerns estate planning, health directives or other legal matters, SmithTaire Legal is here to guide you. Schedule an appointment with us today to discuss further details.