Caring Legal Will Assistance and Estate Planning
Trust Kathleen Womack Attorney at Law when you're ready to begin your estate planning and write your legal Last Will & Testament. An experienced lawyer, she provides comprehensive will drafting and estate planning assistance to residents in the Metro Atlanta area and throughout Georgia. Whether you seek to create an advanced directive for health care, formerly known as a Georgia living will, or leave directions to loved ones, Kathleen is there to guide you.
Comprehensive Document Preparation
As a wills and estate planning lawyer, much of Kathleen's practice focuses on the careful creation of wills and other legal instruments written to ensure the distribution of your assets and estate according to your wishes. Some of the legal documents she prepares include the following:
|• Last Will & Testament
• Revision to Wills or Codicils
• Georgia Advance Directives for Health Care
• Financial Powers of Attorney
|• Joint Tenancy Survivorship Deeds
• Joint Property Agreements
• Domestic Partnership Agreements
• Financial Powers of Attorney for Business
• Powers of Attorney for Minor Children
• Standby Guardianship for Minor Children
• Probate Administration
• Probate Disputes
Last Will & Testament
A will is a document that details the distribution of your property after your death. In the document, you also name an executor to distribute your property, including any pets that you own, in accordance with your wishes, as well as to name a guardian for any minor children. A will is one way to state to everyone very clearly who is most important in your life.
It is especially critical for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals to have a valid will that expresses their wishes. If a person dies without a valid will, Georgia intestacy laws automatically direct who will inherit your property, beginning with your biological family. Georgia law does not recognize domestic partner relationships unless the couple has entered into a valid same sex marriage. This means that if you do not have a legally valid will or are not legally married, your partner could end up with nothing or, could lose property he or she paid for due to an inability to demonstrate ownership. Since June 26, 2015, same sex marriage (gay marriage) is required to be recognized in the State of Georgia.
Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care
As of July 1, 2007, Georgia replaced the old Living Will and Durable Health Care Power of Attorney forms, with a new, more comprehensive document, the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care. This document allows you to state your treatment preferences if you are in a permanent state of unconsciousness, or are dying from an incurable disease. It also allows you to designate another person as your agent to make medical decisions on your behalf, and to visit you in the hospital or other health care facility. If a situation arises in which you are incapacitated and cannot make medical decisions for yourself, the Advance Directive instructs doctors, nurses and others involved with your care that the person you appointed as your agent is the person who you want making care decisions on your behalf, up to and including making the decision to remove you from life support, and handling your funeral instructions.
It is especially critical for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender
people to know that if you do not have a Georgia Advance Directive for
Health Care naming your partner or a friend as your agent, the hospitals
and courts will look to your closest biological family member to make
health care decisions for you, and your partner or friend will have no
legal right to make such decisions, or in some cases, to even visit you
in the hospital. Without this document, your partner or friend will also
not be able to claim your body after death or direct the disposition of
Georgia Durable Financial Power of Attorney
A durable financial power of attorney allows you to appoint another person as your agent, and grant him or her access to your money and other assets, as well as the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. It is critical for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to know that if you do not create a durable power of attorney for finances naming your partner or a friend as agent, no one will be able to manage your finances unless a guardianship proceeding is filed in court, and your closest biological family members will have priority of appointment.
Joint Tenants With Rights of Survivorship Deed
Many same sex domestic partners own homes together in joint names, with the belief that if one of them dies, their one half share will automatically pass to their surviving domestic partner. This may not always be true, depending on how the Warranty Deed was drafted that they received at closing. If the home was not conveyed to both domestic partners as joint tenants with rights of survivorship and the domestic partners do not have wills leaving the home to each other, they could find that upon the death of one of the partners, the deceased partner’s one half share of the home would be owned by the deceased partner’s family, instead of the surviving domestic partner. Other than with a validly drawn will, this problem can be corrected by a properly drawn Quit Claim Deed creating a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship.
Domestic Partnership Agreements/Joint Property Agreements
A Domestic Partnership Agreement, also commonly called a Joint Property Agreement or a Living Together Agreement, or a "Gay PreNup" is a document that explains the contractual legal rights and responsibilities of each partner when a couple decides to form a long-term committed relationship and own property together. Same sex partners who are not legally married have no legally recognized relationship. Therefore, a domestic partnership agreement is an important legal document for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples, since rights between same sex couples are governed by principles of contract law, not family law. In the event of potential disputes or misunderstandings, a domestic partnership agreement can help clarify ownership of property, provide guidance for dividing property in the event of a separation, and specify a dispute resolution mechanism such as mediation or arbitration prior to the commencement of litigation to resolve disputes.
Power of Attorney for Minor Children
If a same sex couple has children, unless they have accomplished a second parent adoption through the Superior Court, the non-biological parent will have no legal standing to pick up the child from school, or make any medical decisions for the child. A Power of Attorney for Minor Child allows the biological or adoptive parent to give authority to the non-biological or non-adoptive parent to be involved in educational and medical decisions for the child.